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Tag: trip costs

Half the world in a nutshell

A few numbers

12 years (gah!) in the making
3 months in the doing

96 Days
13 countries
21 trains
8 long distance buses (too fucking many)
2 ferries
1 bamboo raft
Numerous metros, taxis, tuktuks, motorbikes, and other local transport
1 pair of hiking shoes
1 pair of sandals
1 pair of dance shoes
10 forms of currency
Temperatures from -39C to +39C
23 hostels and guesthouses
7 locals hosts
1 budget hotel
1 resort
8 Lindy socials
1 weekend dance camp

I don’t know how many kilometers or miles I traveled. I probably should have kept track of the distances as I went, but you can see on the map that it’s a bloody long way. I’m happy to leave it at that.

So what did it all cost?

£715 on new gear pre-trip

I didn’t keep track of what I was spending pre-trip. Some of the things I bought I needed for other stuff (like the hiking shoes for the trip to the highlands) and some things I got as gifts. So this is a rough estimate of the total cost of what I bought new within the past year if I’d had to pay for all of it myself (I probably only paid for about half).

It looks like a lot of money, but actually almost everything I bought is really good quality, was on sale when I got it, and will come in handy for trips within Scotland and just in general, so I’m happy I have it all now. The only thing that I’ll need to replace soon is my shoes I think (the bottoms are pretty worn out).

£230 on clothes, shoes, and shipping in Hoi An

I have kept the cost of the stuff I got made (and shipped home) in Hoi An separate from the main budget, mostly because I want to show what all the normal costs added up to on their own. I did some buying of stuff within the budget, but only little bits here and there that were more like standard travel costs. I’m perfectly happy to tell you what I spent though!

overview£4338.52 spent on the trip

This should be pretty accurate, with a relatively small margin for error. I was obsessive about recording absolutely every expense, down to the 5 Baht or 1RMB it sometimes required to use a public toilet (categorised as ‘health’ of course). What I think I probably missed out on were things like adding extra Skype credit or buying ebooks here and there. So let’s say I could be up to £100 out at most, but I’d be surprised if it was even half of that.

 

A word on the cost of full-time travel

When I compared the daily spending average of this trip to the month I obsessively kept track of for a baseline idea of what my life costs (September 2014), I found it was almost exactly the same. The costs I kept track of included all rent and usual bills aside from my US student loan payments, which I also kept out of this trip’s cost within trail wallet, but saving for 4 months payments was a big part of the challenge of saving for this trip – it added £1200 to the cost of things.

The point is, it costs pretty much the same to live while traveling that is costs to live in Edinburgh. And I know the traveling would cost even less if I hadn’t moved so fast.

It’s nice to see proof that it’s affordable, so if you’re the sort who has a location independent job already, you could definitely take it on the road. But I will not tell you it’s easy to work on the road, and unless you want a whole lot of extra stress, I wouldn’t recommend the digital nomad life if you don’t already have the job you’re going to do before you set off. It’s just as hard to find work wherever you are, and unreliable WiFi connections are more common than not.

I’m not saying any of that is impossible, but it’s also not as breezy as some travel bloggers make it out to be. It’s also not for me.

Breakdown

fullpiechartThe categories are as close an approximation I could get to what the money was actually spent on. For example, a lot of hostels included breakfast, but those costs are still filed under accommodation. Any gifts I bought for Couchsurfing hosts are also filed under accommodation.

Drinks includes all alcohol bought on its own as well as coffee or other random drinks during the day (coconuts!) All water is filed under health. If I bought a beer or glass of wine with dinner, it stayed in the food cost.

Miscellaneous includes gifts, postcards, and various clothes and supplies I needed along the way.

