Now for what you’ve all been waiting for. To wrap up the this week’s series of “Europe on $__ a Day,” I will introduce you to the frugal superstars of international travel. These folks make my $40 a day budget in Europe look like Rolex level ridiculousness. Somehow they have less money than anyone with a steady job can imagine yet still seem to wander Europe for months at a time. How do they do it? How are they are able to be tourists in one of the most expensive places in the world without ending up cold, wet, and hungry in a ditch somewhere? Their secret is that almost nothing fazes them. Because of the scarcity they must endure, they are some of the most relaxed and confident people I’ve met in Europe. Here are their tricks and how they travel Europe on 10 a day.
So clearly for a $10 a day total budget you will not be staying in any hostels or hotels, possibly with the exception of Ukraine. The frugal superstars make extensive use of the couchsurfing.com subculture. Couchsurfing depends upon the generosity of complete strangers to host you for free in their homes. Usually folks will let you crash on their couch, which is where the name comes from. I have utilized this incredible site myself when I got stuck in Geneva with no hostels available for less than $100. At the last second, someone reached out to me and saved me from busting my budget. If it had not been for Couchsurfing, I’d probably have had to sleep in the park. The key to getting a host is to contact only people that have similar interests to you.
So sometimes you will email 1000 Couchsurfing hosts and get no response. The frugal superstars have a tent and sleeping bag available for just such a situation. I have seen them on beaches, in hills, on top of mountains, and in public parks where they won’t get bothered. They are respectful of the environment and take trash out with them and keep to themselves. They usually have better views than the people spending $500 a night no hotels.
The key with this traveler subset is they don’t panic. If they are in a city and don’t have a place to stay, a nice bed is just a short hike away. They usually have the gear they need for inclement weather and are very good about carrying their things around with them or asking to store them at various hostels and relying on goodwill to make this happen.
Food and Drink
This is where the vast majority of the $10 a day budget goes. However, you are unlikely to see these travelers spend more than $5-$7 a day on food. They achieve this amazing spend rate by never allowing restaurant food to touch their lips and buying in bulk from discount grocery stores. Potatoes and carrots are incredibly cheap in most European countries. I’ve seen big sacks of them available for around $1 that are good enough to feed you for at least 3 meals. These folks often travel in groups so one person buys the carrots and potatoes, another gets the drinks, and so on.
Whether they are cooking out in the woods or in a new friend’s apartment from Couchsurfing, they take care of their food needs by living healthily, eating little meat, and buying whatever is cheap and available. They also very rarely drink alcohol.
For me, the way frugal superstars travel around Europe is very brave. They figure out where they want to go and walk to the main highways connecting the locations they are trying to get to and stick the thumb up until someone picks them up and takes them along the path. Europe is unlike America in that the vast majority of places are really safe.
Hitchhiking is second nature to Europeans. You aren’t likely to find a lot of serial killers or robbers that might shoot you. For some reason America is so much more violent that hitchhiking really isn’t a big thing over there but the relative domestic tranquility and expectation that you won’t have guns makes people more likely to pick you up. The frugal superstars usually get around without having to pay for transit between cities ever. They do a ton of walking and might take the occasional bus but besides that, they are traveling for free. So maybe $3-$5 a day is spent on this category.
Clothing and Souvenirs
The $10 a day traveler is not concerned with what he or she wears. The typical uniform consists of super comfortable baggy hippy pants with some really grungy ripped up tank top or T-Shirt. They have the coolest looking sandals and maybe 50% have dreads, which keep their head warm in the cold.
They optimize everything and use clothes that breathe easily, don’t get too smelly, and can easily be washed and dried in a sink. They might have a stopper to put in a sink to wash the clothes that they do have. Souvenirs consist of the amazing views they get every single day.
Museums and Attractions
While I have not seen any members of the $10 a day group in the museums and other spots I’ve visited, I see them all the time at free events. The $10 a day traveler is an expert at finding awesome free events like a break dancing competition in Austria, a concert in Amsterdam, or an electronic music battle in the streets. They have just as much fun as I do and I suppose if they wanted to get the same info I’m getting from museums they could read Wikipedia.
Taking It One Day at a Time to See Europe on 10 a Day
The $10 a Day travelers are rebels with a cause. They don’t want to be stuck behind a desk writing meaningless reports staring blankly at a glowing screen all day. They choose to make uncertainty and fear their friends and embrace them.
They use Couchsurfing and camp, hitchhike, eat healthily, go to free entertainment events, and live with the clothes on their backs and that’s it. They are the kind of people that will be surviving in the zombie apocalypse. I am in awe because they somehow make do with so little to remind the rest of us that it’s not the material comforts that make you truly happy, it’s freedom. To wrap it up, here’s our last “What You Could Do in Ukraine…” section celebrating my favorite country in Europe.
Bonus: What You Could Do in Ukraine for $10 a Day
- Live a normal middle class life
Haha, Happy Friday and Cheers!