The Reality of Us As Travellers, Then and Now

After writing my recent review of our Air Asia flight to Bangkok, I thought about how we often view a situation as a result of our life circumstances or past experiences.

“You and I do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”
― Herb Cohen

This is why opinions should always be taken with a grain of salt; everyone’s values systems are different, as are their goals and comfort levels.

I try to be as objective as possible when writing a post. Sure, I will always tell it from my point of view and the experience we have, but I also like to add ways in which it may suit different people.

I thought it might be a good idea to give our background as traveller’s so others may come to an understanding of how that might impact the way we view a new travel experience.

Our Budget Backpacking Lifestyle

I first started backpacking overseas in 1997, three days after I graduated from University – from one budget lifestyle to another. First stop was Indonesia on my way to moving to London.

Two memorable moments from that trip were experiencing sunrise over Mount Bromo in Java:

Sunrise over Mount Bromo in Java
Sunrise over Mount Bromo in Java

and discovering what it feels like to be the only white person in town, on Nias Island, Sumatra:

In Nias Island in the back of a pick-up truck
In Nias Island in the back of a pick-up truck

I arrived in London alone without any money and an infected foot. It was scary and I was out of my comfort zone, but I embraced the working holiday path and will never forget my two years teaching in London.

The working holiday strategy, moving to a country for up to 2 years, working and enjoying a new culture, proved to be one of our best strategies for SLOW travel.

I’d budget travel in my holidays and then hit the long-term travel in between international re-locations.

Craig joined me in this lifestyle in 2002. From budget to budget to budget. Budget uni student, budget female solo travel, budget couples travel and now family travel.

Celebrating Craig's 30th birthday at the Brazen Head, Dublin
Celebrating Craig’s 30th birthday at the Brazen Head, Dublin

Living in Dublin for a year in 2003 is still one of our fondest memories.

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Budget Accommodation

When it comes to budget, Craig and I know all the cheap tricks. We’ve slept in cars, people’s couches (friend’s and strangers), we camped for 5 months in Africa for on average of $1-$2 per night and slept on beaches and mountain tops.

Campsite overlooking the escarpment in Malawi
Campsite overlooking the escarpment in Malawi

I camper-vanned around Europe for 10 weeks with 5 girlfriends. We had to take it in shifts to sleep in the 4 beds. That meant for two nights you would be on the floor or stretched out across the front seats with the gear stick up your butt!

Not a good position to be lying in half naked, with a Roman police officer banging on your window at 7 am to move your illegally parked car, on the main road of Rome. (Read: In my undies with a policeman on the streets of Rome)

Craig and I decided the only way we could stay in expensive Miami was if we partied to the wee hours on South Beach Street and then pass out in the back of our van in the carpark for the night  (Only cost $13 in parking!! Budget accommodation at its best)

On our honeymoon, friends gifted us three nights in a beautiful hotel on the beach in Koh Samaui, Thailand. After that, we moved to what we affectionately called the Dog Kennel up the beach. It was budget from then on out baby! We wanted our cash for more whiskey buckets!

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Budget Food

My girlfriends and I lived off 2 minute noodles for most of our stay on an isolated, untouched island off the coast of Nias Island in Indonesia.

Many of our meals camper-vanning around Europe consisted of Doritos sandwiches and tuna pasta cooked in the van at our latest free parking spot. (Plenty other budget travellers to keep us happy, it’s where the party was at!).

I could be found anywhere there was a happy hour, drinking cheap goon, taking shots of disgusting rice wine whisky, and playing all manner of drinking games with cider or beer as it was the cheapest and fastest way to enjoy the party.

A highlight was the Munich Beer Fest in 1997:

Enjoying a few Steins at Munich Beer Fest with my mate Patto
Enjoying a few Steins at Munich Beer Fest with my mate Patto

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Budget Homes

In my London house my meals usually consisted of jacket potatoes and baked beans.