[table width =”100%” style =”” responsive =”true”]
[table_body]
[table_row]
[row_column]Food[/row_column]
[row_column]£876.82[/row_column]
[row_column]20%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Transport[/row_column]
[row_column]£1309.18[/row_column]
[row_column]30%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Entertainment[/row_column]
[row_column]£525.89[/row_column]
[row_column]12%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Accommodation[/row_column]
[row_column]£538.68[/row_column]
[row_column]13%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Miscellaneous[/row_column]
[row_column]£141.66[/row_column]
[row_column]3%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Drinks[/row_column]
[row_column]£222.84[/row_column]
[row_column]5%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Health[/row_column]
[row_column]£475.96[/row_column]
[row_column]11%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Visas[/row_column]
[row_column]£247.49[/row_column]
[row_column]6%[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[/table_body]
[/table]

Daily averages

Entire trip: £45.19 per day

[table width =”100%” style =”” responsive =”true”]
[table_body]
[table_row]
[row_column]Europe[/row_column]
[row_column]7 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£129.78*[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Russia[/row_column]
[row_column]23 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£36.46[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Mongolia[/row_column]
[row_column]5 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£66.60** [/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]China[/row_column]
[row_column]19 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£49.02[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Vietnam[/row_column]
[row_column]14 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£22.78[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Cambodia[/row_column]
[row_column]17 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£24.83[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[table_row]
[row_column]Thailand[/row_column]
[row_column]10 days[/row_column]
[row_column]£56.68***[/row_column]
[/table_row]
[/table_body]
[/table]

 

*Includes all my first aid kit stuff and various other bits, but the week in Europe WAS incredibly pricey, thanks to going via Scandinavia.

**High because I basically paid for a private guide as I had no one to split the cost with.

***Deceptively high because of The Big Bang. Thailand was cheaper than Cambodia in terms of food, hostels, and entertainment. And the cost of staying at a resort and dancing all weekend was actually pretty low compared to what it would be in Europe.

Resources

Not an exhaustive list, but the most important and heavily used

Websites

Seat 61
The train bible. This guy is a legend. His suggestion for a planning spreadsheet is also something that helped me immensely.

Legal Nomads
Jodi has a travel prep resource page that is second to none and covers everything you need to think of before you go. She also answered my questions about eating street food in Vietnam with a shellfish allergy, which was super helpful.

Too Many Adapters
I got a lot of my tech advice and ideas from TMA. It also has great reviews of all sorts of gadgets you may be thinking of buying for a trip.

Real Russia
Helped organise some of my rail tickets, provided visa support, and answered all of my related questions. They are fantastic and highly recommended.

Travel bloggers of the world
Numerous travel blogs found through Google searches on various different locations. I couldn’t possibly list them all, but I can tell you that if your Google-fu is strong, you can find info on any travel destination on this earth because of the lovely people who write about their adventures (and misadventures).

Apps

xe.com
Currency converter. Could not live without.

Google Maps
Using offline areas (which stopped working or were unavailable in some places).

Galileo
Offline vector maps.

Trail Wallet
Budget tool extraordinaire!

Whatsapp and FB Messenger
For WiFi messaging and sanity. Whatsapp also works in China without a VPN!

Wechat
If you’re going to be in China you pretty much need to get Wechat. Everyone uses it, and it’s also your gateway into a lot of the free WiFi available.

Skype
With Skype-Out credit for uber-cheaply calling friends, family, and on at least one occasion, my bank in the UK.

Google Translate
I used this mostly in Russia, where the instant offline photo translate was super useful for reading signs and menus.

Couchsurfing
For some absolutely lovely local experiences and accommodation.

Booking.com
How I booked most of my hostels. Although if I’d known about Agoda sooner, I’d have maybe gone with that because it lets you pay in advance by card.

Trello
For planning and pre-trip to-do and packing lists. Also how I organise most of my normal life.

My tech and data safeguard arsenal

Crashplan
Every time I was connected to WiFi, crashplan automatically updated my cloud backup. This meant I worried a lot less about my computer being stolen or destroyed because I knew all my actual stuff was safe.

Find My iPhone
Set up in iCloud before I left for both my phone and my computer. More peace of mind knowing I could immediately wipe either if they were lost or stolen (and include a snarky message to the thief should I so choose).

