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Travel Budget, Money Matters, Financial Talk Mom, can I borrow ten grand?! Gimme yo mastercard! How the heck can I pay for my trip?! Ideas for making money. How much dough do I need?

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Old 01-09-2008, 07:37 PM   #1
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Default Budget Travel, the Joker method. Not for the faint of heart.

Being a slightly above poverty level professional kitchen pirate teaches you a few things about being frugal and yet wanting to see the world. You actually memorize the nutritional value of a packet of ketchup and saltines, and can figure out exactly how many you need to eat to get an appropriate caloric count for the day. You learn how to sleep in the most uncomfortable situations. You learn to have little fear (but still have common sense)
in hitch-hiking, especially while inebriated. Your negotiation skills and people skills are honed to a fine edge.

Those of you that have followed my Misadventures have then seen a streak of frugality in travel that I am proud of. I flew to Costa Rica with $500 cash in my pocket and no idea what I was going to do with it. I got back into Miami with $3 a week later. I Greyhounded to go to a beer festival and crashed on a bus stop bench. (and managed not to be acosted). But this is nothing, dear readers- it is a way of life.

It goes far beyond "budgeting" and the quotes are purposeful. Mere budgeting only accounts for the expected expenses, IE: Food, Beer, Smokes, Bus/Cab fare, souvenirs. But what happens in the case of the unexpected cost of doing business? How does one TRULY save money?

The following is a guide, loosely, of how to do it. Read at your own risk- it may cause nausea, loose bowels, fits of laughter, fits of jealousy for my boyish good looks, and possibly endear me to you. Ladies, I'm single. Stay tuned, I'll add to it as a serial as I have time.
  • 1. Plan ahead, sorta.
Okay, I don't really like to plan my trip out day-by-day, hour-by-hour and on a clipboard. Sticking to an itinerary may be good for your Aunt Harriet and Uncle Sam doing the bus tour of Western Europe, not leaving the confines of their climate controlled hermetically sealed bus, but the Joker hates a schedule. He has one all week, this is vacation, dammit!

But, even the most spontaneous amongst us must have a loose idea of the destinations, activities, and most importantly, what it costs. I researched Costa Rica thoroughly- books, TP, Omid's blog (and countless emails to the poor bastard), and so on. I gathered that about $40 a day was in order.

From there, I knew that the best way (and cheapest) to get into San Jose from the airport in Alajuela was to take the shuttle Hostel Pangea offered at $14 US versus $20+ and a likely bribe to a cabbie. For that matter, the time frame in which I was arriving was late at night, so having a roof over me for at least one night was worthwhile. You get the idea- planning, but minimal. Now, another good thing about this place- they had free internet and a free call to the States and Canada per night stayed. So, contact the family back home and keep tabs on my TP peeps. Saved at least $30 there in Internet and phone call. Bien!

I had an idea of some places to go and made friendly with the hostel staff. Figured out that walking was my cheapest way, and had at it. Conversely, the hostel's bar was cheaper than any other in town, and within stumbling range from my bed.

On top of that, making friends with some folks there by being my usual outgoing self ensured some companionship, and free booze. This leads to point number 2:
  • 2. BE OUTGOING!!!!
So many folks sit in the hostel, in a corner, reading a book. They don't make friends for whatever reason. Get to know your fellow travelers! Make friends, dammit! I met all sorts of folks from all over the world in my travels by just introducing myself. I'm not talking being overly out of your way friendly, but cordial will do. As luck would have it, I met some great folks along the way and we still keep in touch from time to time. This is actually major frugal points, because you can split cab fare with folks!

I know most folks frown upon it, but smoking has always been an in with me. Bumming a smoke, offering a light, etc. I'm not advocating any of you picking up smoking, but consider carrying a lighter with you and offering up if someone pulls out a cigarette, cigar, or other such smoking device Instant ice breaker.

For that matter, these new friends are likely to go in on booze with you- like splitting a bottle, a case of beer, etc. Remember- Frugal=friendship!

