Life as a Broke Backpacker

Life as a Broke Backpacker

Broke Backpacker

In my early days as a solo traveller, there was a lot of buzz around the notion of being a “broke backpacker”- that is, travelling so extensively that you don’t have a dime to your name, but are nevertheless happy because you’re living like a vagabond on the beach in a land far, far away. For some, that would seem daunting and very unappealing, but for Wanderlusters like me, it’s alluring – or so I thought it was.

It wasn’t until 2012, after several years of solo travel, that I realized I still hadn’t experienced life of a broke backpacker – something that was almost like a rite of passage for young travellers. And so, like many others, I decided to aimlessly wander off to Southeast Asia and Australia.

I got off to a great start by gallivanting through Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, where I spent a quite a bit of time living the good life: swinging from vines in the jungle, eating mysterious street food, meditating in temples, paddling through floating villages, and the list goes on… I was having the time of my life and my cash flow seemed endless. What I had yet to learn, however, was that Australia was one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, and it just so happened to be my next stop and the longest leg of my travels.

Fortunately, I had already secured a Working Holiday Visa. But to my surprise, it was quite difficult to find suitable work, and the few jobs that I did land were only short-term assignments. The cost of renting an apartment on my own in Sydney was astronomical, and food was about 2-3 times the cost of what I was accustomed to in Asia. It goes without saying that I therefore raced through the “honeymoon phase” of life Down Under and was abruptly met with a very harsh reality: the funds remaining in my travel bank were only enough to get me to the end of the week!

 

Luck was on my side that week, because I was somehow able to secure my first long-term job and apartment, but I still had to undergo a major lifestyle change if I wanted to see another week in Australia:

  • My weekly grocery list could be at max $15 and would consist of: Ramen, frozen spinach or broccoli, 2 apples, bread and eggs. Fun Fact: I learned that you could actually purchase an entire loaf of bread for $1.00!
  • My social life would have to be put on hold because one pint at a bar would equal half my weekly grocery allowance
  • Instead of using public transport, I would walk (or run) everywhere. On the plus side, I was in the best shape of my life!
  • Shopping for clothes was completely out of the question, so a solid outfit rotation was essential.

 

Needless to say, it was quite a difficult adjustment, but it was a great learning experience.

Here are 4 Things I Learned from my Life as a Broke Backpacker:

 

  1. The value of a dollar, literally: It’s so important to understand how far your money will take you on your travels relative to the local cost of living. I clearly didn’t consider this major factor prior to arriving in Australia.
  2. Material goods really aren’t important: When you’re struggling to find somewhere to live or yearning for something better than Ramen noodles, outfits and gadgets suddenly have no meaning or importance.
  3. You can’t travel without money: That vagabond lifestyle that I once found alluring is so unrealistic (at least for me it is). Even though I somehow squeezed by on a low-budget vegetarian diet and a shoebox of an apartment, I found that there was so much that I was unable to see because I didn’t have enough money. Travel is about the experience: seeing the sights, tasting the food, and exploring – all of which will cost you, even if it is on a budget.
  4. If you’re going to be a broke backpacker, do it in the right place – it’s all about planning: I know I just said you can’t really travel without money, but if you find yourself running low on funds while you’re globetrotting, it’s better to be situated somewhere other than a thriving metropolis like Sydney, for example. Be smart about where you’re going and think about how far you can stretch your currency. In retrospect, I could’ve had I gone to Australia at the beginning of my trip when I had more money, I would have had a totally different experience. 

 

It was tough, but I am still so grateful for the experiences I had during my time in Australia.

How to Stay Healthy on Long Flights

How to Stay Healthy on Long Flights

air-passengers2Long flights, coupled with layovers and delays can often be the most taxing part of travelling. There’s nothing worse than having to take a day of recovery upon arrival just because of an exhausting flight itinerary.