Flickr Uploadr
I took a lot of pictures and I did not want to lose them! Again, every time I was connected to WiFi and the Uploadr detected new images on my computer, it automatically loaded them to my Flickr pro account privately, so I was never in danger of losing any photos I’d put on my computer (and I was pretty good about doing this daily).

ExpressVPN
On both my computer and my phone, for safeguarding data when using banking, email, etc. Also got me under the wall in China whenever I had a strong enough connection.

Google Drive
Used to store copies of all important travel docs and my itinerary plan sheet. These were also shared with my parents and friends in the UK for emergencies.

Dropbox
Further backup for documents, as well as sharing photos with fellow travelers along the way.

Avast
Free anti-virus software to keep the computer squeaky clean.

And finally

This site is proudly powered by WordPress and hosted on Siteground, with a beautiful theme designed by Anders Norén.

This will be the last post for a while as I regroup and figure out what the future of this blog is (if it has one) or if I’ll start a new project. I have kept this up for nearly two years and it has been an adventure in itself. This kind of consistent writing is an exercise in serious self-discipline. It is incredibly hard work (but rewarding!) and it’s been really good for me. I’m at least as proud of myself for sticking with it as I am for completing such a bonkers trip.

So, know that I will be doing SOMETHING eventually, I just don’t know what yet, and I think I’ve earned a bit of a break in the meantime.

 

A (freezing cold) river ain’t too much to love

So hey! I’ve not packed it in, I’m still here. September started with a Cold That Would Not Die and some pretty bad family news – a combination that left me completely physically and emotionally cleaned out. I shut down for a few days and then threw every shred of what I had left into planning and prepping for a group trip to the Cairngorms thinking if I could just get to that, I’d maybe feel human again.

And you know, crazily enough, it worked. For a month that started off as horrendously as it did, it’s done a pretty big flip. Starting with, at long last, the Foo Fighters gig of Grohl Scream-Along Therapy on the same day I put my notice in at work, I got a lot out of me that had probably been building up for a long, long time. Then there was a double shot of absolutely amazing weekends.

I do feel like I may be a broken record here but I was just picked up and fixed in every way by the incredible people I know. From just listening to me dump my brain, to sitting in pubs or living rooms with beer or tea or one very, very well-timed hot toddy, to jumping around at rock shows, to dumping each other in freezing cold rivers, to dancing our faces off til the wee small hours, and everything in between. It has been the best month. And that is not something I would have expected to say two weeks ago.

Sometime in mid-August, when everyone was itching to get another trip planned following our jaunt to Glen Coe, I threw a weekend (second in September) and a place (Aviemore) out on Facebook to see who’d bite. Then Dimitris suggested we should maybe go whitewater rafting and that quickly became The Plan.

My main goal was to get us sole use of a hostel for at least one of the two nights so we could have a little party after whatever outdoor madness we got up to for the day. I did not have high hopes as we were only a few weeks out and there are not billions of hostels in the area we were going. However, by some stupid luck or grace of the universe, I managed to snag the Strathspey Mountain Hostel in Newtonmore for us all on the Saturday night. We were split into another place down the road on the Friday but it didn’t much matter because all we did was roll into town, have a DELICIOUS pub dinner, and go to sleep in prep for early starts and cold water the next day. But I felt like the grand fucking wizard of all organisational kingdoms for getting the place for just us. (That was sorted before the bad beginning of the month, so maybe the stars were lining up to make up for things. Who knows. I’m just happy it worked out that way.)

Saturday morning, ten of us got carted up north to somewhere on the river Spey where we all changed glamourously into wetsuits at the side of the road and goofed off with the air pump and the rafts while the guides dropped the van off at the end of the route. The river wasn’t too crazy because strangely enough, it hadn’t rained in a while, but we made up for it with extra spinning, drenching each other via paddle splash fights, and straight up tipping each other into the water. Then they had us trampolining off the upturned rafts into a deep bit of river. We were often accompanied by the smell of lovely, autumn-y smoke wafting along from the wee fishing huts along the banks, and we even saw salmon jumping out of the river. No joke. It was amazing. At the end of the run, we carried everything up the hill, changed into dry clothes, threw things around, and ate our picnic lunch on what used to be a railway platform.

