For less than you'd pay for a cup of coffee...

One of my main aims in detailing my economical escapades to the far ends of the earth, has been to convince average Americans that they too can explore the world, see amazing sights, meet wonderful people, and do it all without blowing their life savings.

I've talked to countless people who have all shared with me the same lament - if only they had the time or money, they would venture to every conceivable destination. I do not claim to have found a solution to the time crunch; the vast majority of Americans work fifty weeks a year, and the idea of taking off a month or two to explore the wilds of the Amazonian rainforest or the frenetic cities of India is almost completely implausible for these. Therefore, I am largely targetting the students and those with more liberal work schedules who believe their meager incomes, and little else, prevent them from experiencing all the world has to offer.

The first barrier to entry for every would-be traveler is the high cost of airfare. Low fares are hard to come by these days, but if you're ready to do some research, watch for sales, and be willing to drive a bit, you can get to a lot of places for ridiculously little money. AirfareWatchdog will give you daily notifications on deals out of or into a given airport. SpiritAir (who handled 100% of my flying this year) will get you almost anywhere in the Caribbean and Central and South America for under $100. And if you can get yourself to England for cheap (not nearly as easy as it used to be), you can use RyanAir to get you virtually anywhere in Europe for pennies. RoundTheWorld airfares can take you to a dozen or so destinations on 4 or 5 continents with a flexible schedule for under $2000.

Once you get to wherever you're going, there's seldom any reason to spend any more than you would to live at home. You will be amazed at the power of the dollar in South and Southeast Asia, where you can live like a king for $10 a day. Africa and Central and South America will be more expensive, but you can still travel with some measure of style for under $30. Western countries have the potential to bleed your wallet dry in no time flat, but if you camp, hitch-hike and shop at markets, you can still travel for less than you'd be paying for rent back home.

What follows is a summary of where I went this past year and how much each trip cost. Andie came along on every trip besides Panama; having another person can significantly reduce costs since you'll often be paying half for hotels, taxis and rentals, but it will of course depend on your respective standards of living.

DestinationLength (days)CostsTotal Cost/Person in countryAirfare (incl. taxes) and gasTotal
Jamaica10$20-$30 rooms, $3-$4 meals, $1 snacks, $1 local buses, $6/100km long-distance, $15 for cave/boat tours$236$250$486
Panama14$10-$20 rooms, $1.50-$2.50 meals, 25 cent snacks, 25 cent local buses, $2/100km long-distance, $5 per park$271$190$462
Peru14$3-$6 rooms, $.75-$2 meals, 15 cent snacks, $1/100km long-distance, $50 for Cuzco and Macchu Picchu ruins$313$85$398
Yucatan10$15-$20 rooms, $3-$4 meals, $1 snacks $4/100km long-distance, $4 per ruin/cave$292$109$401
Year Total54$1112$634$1746

So assuming you're a poor college student and barely get by even though you haven't left your dorm in the last 4 semesters, how do you come up with $1746? Here are some ideas (these only really apply if you live in Gainesville, FL, but you can probably draw some parallels for your town):

ExpenseAverage Student PaysI paySavings per YearExplanation
Apartment$400$330$840You can find a sizable room in a 2/1 a few minutes bike ride from campus for cheap
Electricity$60$15$540Gainesville never really gets that hot or cold - and if you're in a complex, you can mooch off your neighbors' heating/AC. A disproportionate amount of body heat is lost through your head, so be sure to leverage head and facial hair.
Cable$40$0$480Trust me, there's nothing worth watching anyway. Simpsons is freely broadcast and South Park is available for download.
Cell phone$40$10$360Not having an unlimited plan is a pain in the butt, but if you get a prepaid plan, keep incoming calls short and use Skype whenever you need to call someone, you can save a ton.
Food (weekly)$60$30$1560Eat lots of oatmeal, pasta, frozen veggies and granola, and pack a sandwich. Peanut butter is the new meat!
Gas (daily)$2$0$500(Assuming you're not renting one of those places up on 222) Biking every day is a blast, and is quite often faster than driving.
Alcohol (weekly)$10$0$500You can buy a pint in Vietnam for 2.5 cents. Moral: You can get drunk a whole lot cheaper somewhere else, so save your money for that airfare!
Monthly Total$880$472
Annual Total$10560$5664
Annual Savings$4896And if you can sublease your apartment during the summer and knock out all your travelling in one fell swoop, you'll save even more!

So there it is. The awesome thing about budget travel is that, in most cases, your trips will only get more memorable and more rewarding the less you spend (refer to abandoned amusement park story in Jamaican log or any of the hitch-hiking stories from the South Pacific). So quit making excuses, book a flight, and see the world while there's a few villages still without a KFC!