February 22, 2012

Street Meat and Squatty Potties...Budget Choices

So, we have to move. Our landlord just had a baby and he and his wife want to move into our/their place. It sucks. We needed a 6 month lease because we plan to leave San Francisco in September or October, but 6 month leases are hard to find in SF. We finally found one. We move into it in 2 weeks, and it's...fine. We don't love the apartment and we really don't want to move. If there's anything good that's come of this, though, it's that having to move has reaffirmed our commitment to take The Trip. Moving out of an apartment we love and into an apartment that's just okay means we're taking steps to make it happen. At one point, Steph said to me, "We are DEFINITELY taking this trip now. Because I am not going to make the sacrifice to live in an apartment I don't like for no reason." She said it in a tone that I know means business - a tone I don't question - so this new apartment means we're committed. It's happening. Awesome! And the new place is quite a bit cheaper than our current place, so we will be saving some $$, which is good, since I've been (slightly) obsessing about our trip budget. Side note: the new place is NOT a bad apartment and I'm sure we'll like it. It's in a decent neighborhood and has a good amount of space. The building is even a historical landmark. We just really like our current place and the new place wouldn't be our first choice if we were looking for a longer commitment.

Back to my obsession with the budget - I've been reading tons of travel blogs and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum, to find out what people say about their India and SE Asia budgets. Some people do India and Southeast Asia on $15-$25 a day. Since we want to do some tours, some scuba diving and occasionally treat ourselves to a nice hotel, and because we're not 21 and don't romanticize the thought of living off canned cheese and street meat, we are budgeting quite a bit more - about $80/day/couple. This includes lodging, food, and any entertainment/tours/etc. We're trying to be conservative (and while we don't romanticize street meat, we actually do love it, so there will be no gourmet meals in our travels), but we don't want to be tied down by our budget. I mean, when one of us is sick in India we will probably want to be in an aircon room with a decent bathroom. I'm sure you noticed I said "when" one of us is sick in India and not "if" one of us is sick in India. We figure it's inevitable. On a side-note, Steph's list of possible blog names (before we came up with Loose of Limits) mostly revolved around toilets. Squatty Potty was a close second. I apologize for our fixation on the bathroom.
After enjoying a meal from this guy...
...We might want to upgrade from this....

...to this.

We're taking our budget seriously (which is why we are leaving in the Fall and not next week),but we're not being extreme. Some backpackers really try to spend as little as humanly possible. When I was in Myanmar 9 years ago, I met an Irish brother and sister and spent a few days traveling with them. The brother would haggle with the Burmese people like a madman, sometimes over a few cents. I asked why he took it so seriously and he told me he had budgeted $15/day and was hoping to travel for 9 months on that strict budget. He had figured out that if he spent two extra dollars a day, he would have to go home one month early and, because you haggle for everything in many countries, those few cents could easily add up to a few dollars each day. I understood wanting to maximize the length of your trip, but seeing him obsess over the cost of everything was eye-opening to me and I knew I didn't want to be a slave to my budget. A strict budget is a good thing, but Steph and I are not part of the small population of budget travelers who have an air of superiority for getting by on the extremely cheap. A few minutes perusing travel blogs and you'll see who I'm talking about - the ones who are aghast and sometimes disgusted when another backpacker spends $30 for a room in Thailand, or more than $2 for a meal in India. When I travel, I want to experience the local culture and eat the local food, which is usually some of the cheapest and best food available, but I also refuse to give up enjoying myself or getting to know people because I'm squabbling over a few rupees at a noodle stand.

The only good food in Cabo is street meat.
This guy's tamales were awesome! (and cheap)
November, 2011 - Los Cabos, Mexico
So, while we definitely have a budget and we know we have to stick to it, I'm really going to try not to get too caught up in the penny pinching, which will be tough for me. Obviously, we won't be staying in any 4-Star hotels or having $200 meals in Bangkok but, if we've had a rough couple of days, I want to enjoy a guilt-free sit-down meal or an air-conditioned room at a mid-range hotel...as long was we don't do both in the same day and as long as Steph can keep her shoe habit at bay. :)

One of our more luxurious trips - Work trip to the Four Seasons
Mandatory "White Party" = No street meat or squatty potties
March, 2009 - Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

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