That all would have been good enough to make a weekend, but that was only the start of it. We snoozed and chatted on the way back down to Newtonmore in the van and plotted our evening. There was a tea and cake run when we got back, and a few of us played Cluedo while the rest went shopping for food and booze. Gav took charge of making us an epic pot of mac and cheese and the giant playing cards came out again until the dancing started. Dee’s birthday was coming up so we surprised her with cake and a jam circle, and then we just kept dancing til about 2.30 in the morning. Thanks to my Spotify account, a good WiFi connection, and Gav’s speakers brought up for the occasion, we were the bangin’-est party in Newtonmore. I had been slightly worried about possibly getting in trouble with the owners, but it turned out that Graeme actually knew them (SCOTLAND IS DELIGHTFULLY SMALL), and in the morning, they insisted we come back and do it again, and next time invite them to watch the dancing. How much better can it get?

Well, I’ll tell you: plenty. Because after we cleaned up the party and moved all the furniture back and said goodbye to the fantastic Helen and Laurie, we went for a hangover-curing walk around Loch an Eilein in the sunshine and watched the boys climb a tree and then swim 100 freezing metres out to claim the castle for their own. Then we had some ice cream and drove to Feshiebridge where the majority of us caught the freezing wild swimming bug and did some ice cold sliding down chutes in the river. And to cap it off, before we started the long drive back down to Edinburgh we got the NICEST fish and chips overlooking Loch Insh and skipped some stones in the water while trying to spot Ospreys.

There was not one single part of the weekend that was less than freaking great. It didn’t even matter that there was traffic on the drive back. We sang along with Graceland in the car and that alone can heal a broken anything. I felt so good about life at this point I could barely believe my luck.

And one of the million wonderful things about this trip is that after all the texts and calls and emails and prodding to get everyone accommodated and transported and paid for and advance-medical-and-sizing-information-for-the-rafting-ed, every part of the actual weekend fell into place so nicely because everyone was so up for it and helpful and generally awesome. We had no reception from about an hour away from Newtonmore but we all ended up in the same pub at roughly the same time for dinner, and they kept the kitchen open for us despite our lateness. Everyone pitched in with the shopping and the cooking breakfast and dinner and making lunch. Everyone shared stuff and cleaned up and helped decide what to do. We all danced and sang and took care of each other and no one was ever in a foul mood because how on earth could they be when surrounded by the loveliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know?

I know I’m spouting a lot of sunshine and rainbows here, but it’s all true and it’s all very well appreciated.

And in terms of cost, because I’m all about spelling that out around here, it was so INCREDIBLY cheap. We will do this again and again and again as long as people are willing.

The total per person was about £156, give or take a few quid.

We all had slightly different transportation and some people didn’t go rafting, but here’s a rough breakdown per person for the weekend:

  • £31 – 2 nights accommodation including one where we had sole use of the hostel.
  • £55 – 1 day whitewater rafting on the Spey including all equipment and transport to and from Newtonmore
  • £18 – share of rental car and petrol for the weekend
  • £17 – share per person for 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner, lots of cake and tea, and a TON of booze split across us all (this is a ridiculous bargain for a weekend away)
  • £35 – (roughly) 2 pub dinners plus a few pints on the first night

I feel like these costs are so insignificant in comparison to how brilliant a time we had that it may as well have been free. I can’t wait to do this again.

And I know I keep saying this, but as if that weren’t enough, this past weekend was Edinburgh Lindy Exchange, which was equally awesome in all kinds of other ways. I’ll save it for the next post though because I’ve gone on enough here as it is.

But I do want to say that the past two weeks have been some of the best I’ve had, and it’s not only my Lindy friends I have to thank for it. Kristina and Yann are basically my family and scraped me up off the metaphorical ground with the aforementioned hot toddy AND A PUPPY (my new best friend Magni). I had a brilliant-as-always lunch with my ex-Galleries Pie and Pint crew. And even a few of the people I work with (I do like some of them) have provided welcome relief from the daily drudgery, including a noise-making minion toy of sheer joy.

