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Be A Frugal Traveler, But Not a Pain in the Rear

I’ve always liked what Doug Lansky writes because he comes across as a sensible, well-rounded traveler who sees things with the proper amount of humorous perspective. So I often recommend his First Time Around the World book to those setting off for an extended bout of travel. The Signspotting book he compiled for Lonely Planet is loads of fun to read through.

He just started a column in the travel section of The Guardian and this feature deals with an important subject: being frugal to the point of being a ridiculous pain. Anyone who has been on the road for a while has met plenty of these characters. They look at every merchant as an adversary, every “non-essential” junket as some decision to be agonized over. They’ll spend a half hour trying to chop a few cents off a purchase–money that is worth almost nothing in their home country, but could buy a sack of potatoes for the local man or woman.

Lansky admits he has succumbed at times, finding a way to get into Petra without paying the hefty entrance fee, but still swearing off a guide who was asking the equivalent of three pounds sterling. “Today, I’m not rejoicing over the extra £3 I have in my pocket; I miss not having learned more about one of the most fascinating places on the planet. How could I have spent hundreds to get there, plus lodging and food, then not ponied up the last few pounds for the thing I had come to see?”

Too many times, travelers miss out on the best things a country has to offer, all for an amount of money that will seem insignificant once they are back home. As the last paragraph says, “At some point you have to take a step back and remember what’s important. It’s fine to save money while you’re on the road, but just remember that you’re not actually travelling to save money.”

Put away the competitive spirit, relax, and remember why you left home to start with. I tell people to go to the cheapest countries in the world so they can do more with their money. Flying around the world and then living one small step up from the homeless is missing the point. If you can travel for a year and travel like a pauper, or travel for six months and see and do everything you want, take the latter. Or save more. As soon as you’re back home, working the grind again, you’ll be glad.