To figure out how to stay healthy on long flights, I asked Dr. Melanie Lopes to share some of her wisdom. Here are four of her expert tips:

Choose your Seat Ahead of Time

To ensure you are well-rested by the time you arrive at your destination, consider choosing a window seat so you can lean against the window to sleep.  By choosing a window seat, you can also control how much sunlight enters your area, which can be helpful when trying to fall asleep. If you are a taller individual, it might be wise to choose an aisle seat, or even better: an  emergency exit seat to provide more leg room.  The additional space in this  seating area can help prevent any cramping or soreness in your legs.

Travel Pillows are an Essential Carry-On Itemneck pillow

I would highly recommend packing a travel pillow in your carry-on luggage for lengthy bus and car rides, and especially for long flights.  The purpose of a travel pillow is to support your neck, in order to prevent it from falling into awkward sleeping postures, which will eventually lead to uncomfortable kinks.

Travel pillow styles will depend on the type of travel that you have planned. Embarking on a backpacking trip might warrant an inflatable travel pillow, which will reduce the amount of occupied space in your backpack.  In contrast, you might want to splurge on a comfortably plush pillow for a slower-paced, all-inclusive trip. It’s best that you test the pillow in the store to assess it’s firmness. You want to ensure that the pillow is firm enough to support the natural curve of your neck, but not too firm that it limits the movement of your neck.

Motion is Lotion

I always remind my patients that it’s important to keep moving, whether you are seated at work, or on a long car, bus or plane ride.  By keeping your joints moving and using your muscles, you can help prevent the onset of stiffness and soreness that tends to occur after hours of sitting. Additionally, immobility can increase the risk of swollen ankles, and a possible development of deep vein thrombosis (aka: blood clot) in the legs.  By moving around, you can help improve your blood circulation.

I would recommend trying to stretch and move at least once every hour.  

If you’re stuck in the middle seat, don’t fret!  You can do some stretches in your seat, working from your head down to your legs:

 

camel stretch

  • Start by rotating your head in circles in both directions
  • Shrug your shoulders up and down 5 times
  • Round your upper back like a camel and bring your arms in front to stretch out the area in between your shoulder blades.
  • Grab onto your seat’s left armrest and twist your upper body to the left to feel a good stretch in your low back, and then do the same to the right.
  • Clench your butt muscles, hold it for 3 seconds and then release.  Repeat 5 times.
  • Bend and straighten your knees
  • Point your toes up to the ceiling and then down to the floor, repeat 10 times for each foot.
  • Trace out the alphabet (in capital letters) with your feet from A-Z to help promote good blood circulation.

If you are able to get out of your seat, walk up and down the length of the plane and try to stretch, as noted above.

Keep Hydrated

It’s important to stay hydrated with water before, during and after a flight.  With low humidity and pressurized watercabins, you can feel very dehydrated. Low humidity can also put you at risk for catching a respiratory virus. Bring an empty water container in your carry on, and fill it up once you pass security.  You can then sip on some water throughout the flight. Try to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can prevent you from sleeping and also increase the likelihood of becoming dehydrated.

Try these helpful tips to stay healthy on long flights and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to start your new adventure.

Happy travelling!

MELANIE LOPES

Sports Chiropractor  chiropractor

Dr. Lopes is a Sports Chiropractor in the Davisville area of Toronto.  She works in conjunction with her RMT to treat a wide spectrum of patients from babies to senior citizens and everyone in between. Dr. Lopes’ other passions include salsa dancing, travelling the world, keeping fit at the gym and photography.

You can find out more info on her site:  www.361clinic.com

Or on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/361clinic

 

 

Images: [water bottle] [stretches] [travel pillow] [airplane cabin]

Don’t Let a Food Allergy Control You

Don’t Let a Food Allergy Control You

TAPAS IN SPAIN

Food allergies are not only a nuisance, but also a serious health risk. I’ve had a severe peanutpeanut allergy since childhood, and it has created many obstacles throughout my years of travelling. Eating in a foreign country can be quite risky with a severe food allergy. Through my travel experience, however, I have learned that there are ways to be prepared and stay safe while consuming food abroad.

