You don’t need money to travel

What you need is courage.

I can hear many of you scoffing. “Ya, right! You’re probably saying that because you HAVE money.” I wish I could say that was true. I mean, sure, I’m not perennially broke like I used to be when I had just started working, barely managing to keep at least the minimum withdrawable amount in my bank account by the end of the month. I was living by myself, and all my money went into rent and eating out. I am better off (financially at least) now than that girl. But I’m by no means rich enough to take exotic international vacations once a quarter or even once a year.

So then what do I mean when I say that one doesn’t need money, but the courage to travel? Here’s what I have figured out. Money can be saved. You can plan ahead, save like crazy, and have enough in your account to travel at least once in three months if you want to. But you need courage. You need the courage to decide that you want to step out of your comfort zone and imbibe new experiences. Courage to walk up to your boss and ask for a week’s leave. Courage to tell your family that traveling is not just a hobby for you but a way of life, so please excuse for not wanting to waste your precious leave on attending that aunt’s husband’s brother’s daughter’s first wedding. Courage to just pick a place and book those damn tickets. Courage to decide that even if no one else is coming with you, you will be fine to travel on your own. Courage to make certain lifestyle choices that may not exactly be comfortable or conventional, but oh-so-rewarding.

Maybe courage is not the right word. But for me, it did take courage. I had traveled largely only with family, and that too the yearly summer vacation trips to grandparents’. The first major trip that I went on was with my friends to Goa in 2012. A post-breakup-I-need-to-be-drunk-out-of-my-wits trip. I remember how excited and terrified I was – taking a bus all the way to Goa, on my own. The amount of pride I felt at reaching Goa safely and figuring out how to get from the bus stop to my homestay was immeasurable.

Early last year, I decided to take my first ever solo trip, to Hampi. Booked the tickets before even booking the accommodation. Built up courage over a month to go on my own, but chickened out at the last minute and called a friend along. A few months later, a random friend-ing on Facebook from many years ago led me to Spiti. I went on THE most epic trip of my life with three women I was meeting for the first time. Many many kilometres away from all that was familiar to me, to a land of unforgiving terrain and wonderful people.

Chandrataal Lake
Langza’s guardian angel

The Spiti trip only helped in stoking the fire in me. And this year, I finally decided to travel all by myself. No company, no back-up. Went from Chennai to Delhi by train, Delhi to Mcleodganj by bus. I heaved a sigh of relief only after I’d checked into my B&B and locked the room safely.

Hello from the Himalayas!
A glorious sunset caught from a nook in Temple Road, Mcleodganj
Illiterati Cafe, Mcleodganj
A quiet moment in one of the many cafes of Mcleodganj

But I realised something last year once my Spiti trip was planned. Unconsciously, I had started saving money. Not that I was a big spendthrift earlier, but I had become even more careful once I knew that I would be traveling in four months. Cut down my excesses, so to say. Every new piece of clothing I was attracted to, I would ask myself, “Do I want this, or do I need this? I could buy one train ticket with this money.” And back it would go on the rack. I would browse through e-commerce apps during sale time, add a bunch of things to my cart, and then remove it all. Uninstalled most of the shopping apps from my phone. Stopped buying exorbitantly-priced bottles of Sriracha sauce and fish sauce (and that sauce that starts with W which I can neither spell nor pronounce) from supermarkets, which I wouldn’t use more than once. I started going to the neighbourhood kirana store to buy my staples so that I don’t get distracted by too many choices. I cut down on eating out, preferring to make at least roti and sabji at home as much as possible. Every spending decision of mine started revolving around travel. Without even realising it, I was saving money.

Metal sculpture at Norbulingka Institute

And once I made a conscious decision that travelling is going to be a significant part of my life – that it’s not going to be just a “hey it’s a long weekend, let’s go somewhere” thought but more of an “I’m going to travel to Himachal Pradesh and stay there for a month” choice – all my decisions were aligned to it. Career switch, financial decisions, the kind of people I choose to interact with, the people I follow on social media – everything.

If you have managed to read this far, a big thank you. You have tremendous patience. Now use that patience to save money, a little every month, and travel. Start that Recurring Deposit. Eat one less meal out. Shop less, refurbish your clothes if you must. Baby steps. At every step, question yourself – Do I want this, or do I needthis?

And ask yourself – do you want to travel, or do you need to travel? Because those are two very different things.


This article was originally written for The Way, the official magazine of Wandertrails.


One thought on “You don’t need money to travel

  1. Hi
    Your words are really is like listening to myself.i have chickened many times…money time responsibility,but now i realise the real reason is lack of conviction .courage to just go with it.i was awed when i read your spiti travel.i know you dunt need a fellow traveller but ever u feel like including someone please let me know. I am from trivandrum now staying in vizag


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