The art of travelling is one that is well documented. It’s all about being wild and free and careless in all the right ways. You will go away and forget all that hassle, revelling in the sun and the sea and the rocky embrace of a stunning mountainside. You’ll take just enough photographs to really capture the moment, but not so many as to not live in it yourself. You’ll keep just enough money to cover the eventual breakdown or mishap that makes for a great story later, but otherwise spend like it’s going out of fashion. After all, what you’re here for is an experience of a lifetime. Something that others will rave about in jealousy, whilst you shrug your shoulders and respond with seeming nonchalance. After all, this is merely what you do. You are just a rolling stone, and you will end up where you end up.
That part is pretty much everywhere. It’s on blogs, in popular culture and on social media. You can barely walk a few feet in any cultural space without stumbling over someone telling you about the art of travel. But, as many unfortunate 22 year olds have found out, art rarely pays the bills. In fact, it almost always leaves you in a position where you appear mysterious and glamorous, but only because no one truly believes you’d be stupid enough to leave yourself in the situation you now find yourself in. You’re so wild and brave for choosing to hike the Pyrenees without a map, they’ll say. Only your camera and a 4g connection to share it out with all the people that matter most to you. We should all be a bit more like you.
Except you’re an idiot. You’re now risking so much for so little. If your sense of adventure comes from having absolutely no idea what you’re doing then you need to think a little more. No one calls an adult with a tenuous chance to pay their next rent bill adventurous. We pity them for the circumstances inflicted upon them, or scorn them for their recklessness when the problem is of their own making. So why does sticking your stuff in a van make things any different. How has your endangerment of yourself and of your way of life been made any better by the fact that it’s in a remote location?
The truth is that it hasn’t. Which is why the greatest aspect of travel so often overlooked isn’t the art of it. Anyone can do that really, anyone can pick up a notebook and say I want to go there and have an abject trip there and back. It’s not an achievement to find yourself living on expired cans of beans in a van that you barely have insurance for. Especially not when you could have just planned and saved and done it properly.
Now don’t get us wrong here. This is your stereotypical gap year student rant, where the author cannot fathom how one could possibly not have the funds if one was simply sensible. Cancelling your expensive brunches and gym memberships is not what we’re talking about here. We’ve travelled around Europe on an absolute shoestring, and lived in London on the same. No what we’re talking about is being sensible with your money.
Planning to spend a weekend in the Alps? Absolutely beautiful, you’re going to love it. But do you really need an Arcteryx coat to keep yourself warm. You could just pick yourself up a second hand one, an old snowboard and enjoy it. There are so many unnecessary little upgrades people make on their food, clothes, travel and accommodation that all add up. Yes, you might want. Yes you might actually deserve them but that doesn’t matter in many ways. At the end of the day, you work with what you have and not what you wish you had. That way, you’re going to end up getting what you deserve and having a much better time of things than if you constantly live in a dream land where things fall into your lap simply because you will it. Spend too much time in your head like that and you’re going to find yourself becoming quite entitled about things.
What we’re saying is actually think about what can be achieved. Think ahead and think smart. You’ll soon notice that it can make all the difference, especially when it comes down to some of the bigger tasks in the world. Your all covering, all expenses paid trip of dreams might be realised, but at least you’ll be able to know that it’s all going to happen, that it’s so very much more than just a dream. And at the end of the day, that’s what will actually matter.