From Frivolous to Frugal!

Day 9: Jess is a Wanderer then vs Jess is a Wanderer now…


Some thoughts I had during my 23 hour bus ride from Vilnius, Lithuania to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Jess is a Wanderer then: Up until June of this year, I was working as a teacher with a regular salary that paid for all my wants, needs and ambitious travel plans. Being based in Egypt, living was cheap and I had very few outgoings so my travel fund was always nicely topped up and ready to be spent across any continent I chose during the regular school holidays. I treated myself to random weekends in luxury hotels, I ate out at top restaurants and even managed to visit all seven continents in 2016. Before, I could stay (within reason) at any hotel of my choosing and dine anywhere I wanted to. I always left a tip. Despite carrying a backpack, I was definitely what the kids are now calling, a ‘flash packer’. And it was perfect. 

By the way, this is NOT A SOB STORY but (hopefully) a comical tale at how the mighty have fallen. Or rather how I chose to become frugal instead of frivolous and how that’s working out…

Jess is a Wanderer now: It’s September and I’ve been on the road for a meagre ten days. JUST TEN!!!!! Yet life is very different to how it used to be. On this trip, I’m having to prioritise my spending. I’m living according to (quite a strict) budget and I’m learning to make cut backs if I can’t afford everything. It’s a learning curve that’s involved me feeling hungry, tired and grumpy on more than one occasion. But I’ve also discovered eco-lodges and well, that’s a whole new world of amazing-ness!!!

Where I used to walk through the doors of luxury hotels in order to go to my bedroom, I now cross the lobby in order to use the bathroom and avoid the €0.50 fee in a public toilet. 

  Before, I would call an Uber without a second thought as to the cost of the journey, it was all about convenience. Now, I find myself walking 12km to a free attraction in order to avoid paying €0.74 for a bus ride. I have legs, I should use them!!

In the past, I’d choose a hotel based on its buffet breakfast and if after the first day, the breakfast wasn’t exciting enough, I’d visit another hotel and pay to savour their breakfast. Now the days consist of supermarket visits to stock up on bread and cheese to make my own sandwiches and munch on a picnic bench instead of a restaurant table. I’m becoming more and more familiar with all the different types of cheese that are available. Love a bit of cheese.

If my clothes were dirty, I’d throw them away and buy new ones. Now I’m using shampoo and washing things in the bathroom. Who am I!!

Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with living a lavish and luxurious lifestyle at all, I’m grateful to have this experience of not being so ‘well-off’ as it puts things into perspective. I am honestly living the life I dreamed of . Being able to go anywhere, visit anything, try new foods, meet new people. I’m eating healthier without realising it. I’m getting more exercise without having to make a conscious effort. Overall, I’m spending less so that I can carry on doing what I love for longer. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be a full-time flash-packer but then I wouldn’t:

– have to sleep in a car to avoid hotel costs in order to cover the car hire cost. Going to sleep in the dark and waking up to a stunning mountain range in front of me was a pretty ‘wow’ moment.

– get to see the scenery of three countries over 23 hours instead of being cramped onto a potentially expensive flight with a ‘low-cost’ airline.

– sample €0.22 local food items from a supermarket’s delicatessen stand instead of choosing an elaborate burger which I could have anywhere in the world. 

– meet like-minded others. When you haven’t showered for three days and flowers wilt when you walk past, it’s good to be with others who smell equally as bad so there’s no judgment. 

Budgeting has made me more flexible as I haven’t booked tickets or made plans etc. in advance. That’s kind of why as I write this, I’m planning on heading to Slovakia’s High Tatrus mountain range for some good old free hiking and waterfall swimming. I love adventure and I love travel. Having to stick to a budget makes things particularly exciting. For example, on Wednesday (next week) we’re heading to Romania. We could have paid €57 in advance for a ticket but I thought it was too much. Instead, we’ll turn up to the train station on Wednesday night and see how far we can get on a cheaper train. We might be in Austria, we might be in Hungary… it doesn’t really matter as the old cliché says: it’s not the destination but the journey. Also, I am now thirty years old so if there’s ever a time to start learning how to budget, I feel that this may be it! And where better than on a round-the-world adventure.

My ‘Jess is a Wanderer motto’ is: I’ll never have enough money to do it, so I’ll just do it anyway. Even when I was working full-time I used to complain that I didn’t have enough funds to do everything I wanted yet I always managed to make it work. If you’re thinking of doing something similar, I think you can too. If you want something badly enough, prioritise, get your things together and do it. If it doesn’t work out at least you’ve tried!

In the meantime, you’ll be happy to hear that after two nights in the hostel of doom , a night on a bus and a night in the car, I’ve finally had a shower and I am sleeping in a bed nestled in a village amidst Slovakia’s beautiful mountains. Tomorrow I’ll spend the day hiking and burning calories instead of a hole in my funds. Isn’t that a better investment! This is the life I have chosen and I wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world. Are you tempted or does it terrify you?