5 Key Learnings from When I Started Traveling

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Learning to surf in Ireland

 

  1. Booking a Hostel: I recommend using Hostel World and Hostel Bookers (sometimes they have different options) if you are looking for a cheap place to stay. However, if you are traveling with friends or want some privacy, Air B&B is also a great option. For both sites, reading the reviews and looking at the pictures are a good place to start. I would recommend staying at a place with an 80% rating or higher. When I first started traveling I just wanted to find the cheapest option and still do. However, I’ve learned that finding a balance is key. The first couple of hostels I booked in Florence and Milan turned out to be pretty bad experiences aka freezing cold and VERY dirty. Now I spend $2-3 more a night to be closer to the center of the city or stay somewhere with good reviews. If you are really on a budget I recommend couch surfing. It’s a great way to get a locals perspective and it’s completely free! As a courtesy I usually treat to a meal if you go out or offer to cook them dinner one night. Some people are uncomfortable about staying on someone’s couch but I’ve really enjoyed it both when I have hosted and when I was the one crashing at someone else’s house!

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    Exploring Lucerne, Switzerland
  2. Eating on a Budget: To save money on food, I recommend staying at hostels with breakfast included if possible. It is very common for hostels to include breakfast in Ireland and South America but in other countries it depends. (The breakfast usually isn’t anything special but it is food and it saves you having to purchase a meal.) I also buy groceries for breakfast and lunch when I’m backpacking around Europe, Argentina and other more expensive countries. In Asia, the food is so cheap that I tend to buy all of my meals out but purchasing groceries is a great way to save some cash. Apples/Oranges, crackers, and Nutella & Banana sandwiches became my best friends while in Europe and if I was splurging, I would buy peanut butter. In Argentina, I typically buy fresh bread and some cheese and meat which I can order by the gram. I know this may sound like I missing out on the food culture of the countries I am visiting but I found that I can still experience the local food through eating limited meals out and this also gives me more money to spend on experiences like seeing Westminster Abbey in London and bathing elephants in Thailand.

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    Starting the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
  3. Transportation: Transportation, for me, is all about finding the balance between time and money. Obviously, if you are short on time and have the extra money to spend the discount airlines and the faster trains are great. However, if you are looking to save money then I recommend a few different things. In Europe, there are typically local trains that take longer and aren’t as new, however, they are a fraction of the price! In South America, traveling by bus is always a great money saving option plus in Patagonia and Chile hitchhiking is very common. There are a few discount airlines that operate in South America as well but tickets need to be bought a couple months in advance if you want to find a good deal. In Asia, I found that buses are typically the cheapest option but you can also find some cheap flights that are especially handy if you are trying to go to a different country/an island.

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    Learning to Make Coffee in Peru
  4. Packing Light: Packing was always one of my greatest challenges while traveling but over the years I have found that I always need less than I think. My recommendation is to buy a good backpacking pack (between 50-75L). This will give you plenty of space for the clothes you need plus camping gear if you plan on camping during your trip. I also travel with a day pack that I use for my camera, groceries if I have them, etc. Depending on where you are traveling, I usually recommend 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 skirt, 3 pairs of wool socks, and 4-5 tops (ideally wool) plus a jacket or two if the weather is cold. While this isn’t a lot, I have never needed more. If you do need something, you can always buy it when you are traveling. When I was in Cambodia, I met a guy who had been traveling for over a year and everything he had was in a 40L pack!

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    Exploring Segovia, Spain
  5. Where to go: When I’m creating a travel itinerary, I am always searching for the best places to visit and what to see. I have found that the best way to travel is actually not to make a structured itinerary but ask other travelers where they have liked going and why. When I arrived in Argentina, I knew I wanted to settle in Mendoza for several months and eventually go to Patagonia but that was it. After spending a couple of months here, I have an entire list of places to visit not just in Argentina but all over South America. If you have a longer period of time, I really recommend booking places as you go because this allows you to be flexible and change your schedule as you like! When I am traveling for shorter periods of time (2ish weeks) I plan more. I usually like finding a balance between cities and smaller towns. I have found in South America and Asia that the smaller towns are more desirable than the larger cities. In Europe, the capitals are obviously hubs for culture but the countryside is beautiful and often overlooked. Depending on your interest, I recommend both. I also make sure I spend at least one week in every country I visit. While I have met friends that spend at least a month in every country, I realize that this isn’t realistic for most. Spending one week gives you a chance to see several different towns while still maximizing your time if you have a shorter trip.

Author: jordansjourneys92

Hi! My name is Jordan Gurkin and I am currently traveling around the U.S. and working for a non-profit called Compassion International. I just finished spending a year backpacking and teaching English in South America. I'm a travel blogger focused on bringing you budget travel advice, travel tips, and some of my recommendations on places to visit!

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