And now point 3...
  • 3. LEARN HOW TO COOK!!!
Okay, I cook for a living, so I have an unfair advantage here. I specialize in making something up with little ingredients by nature.

But for those of you that don't, knowing a few simple recipes is the key to saving cash. Even if its something simple like a bowl of pasta with some canned sauce, it saves you cash. Knowing more is more! Learn how to cook some basic "big pot" dishes- Hungarian Goulash is a favorite on the road, and the ingredients are usually cheap. Noodle dishes are packed with necessary calories and carbs and serve many. Learn how to make a simple guacamole and have tons of protein and vitamins, and lots of friends (hopefully with booze!)

The point is, knowing how to cook some basics goes a long way. Those friends you've made in the hostel are going to be hungry. Offer your services to them in exchange for splitting the cost of the food. IE: I'll cook everything if you guys cover the cost of chicken, rice, and tomatoes. Pool your resources and money, and get a helluva meal out of it! In CR, I pooled with 3 others. We had a massive meal for about $15 split four ways. A case of beer for another couple bucks and we were set. We couldn't have touched that in a restaurant or soda there otherwise.

You don't need to be Julia Child on the road- just know some simple stuff. When my friends and I go on group vacations, I almost always cook in exchange for the price of the food. And they love it. And I love it, because it saves me money!
  • 4. Be "Creative" in your transportation...
Okay, here's where it gets hairy. We have places to go and must get there ASAP. Sometimes public transportation is worth it, sometimes a cab must be the way to get there, and sometimes you have to dust off your thumb. The rule is, be practical, be safe.

I hitched from a hotel in the Poconos a couple months back to a beer festival 7 or 8 miles away by being friendly, outgoing, and offering to pay for the ride. I got a lift from the girl at the desk and gave her $5 for her trouble. Otherwise it was much time, in the freezing cold and snowfall to get there. Well worth it. Had it been a mile or two, hoofing it would have been fine as well.

Walk where you need to. Unless its getting dark, inclement weather is in the forecast, or you're just plain tired, walk. Walk Walk! You'll need to get the excercise anyway. Within 5K- sure thing.

Outside of that, hang a thumb and hope for the best. But exercise caution. I hitched in CR with guys that were drunker than I was, and I was convinced I was a dead man. Those of you that have heard the story know what I'm talking about. It was the scariest 10 minutes of my life. (for more info, read the blog post in the link in my sig.). But, I survived, and had one helluva story.

So, if I've had you in this far, hopefully you've taken some of these pointers to heart. My next trip is coming up in May. And I'll be doing Key West on a shoestring. Details to follow!
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Old 01-09-2008, 10:09 PM   #2
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Wow! I am going to buy a lighter for my trip

Since you are a cook, do you have any quick and easy recipes you recommend?

--Joey
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Old 01-10-2008, 10:06 AM   #3
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jokes... you the man.
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Old 01-10-2008, 10:32 AM   #4
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Actually I got hungry reading it and am now searching for recipes for Hungarian goulash!!!

Sadly, cooking is not my forte...I really need to learn how to be more domestic I think.
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Old 01-10-2008, 02:10 PM   #5
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Brooke, to be a domestic goddess, I'd suggest a cooking class or two, or at least the phone numbers to a few restaurants on speed dial. :D

As for recipes, like I said, go for one-pot dishes. Anything you can throw into a single pot and cook is always a plus- mostly because its less cleanup.

For instance, I could cut some chicken into small cubes (3/4"), and cook them in a little oil.

Then, once they start to cook a little, I'd add some celery, green peppers, onions, carrots, and tomatoes. Then, once they start to tenderize, add some chopped garlic, then add some white wine, some dried Italian herbs (maybe you bring a bit in a small jar with you, but make sure IT STAYS IN THE JAR! More later.), and some bottled water.

In another pot, cook some pasta or rice. For rice, the rule of thumb is 2x as much water as rice. Boil the water, add rice, simmer until done (water has been absorbed completely and rice is cooked.) This is important that the ratio be correct. Certain rices require a bit more water, but generally speaking, 2x is fine. Add some butter or oil (if you don't have butter) to the water before you add the rice.

