Starting January 16th, 2014, I began a 14 country around the world trip, my 2nd time in one year doing something like this on a planetary scale. I write this as I am already in my 2nd week of this three month trip, the first part being two weeks of quick stops in Europe to say hi to friends, working my way to Norway where I have a flight to Nepal. Starting there, I will work my way across Asia and down to Australia and New Zealand, then home to NYC. Save for the UK, France, Sweden, Thailand, all my destinations will be new places.
So if my main destinations will be in Asia and AUS/NZ, why would I spend two weeks in Europe first? Well, many reasons, but this entire trip’s destinations were going to be determined by cost, and not necessarily by “where” I wanted to go. This meant figuring out the best combination of finding the cheapest, shortest flights between my desired destinations and direction of travel, saving the longest, most expensive flights for my sky miles (of which I had a lot from signing up for the United Mileage Plus card from Chase, previous trips and rewards programs). Other cost related factors included picking destinations that were cheap (hotel, food, transport, visa cost..), which a lot of Asian countries are very cheap for western travelers, and picking places where I could stay with friends (free accommodations, seeing missed faraway friends and having someone local get around/communicate). Of course, also deciding what were MUST see places and if they were out of budget, deciding what stops to cut out to make my top choices possible.
Time was another major factor, one main reasons I can afford this trip is because I wont be paying New York City rent, bills, and cost of living because I have a subletter covering my apartment. This means I can plan my trip in blocks of months, I decided on three months, allowing me time to see a lot of places with enough time to actually enjoy them, and not just breeze through. But more time means more costs, as I still need to cover hotels, flights, food, and other travel costs. The key to making this work was making sure that my combined costs per month for travel costs was equal or as close to my New York monthly costs, but not more. This way I am either breaking even or saving money.
Thanks to my years of traveling and being a social person, I have friends in many of my destinations (Beijing, Shanghai, NZ, Australia), who have offered a place to stay, saving me hundreds or more in hotel/hostel costs. Otherwise, I have booked cheap hostels or guesthouses, some for less than $8/night. I use www.hostelworld.com or www.airbnb.com, depending on whether I want privacy or need to save $$$ by getting a dorm/hostel. Sometimes you can find a private room on Airbnb for as cheap as a hostel, but I sometimes prefer a hostel, as it may not be as private, but you meet tons of fellow travelers immediately and have people to explore with, eat with, and share the experience. Also, inter-Asian and inter-Australian/NZ flights are fairly cheap, if booked with budget airlines and booked ahead of time. And since I am following a path, I pick the closest destinations for cheaper rates and booking multi-destination tickets saves TONS of money (I use www.kayak.com, select the multi trip option). I was able to get Phuket to Beijing to Shanghai to Seoul for $368 (that’s a LOT of distance, and had I booked separate flights, would have cost over $500). And food in most Asian countries is cheap, average good meal in Thailand is less than $2 a meal, in Nepal $2 or $3, other places will be around $5-10, cheaper than $10-20 in NYC. Cabs, subways, cheap inter-city buses or trains, all very cheap in Asia. All this adds up to savings and even stretched over a month, if my lodging costs are $0 -$8+/night, even with the cost of flights, I am spending less per month than just sitting still in my NYC apartment.
The only place where costs will be about the same are Australia and NZ, as their currency is worth about the same as my US Dollar. When I get there, I will have to carefully evaluate my destinations, though thankfully I have offers from many friends for places to stay (which influenced my decision on destination) and plan to share a rental car with fellow travelers to cut down on gas/rental costs. Hostels there are really fun and cheap, and I don’t plan on spending a lot partying or drinking, where I would lose the most money, so not too worried about cost. And what I saved the first two months in Asia will help offset Australia/NZ costs.
The only one thing I will say, though, about saving money by staying with friends or friends of friends, is be sure to set your limits. I don’t like to overstay my welcome or stay more than 3 or 4 nights max, even if I am staying with a dear friend. Keep in mind that saving money is one thing, but that could mean your friend is sacrificing comfort, privacy, and maybe paying extra for you to stay, as electricity, water, etc costs more with an extra person in the house. I’ve gladly accepted offers to stay with friends, or asked politely to stay, and when doing so, I try to be mindful that I am in someone’s space and I try to get out as much as possible. If I am in any place for a while, like when I go to Beijing, I have spaced my time between hostel and friends. My wonderful friend Donna has offered me her couch in Beijing, but I will be there a week so I have booked a hostel for part of that time, so we can both have privacy and I wont be invading her space for a whole week. If she needs her space, I have an alternate place set up and it was only around $7 or $8 a night!
So with that said, I am stoked for this massive journey, and as I write this, I am already a few weeks in so read up on my other posts, ill be starting with detailing Europe and Nepal! Thanks and see you on the road! #travel, #wheresmikey @getsaga