Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cheap Destinations

The only thing better than travel is cheap travel, and the best place to start searching for deals is the award winning site, Tim Leffel's Cheapest Destinations, dedicated to "Places where a fistful of dollars will pay for weeks of hotels, train rides, and meals."

Cheapest Destinations has plenty of practical information, but Leffel also posts frequent essays on the philosophy behind cheap travel. It's not all about saving money - it's about getting off the beaten path, traveling close to the ground and really experiencing a place rather than insulating oneself behind a wall of luxury.

Leffel isn't a budget snob - the kind of backpacker who sneers at anyone who pays for hot water. One of his best essays notes that travel is one of the few things in life that's really worth a splurge, and although it makes sense to go cheap most of the time, there are some experiences (like African ecotourism) where it's essential to break the bank and really do it right.

Here are a couple excerpts:

"Too many people slave away at their job just to build up a bigger pile of stuff. A bigger house, a nicer car, and a fancier watch that ends up not making them a bit happier when it’s all said and done. Sipping a gin and tonic at my sundowner, hearing a chorus of birds and snorting hippos, I saw what you can really do with a pile of money: buy into an experience that will sear itself into your memory for a lifetime."

“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."

Leffel is also the force behind the Perceptive Travel, an excellent travel webzine that I wrote about when it debuted last month. Check it out if you haven't already.


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