For pasta, 1 gallon of water per pound of pasta, or one liter per kilo. That has a fudge factor, just keep an eye on the pasta as it cooks.

Make sure you salt the water for the pasta first, and salt and pepper the water for the rice. Starches don't absorb salt as well once they are cooked.

Toss the two together, and BOOM. Add some bacon and its Carbonara sauce. Get the idea? There isn't measuring required, its more of an eyeball thing.

As for Guacamole:

2 large avocados
1 large tomato, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced
1 large onion, diced
juice of 3 limes
zest of 3 limes *if you have a zester. if not, use a cheese grater, etc*

Mix and eat. Best to let it stand for an hour or two before you go to town.

The idea is that this sorta stuff is fun and easy, and ingredients should be readily available.
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Old 01-10-2008, 02:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joker View Post
maybe you bring a bit in a small jar with you, but make sure IT STAYS IN THE JAR! More later.)
What, did you put some in a baggie and mistakenly got pinched for it at the airport or something?
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Old 01-10-2008, 02:26 PM   #7
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Thanks Steve, actually taking a cooking course would be kinda fun. Maybe I will look into one someday. The thing is, I am not a bad cook when I actually do it...the stuff I put out tastes really good. I just don't really enjoy it! I wish I did though...I will try that chicken recipe though, I love white wine sauces!

And I can make a mean guacomole!!! Yummmm.

That's a great thread though, very good pointers. Usually there is a common kitchen in a hostel and it's a great place to meet fellow travellers and break the ice! Making a big meal and splitting the cost among others would probably be a welcomed idea by many.

When I lived in a youth hostel in CA, me and a friend would cook a big meal once a week, have people sign up for who would like to join us and tally up the price of all the ingredients and split it up amongst who ate. (Well we ate free but we did all the work like Steve said!) It usually was less than $5 per person.
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Old 01-10-2008, 02:32 PM   #8
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ya'll got me thinking about a short getaway to satisfy the craving as opposed to a total move. This job isn't bad but I am going to need a break to quelch the desire. I'll be taking these recipes with!
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Old 01-10-2008, 03:36 PM   #9
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Two things about that recipe:

1- Joker I thought Carbonara had egg in it?

2- This is a personal thing but I thought I'd throw it out there. If you don't really know the people you're going to be cooking for you might want to think about throwing the onion, carrots, and peppers a minute or two early. For a chef like Joker one of more important factors of good cooking is texture and explosion of certain flavors. I know personally there are certain things like onions that I hate when they're crisp and powerful cuz they overwhelm the other flavors for me(cilantro is one too). However, I absolutely loved well sweated or caramelized onions cuz the it brings out the sweetness more. Anywho, what I'm getting at is that you get the same general flavor of the dish(not if they're caramelized though), I have found, if you cook the veggies just a tad more. It won't have the same pop as Joker's but then we can't all cook like him.

Just a suggestion and regardless I hope to stay in a hostel with Joker some day.
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Old 01-10-2008, 03:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by space virgin View Post
What, did you put some in a baggie and mistakenly got pinched for it at the airport or something?
No, but with the way TSA is in the States, I can only imagine that they'd see that, regardless of whether its oregano or basil, and nail you for pot.

But, think like this- most spices and dried herbs are available in most places nowadays. But say you want to bring something from home--

Factory sealed in a container/jar, and checked into luggage, open it when you get there, and leave it in country just so it doesn't raise suspicion. Many of the hostels I've been in have community spice racks, where you use it, leave it, and replenish it. Think about that.
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Old 01-10-2008, 04:03 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChasinJason1313 View Post
Two things about that recipe:

1- Joker I thought Carbonara had egg in it?
Usually it does, but sometimes eating eggs doesn't fly with some folks. I should mention it becomes "Carbonara-style." Besides, its a simple recipe. I wouldn't want to be making liasons, beurre blancs, etc on the fly on a range that is a camp stove burner tacked to a propane tank.

