Navigating the Frugalities of Adventures Abroad

There were but a few people in a group of a dozen or so adults hired to watch high school students take their AP tests in the valley of LA this past spring who held a normal day job. The rest of us did this and that to survive. Those who read this know I was one of them, but another was Celeste Tomasulo. The 28-year-old girl with a new destination constantly on her mind as she works a handful of jobs to make her travels happen, I found her interesting. We talked of blogging as I do mine and she does hers on her travels; filling The Traveler’s Route with her tales. Having explored 11 counties so far, she has many.

Making a promise to herself to leave the confines of LA at least once a year, I knew she was the perfect person to question about the idea of travel and she too agreed that you find yourself out there and explained beautifully below how and why that is. She also gives helpful tips on how to save up to go, and more.

Kendra: When did your wanderlust begin?

Celeste Tomasulo: My wanderlust began when I studied abroad in London during my Junior year of college. Up until that point, I didn’t have much desire to travel, and I felt content living in one area and having a home base. Living abroad dramatically changed my outlook on the world, what I wanted from the world, and what I wanted from myself. I didn’t realize how closed off I had been. Now, I’m conscious of how different yet similar other cultures are. I’m fascinated with how other people live their life based on which part of the world they reside in, and I have an innate desire to witness first hand all that this earth has to offer.

Kendra: Traveling can be costly, how have you managed to save enough to go here and there over the years?

Celeste: When saving up for traveling, money isn’t the issue, your priorities are. With that said, I am a big advocate for budget travel. Personally, I would rather save up and spend sparingly on a trip so that I could travel farther or longer, versus spending the same amount on luxury. I work odd jobs and am currently working for five different employers. I don’t go out to eat or buy new clothes. I’m a fan of clothing swap parties, leftovers, and staying in and watching Netflix (which I also use a friend’s account). I’ll forego concert tickets in order to go on a tour of Stonehenge, or pass up Starbucks in order to enjoy gelato in Italy. I live with a roommate and I stay home when friends and family want to go wine tasting in order to purchase a plane ticket. Also, any time I am paid in cash, I set it aside in a “travel-fund-box” in my room. The cash I put in here is only to be used while I am traveling. This way, I don’t dip into my bank account once I’ve left the states.
Kendra: Do your friends support your travels, or do they think you need to stay home more and calm it down?

Celeste: My friends absolutely support my travels. Not only are they actively engaged in my stories and are curious about my experiences, they are a solid foundation for me to lean on when I’m having doubts or fears about a next adventure. My friends can see how important traveling is to me, and they are there to remind me of why I travel when I’m having moments of uncertainty. My parents are more apprehensive about my traveling habit. While they support my decisions and want the best for me, they still worry about me jetting off to other countries, especially since I travel solo and tend to stay in hostels. I understand their concern, and sometimes that concern affects my excitement for a new trip, but I don’t let it derail me and ultimately, travel is something I do for myself, not for anyone else’s approval.

Kendra: Whether or not they support, you’re going to continue on. Can you describe what you feel like when you’re up in the air, heading to a new place?

Celeste: Obviously, there are so many emotions that arise in every step of the planning process, and they carry over through the entire trip and even upon returning home. When up in the air on my way to a new location, the two main emotions present are excitement and fear. These emotions are extremely similar, so I’m not surprised that they’re both present on every trip. I’m always excited to board the plane to a new location. The excitement comes from the trip finally becoming real. It’s no longer just bookings and e-mails or guidebooks and planning. I have actively begun my trip and it is actually happening. Up until this point, something could happen to impede my plans, but once up in the air, I’m officially on my way. With that said, the fear kicks in as well, because now it’s real and there’s no turning back. Now I’m on my way to this unknown adventure and anything can happen. Which then circles back to being excited.

Kendra: Some believe that those who travel lack the idea of home. Is that true for you, are you happier out and about than settled down in once place?

Celeste: This touches on the true difference between traveling and taking vacations. Going on vacations is taking a break from home, a recharging, an itinerary-filled venture. Traveling is a way of life. When traveling, there is no set destination, no stable home-base, nor a chance to establish roots. The longest I’ve traveled away from home was when studying abroad in London for three and a half months. Even though I was away from my set home, I still had a home-base to return to by means of a home-stay. In regards to backpacking and hostel-hopping, the longest I’ve roamed has been 15 days of constantly moving and repacking. I don’t get homesick or feel the need to stay in one place. It’s in my nature to want to up and move every few years. This does worry me though, because traveling can also be a mask for running away, and I feel that my lack of attachment or connection to a set destination makes it easier for me to detach and leave. There are times I need to stop repacking every few days so that I’m able to get my bearings, but I also get antsy if I stay in one place for too long. That notion of things I need to experience in the world pops back into my mind and my wanderlust gets restless. However, every time I make preparations for a trip, I do wonder if it’s because I’m running towards adventure, or running away from connection.

Kendra: Sticking with the idea of home, have you been anywhere yet that you felt like you could stay there forever if you had to?

Celeste: London is one place that I’m constantly drawn to and want to eventually live. I fell in love with the idea of walking everywhere and visiting the Royal Parks, while at the same time being involved in the city life and going to the theater and watching Shakespearean shows put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company. I’m more partial to overcast and chilly weather because I love sipping hot chocolate by a fire, so the English weather doesn’t deter me but adds to my attraction. Maybe not in the immediate future, but in the next twenty years I want to find a way to live and work in London.
Kendra: Where are you heading to next?

Celeste: Coincidentally, my next trip is to England in the fall for three weeks–my longest backpacking trip yet. I purchased tickets to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play opening in London, and planned my entire trip around that. While in England, I’m going to visit Stonehenge on the morning of the Autumn Equinox, then head into Belgium and volunteer to WOOF which is working on an organic farm. I also want to head into Luxembourg since that country is only an hour away from the farm at which I’ll be volunteering.

Kendra: Lastly, what’s the biggest high and the lowest low of traveling?

Celeste: The highest high of traveling is being able to experience what this world has to offer. Instead of living through a picture or words through someone else’s experience; you’re able to make up your own mind about how you feel about a place. There’s the saying that traveling helps you find yourself, and it’s true. By being removed from the familiar, you’re able to be whoever you want, and you start to discover who you are without someone else placing a label on you. You discover what you like and don’t like about the world, which experiences you’re drawn to and why, and you expose yourself to other people you might never have gotten to known.

The lowest low of traveling is that it’s not always pretty. It’s tiring, dirty, scary, and hard. Sometimes plans don’t come through and reservations get lost. Sometimes you get pick-pocketed on the metro and have to find your embassy so that you can get a passport reissued. You might find yourself on the outskirts of a city after dark and have to find your way back to your hostel through dark streets. Sometimes, you’re just so sick of repacking and sleeping on hard mattresses in crowded hostels with no hot water that you want to curl up and cry and dream of your cozy bed back at home.

With that said, traveling is ultimately a matter of priorities. Are you willing to sleep on a bus for 16 hours in order to swim in a waterfall in Laos and the witness the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen? Are you willing to only communicate with your friends and family via internet in order to stay up all night sharing stories with an old Italian woman you met in the pub? My favorite quote on traveling is from Anthony Bourdain, and I feel that this sums up the two extremes of living a life of travel, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you–it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you…Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

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