When it comes to travelling, especially. Being frugal doesn’t have to be painful – in fact if you can look waaay beyond that, it can become a true competitive sport. Not those annoying conversations in a backpacker hostel’s lounge about who-got-the-cheapest-(bedbug-ridden)-bed-in-Lima though, no.
While I haven’t been desperate enough to sleep on a park bench, or to pawn off a Swiss Army knife to subsist on some bread rolls, I relish the conscious choice of going cheap, occasionally. Rest of the time the southern route IS the only realistic choice.
So it’s fun to flip through pillow menus, peruse the never-ending aisles at a Continental breakfast buffet, to train for triathlons you’ll never qualify for in the Olympic-sized hotel lounge pool with its muscle relaxing water-jet Jacuzzi ponds. When I’m just going in to crash on a bed that is almost always too soft on my off-the-trodden-and-smashed-path body, I don’t see why I have to pay premium price just to enjoy the cheap pleasures of swiping 500 bars of soap and calling the chambermaid up to replenish the bathroom supplies. Being cheap has its merits. For one, I’d never run out of pint-sized shampoo, soap and lotion samples. My mind is even tuned with an automatic alarm whenever I check out from a once-in-a-Haley-comet-sighting hotel splurge – Loot, plunder anything that’s not a permanent fixture and that won’t be charged to the card!
It’s good for the local economy. You’ve to admit that most of the cheapest things are supplied by the honest natives who worked the land and roamed the grounds of ground. Street food, as filthy and dodgy as they can get, tastes heavenly, fills the stomach and completes the ultimate travel experience. All you need to get. And then there’s all these cheesy souvenirs (which I don’t buy but feel free to indulge since it’s like $1 for 10 pieces), snacks and those lousy T-shirts. A haircut from a Thai barber who may shave off your precious sideburns if your desires were lost in translation – at least it’s hair it’ll grow back. I get resounding bangs for my buck. What’s not to love?!
My wallet is happy for the most part. It stays satiated. I don’t have to keep running to the bureau de change or a shady ATM machine – fearing I’ll get a knife in my gut the moment I leave.
Your mind is at peace. Part of the thrill of being cheap is in itself. I don’t need to shop luxury goods on the high street – when I’m there I gawk at hot Italian babes, shopping with their Grace Kelly-esque silk scarves and dark shades and wonder if they’ll ever get a more productive hobby, while sucking on my 2-euro-a-scoop gelato.
I don’t need a bathtub in my hotel room – a crowded, shared bathroom in a hostel is a microcosm of an imaginary universe filled with tough girls ready to rough around the world. Plus, hot and steamy girl-on-girl fighting for a square inch of mirror real estate to apply mascara means I’m always game for some tasty tasty bitching.
I don’t need the highest level of comfort everywhere. The little rock in my shoe reminds me what real life is. Travelling = real life. Not an escapism into some lala land, only to have a silly reverie shattered when you fall back down to Earth.
My cheap world is me licking the ground I walk on, groping the tree trunks, winking salaciously at the grandfatherly train conductors, chugging bootleg vodka with Polish rockers on the train, trembling on a budget airline seat and hitchhiking across my one-cent-coin-filled galaxy.
While some hang the number of stars from their hotels on the corner of their lips, like how they wear their gold-plated hearts on their sleeves, I wear my over-washed, faded cardigan with holes in it with a passion I’ll die proudly clinging onto.
Soldier on, my fellow cheapo warriors, who vote with their wallets, leap at everything nakedly and are never poor in their souls.
A wise little bird told me this – Another dollar saved is another one-thousandth of a journey paid for round the corner. Now, if only I could burn this mantra behind my eyelids.