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How Saigon Brought Me to Tears

How Saigon Brought Me to Tears

war remnants museum buildingAs I’ve said many times before, Ho Chi Minh City just didn’t do it for me. It was too Westernized and tourist-centric, leaving me totally disconnected, which was a vast difference from my time spent in Northern Vietnam. I will however, credit Saigon for gifting me with one powerful and touching memory. Read more

The best ways to get around in Southeast Asia

The best ways to get around in Southeast Asia

 

airplaneForget about airplanes! Flying is often more expensive, time consuming and essentially the dull alternative to getting around Southeast Asia. Stick to land transport – it’s a money and time saver, as well as an adventure at the very least!

Here are the Best Ways to get Around Southeast Asia without Flying:

 

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Easily Avoidable Scams in Hanoi, Vietnam

Easily Avoidable Scams in Hanoi, Vietnam

ha long bay, hanoi, vietnam

It irks me when people let one bad experience form their opinion about a country. I find it rather puzzling when I hear people say things like, “I hate Vietnam because I had my wallet stolen there.” Although I’m sure having your wallet stolen would put a damper on your travels, I don’t think it should have any reflection on the beauty of a country and its people. Let’s face it: There are few places in the world where there isn’t someone looking to make a quick buck off a tourist.

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How to Travel like a Local

How to Travel like a Local

Temple Worship, Hanoi

Bona fide travellers long to experience a destination like the locals. Taking a few tours and visiting main attractions just isn’t enough, and often leaves a huge void due to the absence of a true cultural experience. So how can one attain this “true cultural experience”? By volunteering! Working together with the locals grants a volunteer with the unique understanding of a culture – something that is very difficult to gain as a visitor looking in. Read more

Inching My Way Down to Central Vietnam…

Inching My Way Down to Central Vietnam…

central vietnam

I was so looking forward to taking a pleasant scenic train ride along the Vietnam countryside heading for Hoi An. I certainly didn’t expect a bullet train, but neither did I expect snail rail. When I purchased my train ticket from the agent, she provided detailed instructions on how to locate the correct platform and train. Now, there’s something about Hanoi, that even knowing what to expect sends me into panic mode when I see crowds of people rushing around. It was about 6pm when I checked my watch and looked down at my sheet of instructions, according to which I was not permitted to enter the platform until 6:45pm. But suddenly, the big platform doors were flung open and it was as if the entire station jumped up from their seats and made a mad rush for the doors. Read more

Wandering through Southeast Asia

Wandering through Southeast Asia

thailand beach

I was in Southeast Asia, which just so happens to be the perfect place to wander.

After completing my volunteer placement in Hanoi, I decided to forfeit my plane ticket to Australia, leaving me with the realization that I had all the time in the world, with no restriction on where to go or how to do it. Being in that position was rare for most people, especially me, so I just took it and ran with it. Read more

From the Hanoi to Saigon…Are you sure I don’t need a passport to enter?

From the Hanoi to Saigon…Are you sure I don’t need a passport to enter?

ha long bay, hanoi, vietnam

I was expecting subtle differences going from Hanoi to Saigon, but instead I felt like I had entered a different country.

I was already anticipating a different experience than my time in Hanoi simply because I would no longer be a volunteer living with the locals, but rather a backpacker staying in the tourist district. Upon my arrival in Saigon, I had such an odd feeling because I was accustomed to living in Cau Giay (Hanoi), where everyone always stared at me thinking I was a lost tourist in their neighbourhood. I recall getting looks of shock and awe as I jumped off the moving bus with the other locals, weaved my way through traffic, and headed into the residential neighbourhood everyday after work. When I got out of my taxi in Saigon, I was expecting the usual stares from the locals, but no one even looked at me!

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