So, thanks Universe, for all this awesome right when I needed it. And thanks friends, for being ten million times better and more than I could ever ask for.

US May 2015

I didn’t do a lot of writing about this trip while I was on it, because I was SO TIRED the whole time. You’d think I’d learn by now that I shouldn’t try to cram so much into a short trip because of the burnout it causes, but it’s really hard to do that when I go to the US because there are so many people I never get to see and I just want to see as many of them as I possibly can when I get the small chances I do.

I had grand plans to do a lot of travel planning for the big trip, a lot of writing (blog related and not), and a lot of reading, particularly on my two 6 hour train trips, but I spent most of those hours listening to music, dozing, and staring into space thinking about stuff because I couldn’t handle much else at the time. And that’s ok. But it does mean I have a lot of writing down of those thoughts to be getting on with.

Here’s all the awesome stuff I did that tired me out so much:

A day of wandering around Georgetown with Liam and Bobby. A ridiculous brownie at Baked and Wired. Happy Hour Mexican food and a mojito. A brilliant, brilliant Ben Folds and yMusic gig at the Lincoln Theatre.

Driving out of the middle of DC in a rental car, fairly terrified and mostly lost the entire time. Steak for lunch at Kelsey’s house, watching the chickens and talking about life. Dinner with most of her family (who are pretty much my second family) in downtown Frederick. Sharing the couch with Miss Betty.

Buying lots of random stuff in Target while I waited for the rest of the wedding party to arrive in York. Sampling the hotel pool experience. A rehearsal dinner while flanked by some kind of optometrists’ party in one ballroom and a high school prom in another (high entertainment value). The nicest hotel beds. An amazing wedding on a gorgeous day.

Driving back into DC again, terrified and lost again, this time with added Hellish Nation’s Capital Traffic and nearly hitting a pedestrian. Lunch at ShopHouse to recover (very good). A 6 hour train ride on which I did very little aside from think too much.

A dark beer called Duck Rabbit (how could I resist THAT NAME) with Josh. Breakfast with Rachel and their two awesome kids. A trip to the Raleigh farmers’ market. Really good salsa (god I miss really good salsa). Fast food, North Carolina style. Sitting in on a high school creative writing magazine meeting, which was so great and so bizarre and so the same as I remember it. Real North Carolina barbecue including hush puppies, which are one of my favourite things. Wyatt Cenac at a local comedy club (very funny, recommended). Lunch and local beers in Fuquay-Varina. And a super chilled out night of dinner, chat and whisky.

Another 6 hour train ride, not bad considering it was right after a pretty awful day for Amtrak. Again, didn’t do much but doze and think. A mojito sorbet while killing time waiting for happy hour with all the DC Washington College Dramalumni at the District ChopHouse. More beer than I should have drank, which is easy when it’s only $3.50 a pint. A Trader Joe’s dinner back at Liam and Bobby’s while watching a whole lot of Daily Show.

Lunch with my parents at Farmers Fishers Bakers and a walk along the river on a lovely day before my long trip home.

It was a lot, but it was worth the exhaustion. I’m lucky I got to see so many people in such a short space of time.

I was also incredibly homesick on this trip considering how short it was. I feel more like a foreigner than ever when I’m in the US, and I was probably realising that’s going to be standard now. I’m ok with that – I love the UK – I guess I just didn’t expect it to hit me so hard. I was VERY happy to see Edinburgh when I got back (and my fantastic friends who I spent the rest of the day with at the Summerhall FestiveALE – a lovely way to force myself to stay awake and fight the jet lag).

Cost

I was under budget again (£1500), which hooray! But as usual with trips to the US, I didn’t have to pay for much accommodation, and lots of people bought me food and drinks and things, so most of the cost was transportation.

Trip total: £1334.47

That’s an average of £121.32 per day.