Quote:
2- This is a personal thing but I thought I'd throw it out there. If you don't really know the people you're going to be cooking for you might want to think about throwing the onion, carrots, and peppers a minute or two early. For a chef like Joker one of more important factors of good cooking is texture and explosion of certain flavors. I know personally there are certain things like onions that I hate when they're crisp and powerful cuz they overwhelm the other flavors for me(cilantro is one too). However, I absolutely loved well sweated or caramelized onions cuz the it brings out the sweetness more. Anywho, what I'm getting at is that you get the same general flavor of the dish(not if they're caramelized though), I have found, if you cook the veggies just a tad more. It won't have the same pop as Joker's but then we can't all cook like him.

Just a suggestion and regardless I hope to stay in a hostel with Joker some day.
LOL, yeah, staying with me is fun. First off, good food, second, constant source of drunken amusement!

And yes, cooking the veggies longer changes the texture and flavor. But remember, this is an EASY recipe, and just a suggestion of the type of stuff that you can crank out quickly with little effort.
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Old 01-10-2008, 06:51 PM   #12
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The serial post continues.

So, you've gotten to East Bumfuckistan, and you know where you are staying the night. You've met some fellow travelers, and in the true spirit of friendship, you've gotten hammered with each other while eating local food.
  • Now comes the tricky part- making the good times last.
One of the issues that many of us face, especially the first timers, is the impulse buy of some sort of souvenir. Souvenirs are a physical reminder of your trip. But let's be practical here, folks- the bowl that says "East Bumfuckistan" on it that you've been partaking in the local flavor with all week won't make it through customs on either end. To those of us that have seen "Midnight Express," its an excursion you don't want. For that matter, the various tschotchkies you pick up along the way will weigh you down. A frugal traveler is a light traveler.

Think seriously about that souvenir. Is it worth it? In the case of the bowl, no. If you really need to catch a buzz, you damn well know how to make a bowl out of a paper clip, a bubble gum wrapper, and a Bic pen. Don't waste the money on it. You sure as hell don't want the customs line to focus on you.

But, we all want a souvenir. I am just as guilty of it as the next. I brought back with me from Costa Rica the following (outside of my pack's contents I brought down)

1 hand-woven linen hammock that says "costa rica" on it
1 lb fair trade coffee from Monteverde
3 lbs chocolate covered macadamia nuts (for my mom and dad and sisters)
1 empty pack of local cigarettes (forgot that was in there)
several packs of local matches (same as above)
my pocket notebook full of all sorts of stuff
around 1K pics on my camera
Free brochures from every excursion or related stuff I did, and associated receipts, wrist bands, etc.

The emphasis is on the first and last- the hammock doubled as a blanket in the colder mountains. The brochures were FREE and had pics of everything I did so I could show people. Pictures I took cost me zilch. Practicality won out over want. Its a tough game. But I really did a good job of sticking to the frugality code of frugalness. :D
  • How much does it really cost me?
How much you got, hoss?

Depending on your destination, you can cheap it out and spend $40 a day like I did, or blow out and do $150 a day. The trick is to do your research thoroughly.

I, and the other TP mods, recogs, and regulars see it all the time- someone posts about "how much should I bring." It gets a bit old, frankly, but its a valid question, far more than the eternal "Which pack is right for me" line.

RESEARCH, folks. Browse the forums here. Get a Lonely Planet book from the library. Stake a claim in the local Barnes and Noble equidistant from the coffee and travel sections and go to town. Read everything you can about the actual costs in country- it'll save you dinero.

Let you in on a little secret: I did research a lot of what I did ahead of time. I knew i wanted to do a zipline tour, but not which one. Get it? I decided in-country. But this all fell under the aegis of my $500 budget.

Why $500? Because that was the cost of the airfare. Believe it or not. I budgeted $1k for my vacation that year. Not a penny more (okay, Airfare was $525 or so. Sue me.) I figured it'd be interesting to see if I could really do it on that budget. It would take true grit, and I was chock full of it!

