Posted by: traveljunkies | August 1, 2010

Adventure Travel and why budget beats luxury every time

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It’s not backpackers’ snobbery. I don’t see anything heroic about not washing your clothes for a month. I don’t want to stay in a hostel with paper-thin walls just because I like listening to French people arguing.

See, I can appreciate the beauty of 1000-thread-count sheets, and I’m quite happy to have a full, luxurious breakfast delivered to my door. First-class seats are fine. Chauffeur-driven rides are nice.

But I still honestly believe you’ll get more out of a holiday by going budget than by taking the luxury path.

From the big picture perspective, unless you have the comfort of unlimited funds, the equation is simple: budget holidays mean more holidays. And that’s got to be a good thing. Spend less money, and you spend more time away.

But there’s more to it than that, and most of it has to do with the people you’ll get the chance to meet.

Stay in a hostel, rather than a hotel, and you’re thrown together, literally in the same room, with plenty of people you wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to meet. Admittedly, that can be a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s all an experience, and the good ones will surely outweigh the bad.

And more often than not, your hostel will also be run by a local of that city, giving you instant insight into wherever you’re staying. Say you need a restaurant to eat at – will you be better off going to the tourist-friendly place the concierge at the five-star joint told you to go to, or the little neighbourhood place the owners of your hostel recommended?

Sometimes you’ll even find yourself eating with the owners themselves. That doesn’t happen at the Hilton.

If you’re eating cheap, you’re bound to meet more people anyway. Walk into a fancy restaurant, sit down to eat, and see how much interaction you have with other people. Now, head out to a street vendor, push your way through the crowds, and try to get your order in while 100 other people do the same. See how much interaction you have with other people then.

There’s another benefit of budget accommodation I forgot to mention, too. Stay somewhere crappy, and you get this nagging urge to leave as quickly as possible every morning. What else are you going to do – stay and flick bugs off your sheets? Talk to the arguing French couple?

So you head out and see the city you’re staying in. Eat breakfast somewhere random. Walk around for a bit. My midday you’ve covered an entire suburb. If you’d been staying somewhere nice, you’d have barely eased out of your 1000-thread-count sheets and moseyed down to the breakfast buffet by then.

Even the act of travelling is better off done on the cheap. (Okay, except for flights, I’ll give you that. I don’t care who I’ll miss out on meeting, and I don’t care what it does for my backpacker “cred” – if someone wants to push me up to the front of the plane, I’ll be up there faster than Usain Bolt.)

But there are other things. A luxury traveller, I assume, would use taxis a lot, or even have a chauffeur-driven car. Can you seriously say that’s more fun than a tuk-tuk ride? Or getting on a public bus full of the strangest people that city has to offer?

Have you really been to New York if you haven’t ridden the subway? To Paris if you haven’t ridden the Metro?

But the cheapest form of transport of all is the best: walking. You can’t measure the amount of things you see, hear, feel and smell when you’re on foot that you’d otherwise miss if you just zoomed past in the air-conditioned comfort of a car.

It’s the little nuances that you’d never pick up unless you got in there amongst it all. Give me two feet and a heartbeat any day.

Like I said, it’s not snobbery. It’s just better.



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