I lived with anything up to 25 other foreigners fighting for a space on the carpet for sleep. Fighting for space on the carpet was way preferable to fighting the carpet you stuck to in the bathroom after a cold shower. Icky icky icky. ( Who stole all the hot water btw??)

And then there was the converted school office Craig and I lived in for 6 months in Bangkok with just a bed, a couch, no TV and no hot shower! As a bonus we had packs of wild dogs in the alley below keeping us awake all night.

The tiny apartment in Dublin with paper thin walls, and floors, continued the staying awake all night habit. This time it was the loudly snoring neighbour below.

We also had one of those hand held showers that dripped out lukewarm water ( and I mean dripped). The central heating was bogus, so we’d sit under that dripping tap with a small electric heater plugged into the wall, risking electrocution just for a small bit of warmth. (The landlord finally gave into our demands to

Fix the damn shower – this is ridiculous”

Speaking of dripping, there was the dripping roof in one of our house shares in London. That was fun when the central heating broke and all 15 of us sat in the living room with beanies and gloves, huddled under blankets watching the bucket catch the water.

But not as much fun as sitting in the living room waiting for our neighbour, the Drug Lord, to knock on the door at 8pm to collect his marijuana plants we DID NOT steal. We were armed with crow bars and ready for the knee-capping he promised us.

Ah, the lifestyle choices made to save a buck and travel more!

Budget Travel

As for getting around, it didn’t matter how, as long as it was cheap.

Squashed in a van with 25 people in Uganda, a few chickens and anyone else who will fit sitting on the roof – yep done it!.

In the back of a pick up in Cambodia with the entire village, sacks of rice, potatoes, bicycles and having a beautiful African friend next to you saving your from sliding off the edge into the ravine below and from being killed by two handcuffed prisoners- yep done it!

Getting around Cambodia
Getting around Cambodia

Walking for hours with a heavy backpack in Malawi while having a killer argument with your husband because your so goddam tired and fed up, and the wheel falling off this pickup in the middle of nowhere was the BLOODY LAST STRAWdone it!

We share our most memorable and challenging stories from Uganda in this podcast episode.

I could go on and on.

15 years of budget backpacking gives you ample stories to tell, and at the sake of sounding old, travel wasn’t as easy then. I started traveling when postcards were the norm for telling people what you ate for lunch.

(You can read my posts You know you’re a budget traveller when and 23 experiences not to put on your travel bucket list for more trying stories).

The Effects of a Life of Budget Travel and Backpacking

Craig and I are good at making sacrifices. Years of practice has made us sharp experts at budget and finding ways to save.

But do you know what? It has also made us tired.

For the majority of my adult life I’ve been a budget backpacker. I have never brought beautiful things for myself or my home (ah, I’ve never had a permanent home!) It’s always been about practicality and necessity.

We would often stare at those on holidays in mid-range restaurants and luxury resorts and dream how one day that would be us. Comfort and style. We had no idea what it felt like but we knew we at least wanted a taste.

Recently we have been fortunate to taste it, and it tastes nice:

Enjoying the Hilton Phuket, Thailand
Enjoying the Hilton Phuket, Thailand

I don’t ever regret the way we have travelled. It has added so much richness to my life and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

As long as we can laugh and share all we have learned then it’s worth it.

The Reality of Travel with Children and a Business

Fast forward, and now we have two children we love to travel with.

Travel with children is a completely different experience. You have to carefully consider your decisions and you are first concerned with how comfortable, safe and happy they are.

Because trust me, if they are not, you won’t be.

Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

So is long-term travel with children a good thing?

Absolutey yes. Without a doubt. But long term travel is going to mean budget travel, unless you are swimming in Ben Franklins.

For anyone with children who are thinking of travelling budget, you can absolutely do it. We could absolutely do it, but the truth is we don’t have as much stamina for it anymore that you possibly will have.