£899.75 on transport. SO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS of transport. This was Planes, trains and automobiles for real.

£144.77 on food. And I finally got my airport sushi in Dulles on the way home.

£36.28 on entertainment. Ben Folds!

£72.56 on accommodation. Two nights in a shared hotel room in York PA. Pool view. John Oliver on HBO. Beds to die for.

£55.05 on gifts. Stuff for people I was staying with. Chocolate and whisky mostly.

£65.49 on drinks. At least half of this was for other people. I drank relatively little on this trip.

£60.57 on miscellaneous. A bunch of random stuff at Target and a bunch of cold and heartburn related medicine. FUN.

Posts

In which I realise there IS such a thing as too much research

Another reason to be excited about DC

Delayed (again)

Weddings!

In the headphones

Nico

Ray Charles

Lucy Schwartz

On the Kindle

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman

Keeper: A Book about memory, identity, isolation, Wordsworth and cake… by Andrea Gillies

In-flight films

Shaun the Sheep Movie (SO MUCH FUN)

Wild (more on which later)

Paris/London 2015

NOTHING BESIDE REMAINS. (Ok except some wine, but that was short-lived.) #canard

So my quick trip to Paris and London was pretty full-on. I crammed a lot into less than a week, but it was good fun. I don’t have any pictures of the London portion, but this whole trip grew out of the need to go down there so I could get a bridesmaid’s dress from David’s Bridal in Stratford. And that went just about as you’d expect spending two hours in a large American chain bridal store on a Saturday would go. Eeesh. I did pick out a nice dress though, and I didn’t even have to carry it home because it needed ordering, so that was pretty successful.

I then headed straight for the chaotic centre of London to check out the Revival Retro boutique, which was the complete opposite experience. Absolutely lovely and everything on the sale rack was in my size (NEVER HAPPENS). I straight CLEANED UP in terms of vintage style early birthday presents to myself, including this dress, which I love love love.

New clothes!

If only I were so lucky every time I had to get new clothes.

Anyway, after that, I grabbed some gelato at Gelupo to bring back to my fantastic hosts’ place for dessert. I stayed with David who I went to college with, his husband Jason and their housemate Krysta. They made me dinner and cocktails and had great chat and wine (Jason is a wine seller, check out his shop if you’re in London!) and were pretty much impeccable in every way.

Sunday, I met my friend Chloe and we had an epic Sunday roast in a pub then a walk along the river in the sun before wiling a away the afternoon before my flight out of London City in The Understudy, which is a great new bar at the National Theatre looking out on the river. Excellent beer AND coffee.

Photos

My full Flickr set for Paris.

Cost

I couldn’t remember if I’d factored in the cost of the bridesmaid’s dress when I set the budget for this trip, but I’m going to guess that I did because the dress was £110 and all my other spending was about £120 short of my full budget, which was £600. I did not count the money I spent on clothes in London in budget spend because it was just kind of normal shopping I needed to do (ALL of my clothes are falling apart at the same time, ergh.)

Trip total: £475.49

At 6 days, 5 nights, that’s an average of £79.25 per day. Higher than my average for Finland, which was slightly surprising, but I did pay for accommodation for part of this trip, and I didn’t do that in Finland.

I'm loving the updates to Trail Wallet by the way!

I’m loving the updates to Trail Wallet by the way!

Breakdown

 £187.90 on food and drink. I TOLD YOU this trip was all about eating. This was my biggest expense, and I’m perfectly happy with that.

£113.95 on transport. This is mostly local public transport, as I only spent £35 on the flights since I got them with BA miles/Avios.

£9.76 on entertainment. A ticket to the Louvre and a donation at Notre Dame. I did so much walking and wandering on this trip that most of my entertainment was free. The Louvre is kind of expensive, but I’d say it’s justified.

£125.00 on accommodation. My first Airbnb, which was fantastic! I’ll definitely be using it much more now.

£3.70 on stuff for me. This was some travel bits and pieces at Muji in London.

