Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

How to Travel Without a Fortune, Part II

Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Read Part I Here.

3. Decided where you’re willing to stay.

  • Or better, decide how you can stay.
  • Hostels are great if you don’t mind sharing a room with numerous people, which can be noisy, hot, uncomfortable and busy. The best reason is that you have a kitchen to cook meals. Sometimes hostels have private rooms or smaller women’s dorms that help with the chaos.
  • If hostels are too much chaos:
    • look into less expensive B&Bs
    • Discount hotels like IBIS are very affordable, sometimes as low as $70/night for two people.
    • Look for air BNB options, which is also a great way to make friends.
    • Also, look for small apartments so you can cook and get a more local feel.
  • In Asia it is often best to stay in hotels.

4. What do you want to do?

  • Read about all the things to do where you are traveling and narrow it down. Then add up entrance fees, bus/travel fares etc. and get an idea on how much it will cost to go somewhere.
  • To SAVE: look into city passes that offer transport with it. Such as the London and Paris Pass
    • If you don’t want to see a lot of touristy things, you might avoid this.
  • Decide what you can’t go home without seeing, and rearrange your budget for that.

5. Challenge your budget

  • Figure out how much you want to spend a day and try to stay in that, say $100/day is your budget. If you spend $50 on a hotel/hostel, $20 on food and $30 on adventure you will be at your budget. I’ve tried to stay at $50-75 on many trips and have been successful.

6. Food and where to save

  • ASK LOCALS
    • they will know the best food for the best price, this is especially true in Italy.
    • Look for “meal deals” at mom and pop restaurants and pubs.
      • In Italy there was a dinner deal for 14 euros, which included wine, water and three courses of AMAZING food!
        • They were right by my apartment too
    • shop local markets
      • the best place for the freshest food!
    • Look for local bakeries for breads and sweets
      • they’re often VERY affordable if not dirt cheap and delicious
  • With allergies
    • ask around about this too
    • As the world becomes smaller and more aware many places advertise gluten free products.
    • LEARN what words indicate “gluten free” etc. and then go to the grocery store to stock up on snacks
      • this will save you the most money
    • Ask around about gluten free bakeries

7. Souvenirs

  • Street market
    • good deals, a chance to barter and less money spent on good quality items.
  • Museums
    • support the preservation and work of historical societies that keep up castles and artifacts by shopping in their gift shops. They also charge less, and do much more with the money.
  • Shops
    • if you have time, price compare, and try to barter (totally acceptable in most places)
    • Many times they have some better quality goods, but not always
  • Ask Locals
    • ask around about quality, where goods come from, and what is a waste of money or not. Locals usually have something to say about it.

8. Drinking/Partying

  • Save by only buying one or two drinks and avoiding places with cover fees.

Part III