Arun Kumar is an engineer from Chennai, India. Ever since his childhood, he always had the notion to be a traveler. But after his degree, he had a total workaholic life. The goals of his life intertwined with his goals at work – meeting targets, deadlines and managing the work pressure. No matter how much he earned and how hard he worked, he always felt that he didn’t earn enough to become a traveler.
After some thorough research, he finally had his Eureka moment when he came to know about the concept of ‘backpacking’. It was the cheapest and best way to travel the world. And all his myths of having to become rich to travel the world, shattered in a minute. Here is his tips and tricks on how to go backpacking on budget and see the world.
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"When it comes to planning a budget trip, first and foremost I pre-plan the countries and places I intend to go. I install an app on my mobile to calculate my day to day budget while travelling. I maintain a per-day budget of $1.50 to $2. This is the way I plan my trip keeping a strict per day budget in mind.
Every budget traveler, like me, has to spend on 3 basic things- Transportation, Food and Accommodation. So let me break it up to you and give you an insight about how I plan my trip and what I do to maintain my budget regarding Transportation, Food and Accommodation.
Transportation While Backpacking
Contrary to popular beliefs, transport is an expensive affair while travelling. But in the backpacking route, it’s not. I travel all over the country only by hitchhiking. Whether it’s travelling by private car, motorbike, truck, mini truck, caravan or a van, hitchhiking is my go-to for a commute. In this way, I never spend on transportation even if it’s within the city or the highways I just opt for hitchhiking.
If I don’t get a lift I walk further way for a nice place to get a lift, so based on the situation I change my journey that’s how I traveled more than 4000 km. Another plus point about hitchhiking is the opportunity to have beautiful conversations with the locals. Be it sharing stories, having a meal together or even discussing our lives in general, hitchhiking has brought about plenty of lovely memories in my life.
Accommodation While Backpacking
The Couch Surfing app on my phone is a real blessing for a backpacker like me. About 80% of the time I do get great, reasonable accommodation wherever I go. Whether the people whose homes I stay in are men or women, it doesn’t matter to me. I am happy to adjust to their homes even if they don’t have a bed. Most of the time during my travel, I do get my place for rest sorted.
Couch surfing also helps me to experience authentic local food, lifestyle and immerse myself in the culture of the place. People are warm and hospitable and its a great experience for me. There are also times when I don’t find a place to spend the night. So I always carry a sleeping bag and a tent with me. During those times I find a temple, stupa, church, mosque, school or even a college and pitch my tent there to rest for the night.
Food While Backpacking
When it comes to food, around 90% of the time during my travel, I avoid eating at restaurants. I instead have dried grapes and chickpeas. I soak chickpeas at night and eat it in the morning. It’s nutritious and easy to eat. In urgent cases, I buy fruits and vegetables and cook them. Sometimes I even volunteer to do some kind of work in exchange for a meal. My photography skills come into play and I click wonderful photos in exchange for the food or accommodation. This is how I have traveled around 7456 km for 6 months by spending just around $353. Yes, it requires a lot of patience and commitment, but the result is just extraordinary.
The Places I Have Visited
I have visited many places in India and even its neighbouring countries. As a solo traveller and backpacker, I have visited Chennai through Andhra pradesh - Adanki,Nellore, Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Agra, Delhi, Uttarakhand - banbasa, Nepal - mahendran nagar, Bhimdatta, Butwal, Lumbini, Chitwan, Pokhara, Mardi Himal, Kathmandu,Lalitpur,Janakpur,Jiri,Illam,Mirik,darjeeling,Sikkim - Gangtok,sadam,Bhutan - Thimphu,paro,Haa,Phuentsholing,punakha,phobjikha, gaigat, west Bengal, Assam - Guwahati, meghalaya - shillong,Cheerapungi, Manipur - Imphal, Moreh, Myanmar - Tamu,mandalay,Bago,bagan, inle,Yangon, Thailand - Mae sot,Bangkok,Pattaya,rayong, ko samet.
- GOT ROBBED BUT WITH YOUR SUPPORT, I GOT BACK MY CAMERA AFTER 18 DAY'S,
Yes, it’s a mystery not only to me even though my neighbors haven’t believed it when I said it happened in India,
That 18 days I was literally counting, praying on up to core to get my camera back and I got back with lots of miracles - so I learned the power of Never give up attitude.
- THE FIRST TIME I ENTERED THE POLICE STATION IN MY LIFETIME ,
I never ever been to any police station before since I got robbed I need to visit, also I come to know how north Indian police stations are, crime ratios, working style, how they track the guilty, so in total it was interesting to see police actions and consequences.
- I SAW WEED PLANTS IN NEPAL & BHUTAN ON the ROADS , AND THEN YOU KNOW WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE.
At first, it was hard to believe but moreover usual in Nepal & Bhutan, I come to know naturally weed plants grow on his own in the Himalayan regions, in simple words - that's the power of Himalayan Soil.
- TAJ MAHAL - FIRST SEVEN WONDERS TO EXPERIENCE IN MY LIFE,
It's a proud of India, a beautiful place and a white marble built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. I literally spent two days in Agra, just to experience the love of Mughal architect, A treat to the eye.
- MET PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY - NEPAL,
When I came back from mardi Himal mountain by not even spending a single dollar for 8 days Trekking, Local Nepali people got to know about me and they arrange to meet the Legislative assembly President.