Think about it. We’ve had 15 years of living a life I just described above. And that is only a few stories. It wears you down. You get tired of the constant challenges, the demands , the uncomfortableness and the slumming.

Humans are designed to take the path of least resistance; the one that makes us feel most comfortable and happy.

There is rarely any comfort experienced as a parent. It’s a tough and demanding gig. Every minute of the day you are on call and responsible for keeping another soul fed, happy, safe, warm and loved.

When you travel those stresses can magnify.

On top of the loss of stamina and the demanding challenges that come with family travel, we now have a travel related business that is as demanding as a third child, if not more.

Travel and work are now NEVER separate for us.

P&O pacific dawn
Work + play on a P & O cruise

Don’t get me wrong, we love it like that, but it does make us more tired and craving more for a little comfort in order to cope.

What Does this Mean for our Travel Lifestyle Now?

It means our stamina reserves for total budget travel have almost been depleted.

It means when we fly Air Asia X we just don’t have the strength to deal with their low-budget options with kids in tow. Does it mean we still think they’re a great option for travellers. Absolutely. And we do our best to let people know how they can suit them.

I am tired of being uncomfortable.

I am tired of having bicycle wheels shoved up my arse while I travel and rocks digging into my back when I sleep.

A person can only tolerate so much and I think after 15 years of slumming it, and I mean slumming it, I deserve a little bit of comfort.

If I didn’t have children or the business, I would still be following the cheapest path to travel.

But I don’t. My life has changed. What I want to experience has changed.

And that doesn’t mean I have to stop travelling.

I can find the balance between comfort and budget. I believe that is what the majority of people want.

They want the travel without the hard core experiences that come with budget. And who are we to say they can’t?

Sometimes I think the more hardcode the traveller; the more they think they are special or chosen. I know I’ve been there. It’s bullshit. Let’s be honest, if we all had the money, the majority of us would all travel in a bit more style.

It’s a human condition; you cannot deny the path of least resistance.

It doesn’t mean we are shallow or less than, it just means we love to embody both.

How Does this Affect our Posts on y Travel Blog?

When you read my posts now, and you think I sound a little tired, it’s because I am. And if I stay at a nice hotel and I am overjoyed, I am, because I’m not used to it.

Shangrila Tanjung Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
A mojito cheers to Malaysia

We aim to present you with a wide range of travel experiences on this blog.

While we won’t be staying in dog kennels anymore, we’ll still be open to budget options like hostel stays, (we loved the Sydney YHA and Yamba YHA) apartment rentals, and camping. (Read more: 18 ways to save money on accommodation)

We’ll be searching for deals to share and offering you tips on how you can best save and make the most of your money while travelling.

We possibly will not long-term travel through South East Asia until Savannah is at least three, preferring easier and more comfortable road trips in the western world.

And we probably won’t fly Air Asia long haul again with kids! But, it doesn’t mean you can’t and we can’t help you.

Everything on this blog is authentic. It is how we, the long-term budget travellers and now business-owner parents, view it. We promise we will do our best to be objective and show you what it is like despite our background experiences.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what is best for you.

More inspiration

We recorded our story in podcast over 5 episodes. Each episode showcases how we made travel our lifestyle despite many challenges, and not matter what life stage we were in.

Episode 3 is where we dive into the dark times spoken about in this post. All episodes are filled with nuggets to help you see how anything is possible. Pull up a chair and your favorite drink and let us help you keep your dreams alive.

  1. Episode 1: Solo Travel and Working Abroad before we met
  2. Episode 2: Our 5 year honeymoon living and traveling the world
  3. Episode 3: The Dark times and Birth of the girls and travel blog
  4. Episode 4: Embracing Family Travel and our 18 month Australian road trip
  5. Episode 5: Getting a green card and traveling the US (our dream realized)

And more useful nuggets in I want to Know your Secret and You’ve got Time + the end of 22 years of nomadic travel.

How do your past travel experiences impact your perceptions and how you travel now?

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