FWIW, in all the crazy stuff I did, I did in fact manage to stick to my $500 in country budget, and I even had at one time the receipts to account for most of it. If I didn't have a receipt, it went into my travel journal where I kept a running tally. What's more is I only had $500 cash on my person (it was split into $200 traveler's checks, $150 cash, and $150 in a checking account accesible via ATM). If I ran out of money before my time was through, well, ain't too proud to beg!

For that matter, once I was IN I adjusted as necessary. When I took traveler's checks to the bank to exchange for local currency, I took a hit on the conversion. I then sought out the cheapest rates by hitting a few banks to do it. Sort of bargain shopping. If there was a really expensive tour I wanted to do, I didn't do something else. Get the picture?

This was practicality. I wasn't buying a T-shirt to every bar I went to. I had to make it last. And I did! Somewhere around $3 US was in my pocket, plus a handful of local coins when I hit Miami.

More to come later.
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Old 01-19-2008, 01:28 PM   #13
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Default alright joker...

You seem like you've got this all down... I am going to Turkey in March and i am wondering if you have been there yet. If so... lay it on me!
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Old 01-19-2008, 03:26 PM   #14
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Nice post, Steve! I don't smoke, but I agree with the lighter method. Good way to break the ice.


I'm gonna DIGG (Digg.com- http://digg.com/travel_places/Budget...faint_of_heart) this!
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Old 01-19-2008, 05:05 PM   #15
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Woohoo! I've been Digg'ed. Or Dug. Or something along those lines

Missbrandyleebell-

I've not been to Turkey, but have friends who have. Being a chef, he stocked up on spices like saffron and vanilla beans in the bazaars because they were that much cheaper. Guess its a vein of frugality.

Here's the thing that I can't stress enough- Be Practical. Above all else, it makes the most sense. We all tend to be impulsive as all hell, but here's the one catch- it costs money to be impulsive. As I previously said, don't go buying every little souvenir that has the country/town/bar's name on it.

This may go over a bit rough, but here goes:

Pregame if you're going out. Its always cheaper. Have a couple beers before you hit the bar. You'll thank me later, especially when its tourist trap stuff.

As for food... if you aren't sure of your cooking abilities, look where the locals eat. This is ALWAYS a good indication of good, cheap food. It may not be the Big Mac and fries that you're accustomed to, but chances are its a hearty meal that will fill your belly and keep you powered up for the next adventure.

For that matter, bring sammiches. We did this a lot- we hiked somewhere with large subs that we would make... well, because it was easier, and we knew we'd be hungry! Don't ever doubt the benefits of a loaf of bread stuffed with various meats and veggies and condiments!

Add some snacks in there, too. Throw a dozen or so granola bars in the pack before you leave home, too. Instant energy, and they don't go bad.
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Misadventures of a Crazed Kitchen Pirate

"Steve is the prototypical cool American male. Y'know, I'm talking about Steve McGarrett, alright? Steve Austin, Steve McQueen. Y'know, he's the guy on his horse, the guy alone. He has his own code of honor, his own code of ethics, his own rules of living, man. He never, ever tries to impress the women but he always gets the girl."


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Old 03-25-2008, 11:27 AM   #16
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Not really sure if I should start a distinct thread for this or not but Steve your rant/advice inspired me a bit. *

I started cooking in hostels! Anyway, the other day I had a craving for desert but not much in the way of ingredients (it was Easter) so I used my bottle of Apple Schnapps, Coca Cola, Bananas and butter to make an ersatz, but throughly edible, Bananas Foster.

While staying in Sevilla, my hostel Samay had a HUGE kitchen, so it naturally lent itself to communal cooking. We made with lemon and milk chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots which turned out well, fried chicken, broccoli and hardboiled eggs (for those on a high cholesterol diet ), and fajitas.

My first experience with cooking has been highly positive and I recommend it to everyone. Clueless? Just go for it

--Joey

*I also have to admit a young dutch boy who made a scallop fettuccine dish kind of put the seed of embarrassment into my sister and me who were crunching through a burnt frozen pizza. But 50/50 at least
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