- FIRST TIME EXPERIENCED SNOWFALL - NEPAL,
It may sound crazy to you but this is the first time I am experiencing snowfall
- CHALLENGED A RUSSIAN WOMAN AND CLIMBED 5000 METERS ABOVE THE SEA LEVEL - HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN,
When I was in Nepal I met one Russian girl she trolled me that Indians are lazy you people don’t know how to do Trekking, So I took it as a challenge with out any “experience” I went for trekking with a little bit of courage and then climbed to Mardi Himal Mountain also completed successfully.
- STRANGER'S BECOME FRIEND'S , FRIEND'S BECOMES NEIGHBOR'S,
Since I do Couchsurfing and Hitchhiking I use to meet end number of people that connects me to next level to make them as friends, now in my contact list there are Thousands of numbers I have from different countries,
- 6 MONTH'S I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO MY HOME , BUT I STILL CONNECTED WITH MY FAMILY THROUGH MESSENGER,
For me getting out of my comfort zone is most important I felt bored of usual life, so this 6 months I was literally enjoyed the moments and experienced a lot, I never felt miss my home however I connected with them via messenger, thanks to internet technology.
- HAVE TRIED & experienced different kinds of FOOD'S, CULTURE'S , TRADITIONAL DRESSES.
North India - Partha, Thali, Dal-Bati Churma, Chana Masala
Nepal - Tarkari, Chow mein, Dal Bhat,
Bhutan - Ema datshi, Momos, Red rice.
Myanmar - Atho, kowsuve, Mohinga, Mowles
Thailand - Pad thai, Laap, Khao sai, pad gapau
Bhutan - Gho, and Kira
Coming to traditional wear Bhutanese “Gho” impressed me a lot, I never experienced as like “Gho” such a unique dress, I recommend all to try at least once in your life.
- 37 KM I DID CYCLING IN NEPAL - UUFFF MAN THAT'S HARD BUT WORTH IT.
I THINK THE PAST 8 YEARS I NEVER DID CYCLING , ALL OF A SUDDEN IN A REMOTE VILLAGE (NEPAL) my host wanna visit 2ND largest suspension bridge in Asia also cycling is the only way to travel, somehow I managed and that was hard as well.
- EXPERIENCED AN EARTHQUAKE IN MANIPUR - HOWEVER, SURVIVED WITH A HUGE LUCK ,
It was too shocking, from my belly to top of the body I feel the vibration all of a sudden also I came to the street, time god I am safe - No injuries.
- RAN OUT OF THE DISCO PUB AROUND 2 am NIGHT - SOUND'S CRAZY NA ! BUT MY HOST WANNA DO IT,
- I DROVE HEAVY VEHICLE TRUCK IN AZILABATH , THANKS TO KIND INDIAN TRUCK DRIVER'S .
A truck driver gave me a lift in North India, he asked me if you wanna try driving Truck, so why should I miss this chance? Quite risky but I was given a try that’s the spirit.
My Tips To People Wanting To Go Backpacking
- Minimize your desire
- Try to avoid purchasing anything in a tourist spot. As everything will be expensive or around 25% higher than the exact price.
- Where ever you are, try to learn the basics of the local language. Thanks to knowing the basics of the local language, I was able to buy an earplug for $0.75 which was sold for $6.75 to a tourist.
- Always track your expenditure & spending.
- Know what are the places you want to go to. Discuss with the local people and finalize the plan, because there will be some difference between what you see online and experiencing the same on the spot.
- Don’t compare your way of life and travelling style with others. That’s the very big mistake I did.
- Travel within your budget, with what you have.
- When you travel don’t get addicted to clicking too many selfies and photographs. It may lead to wastage of your valuable time.
- Carry a solar cell phone charger( to charge cell phone batteries), UV protection band( protect your hand from tanning), baseball cap( protects you from direct sun rays), lightweight walking shoes, mountain hiking socks, sleeping bag, sunscreen, passport, basic apparel, trimmer( if you’re a guy), camping tent, power bank, a good backpack, water bottle, eye mask, noise protection earplug, blanket, towel, light snacks or dried fruits.
- Hitchhiking is like riding a two-wheeler. You have a chance of 10% – 15% to meet with an accident but you still, ride with self-confidence and faith. Similarly, when it comes to hitchhiking, it’s all about the trust you have on the person. Ask to yourself, can I trust this guy or not? When you find out you’re not ok with the ride, just don’t go. If you are in between, tell them to stop and get down. Avoid hitchhiking after 7 pm.
- Use Couchsurfing and hostels for accommodation,
- Use Google Maps & Maps Me to plan and search routes.
- Go camping in or near Mosques, Stupas, pagodas, temples, churches or any spiritual shrine.
- Women solo travelers, let nothing stop you from your dreams. Take the necessary precautions and go for it. I have met a lot of women solo travelers from Slovenia, Russia, Germany, France, Netherlands, Scotland and Argentina. In fact, a Russian solo woman traveler taught me all about camping.
- Above all, have trust and faith in yourself and you can achieve anything.
My Learning's From Backpacking
Through backpacking, I found out who I am and what I am capable of. I learned more about my strengths, weaknesses what I can and what I can’t do. I learnt to survive in unfamiliar terrains and in situations where I didn’t know anything about the food, language, culture and people. My perspective on the importance of money completely changed after travelling. I realized that money is not the only important thing in my life, there are many more precious and beautiful things out there in this world. My journey as a backpacker as taught me how important it is to take a break from one’s hectic life. When my DSLR camera got stolen, I learnt the importance of perseverance and a ‘never give up’ attitude. Backpacking is definitely one of the best & cheapest ways to travel the world. So make your own route and don’t depend on anyone or anything to achieve your travel dreams."
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