This academic year I’ve been lucky to travel to many countries, the main ones being Spain and China. The countries are very different but one similarity I’ve experienced in both places is having local people tell me how rich I must be. This actually really annoys me when people make false assumptions about my bank balance.
I admit I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to spend this year travelling but it has not been given to me, I have worked hard to get where I am by studying hard, working and learning how to budget and save money. Maybe because in the past only wealthy people were able to travel the stereotype still remains, that people who leave their country must have money. Of course people going abroad for holidays, business or work must have some money behind them as do people if they head to London for a weekend, but in recent times a fortune is not needed to get out and see some of the world.
Looking at myself, pretty much all of my electrical items – phone, camera, mp3 player are “outdated” because I believe if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Meanwhile when I told a Korean friend that I was flying to Shanghai for the weekend, she was playing on her iPhone. She looked up and looked shocked, pouted at me and said you’re family’s got money. But little did she know that the money that allowed me to go to China is all the student loan from the UK government. I’ve learnt how to budget and save money so that when it comes to choosing between a six hour train or an hour flight, I’m able to take the more expensive but comfier option. It’s not because my family dole out money to allow me to take the expensive route or because I turn my nose up at the train…I once took a 42 hour train to save money on flights and excess baggage charges!
In China, although things are very cheap, I still budgeted as I knew that travelling to different cities would be more expensive and I would want to spend a little more money when on holiday. So during the week I would eat at the school canteen instead of restaurants, I wouldn’t go to the tuck shop at break time, I’d sometimes walk instead of taking the bus and of course I would always barter whilst shopping – for clothes and especially fruit, that’s where you get ripped off! All the pounds and pennies (well kuais) that I saved helped me when travelling around. At the same time I’m not stingy with money, I’d always be the first to suggest getting an ice cream or an Avril endorsed iced tea at the weekend (actually the Avril one wasn’t as tasty as the yellow bottle but that’s not the point).
It’s also not necessary to spend lots of money whilst studying abroad. Some of the best memories I’ve had this year have been so simple but so great, like the times when I’ve visited local people’s homes for tea or when I’ve been to the beach alone and been befriended by various people. Even just those evenings when my Chinese friends would invite themselves to my dormitory, bring an instrument, take pictures and they’d only leave at 10pm when visiting time was over. Going out to see mountains, Buddhas, great walls, temples etc has all been amazing but I think later when reminiscing the things I will most think about will be the friends I’ve made this year, the times we spent together, the songs we’ve made memories of and the yummy food I wish to eat again.
I think the main points I want to get across is that now travelling is more affordable than people think, especially if you plan in advance you can get good deals on flights, accommodation etc. Also there are many types of budgets that people have, some people stay in five star hotels, some like campsites and there’s even couchsurfing for the brave. Just because I’m young and I’m abroad, it doesn’t automatically make me this rich kid from Britain*, I don’t have nor do I need expensive things to document my trip. I get more satisfaction out of rereading my diary of X day when XYZ happened than looking back on my Instagram account and seeing that yesterday’s picture has over twenty likes.
*Britain’s economy is still not stable so people need to stop saying how great the UK’s economy is too.