£35.18 on gifts. For my hosts and for a few treats to bring in to work.

Posts

Paris: Less money or less hurry?

In which I realise there IS such a thing as too much research

Paris plans

Paris, part one (and being a wimp)

Paris, part two (I am so very full)

In the headphones

Nina Simone

On the Kindle

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

New York, Philly and Delaware, October 2014

Happiest dog in the land.

A video posted by Kate (@kateamann84) on

For a super short trip, I managed a lot this time in the motherland. In New York, I got to hang out with my cousins and their friends at the bar, had dinner with the Grandmas which is always the greatest, saw the MoMA for the first time, managed an impromptu meetup with Val, who I haven’t seen in forever and happened to be in NYC on the same day I was, and ate most of the New-York-y things I always miss. Chocolate egg cream for the win!

In Philly, I had an AMAZING brunch at Mixto (I had the Costa Rican, which was amazing, but every other option on the table made it hard to choose. The pork on the Cuban alone was enough to make me weep with joy), including many guava mimosas and friends I wish I’d had even more time with. And I also got to go back to Silk City with Sara just before flying out, where we sat outside in the gorgeous weather and talked about life and schemed our next adventure. (Originally that was going to be Greenland until we discovered how freakin’ expensive the flights ALONE are to get there. So now it may be Morocco or a cruise to St Petersburg or something equally awesome. Watch this space.)

And in Delaware, I saw my parents’ new (enormous) house, hung out with the dog, drank a lot of wine, and took another trip to Dogfish Head, which is still my favourite. If I ever have to move back to the US, I’ll just go work there, thanks. But I’m quite happy my parents live right down the road from it now. I also got to go down to Salisbury to see my friends and their farm and their kid. And I got a Delaware driver’s license. Crazy!

All great things. But the kind of whirlwind trip that also makes you happy to be sitting still at home again.

On the kindle
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Wool by Hugh Howey

Headed to the airport in Philly.

Headed to the airport in Philly.

Photos

I didn’t do a flickr set for this trip because I mostly just instagrammed everything. US trips to see family aren’t usually photography-heavy anyway. Not because there’s nothing to take pictures of, but more because I’ve got other stuff to concentrate on.

Cost

As with photography, trips to see the family are not really representative of normal travel spending. I don’t have to pay for places to stay, relatives are super generous and pay for most of my food and drink (of which there is TONS), and then I end up buying a lot of clothes and stuff I can’t easily or cheaply get in the UK. And this time I didn’t even pay for the airfare. This trip only happened because originally my parents were meant to meet me in Ireland around the same time. They decided they didn’t want to go but still wanted to see me so my Dad bought me a ticket. Sweet deal!

Still, I actually set a budget this time and pretty much stuck to it. Which was surprising as I arbitrarily chose £40/day without thinking much about it at all because I’d forgotten to set up the trip before I left and was rushing to get all the info in.

Trip total: £407.84

That’s an average of £40.78 per day. As I said, there’s a lot it doesn’t include. Most notably airfare, which was £639.56. I milked it for all the Avios (frequent flier miles) I could though. I paid with an Avios American Express which got me 1598, plus the flights themselves which were 8104, PLUS the entertainment system on the flight home wasn’t working, so they credited my account an extra 5000 miles. That’s 14702 Avios, which is more than enough for a return flight somewhere nearby in Europe, or a return Eurostar ticket.

Breakdown

£122.88 on food. Including a VERY tasty brunch in Philly, and CHIPOTLE! (in New York). Plus bagels. Lots of bagels. And a fair few trips to Dunkin Donuts.

£99.61 on transport. Amtrak and various local public transport.

£49.92 on drinks. About half of which was a bottle of bourbon in Duty Free. I shudder to think what this figure would be if I actually personally paid for all I drank on this trip. Let’s just not think about it.

£10.73 on gifts for other people. Candy, mostly.

£102.65 on gifts for myself. Not too bad considering this included a new waterproof jacket and three pairs of smartwool socks (god I love good socks).

£22.06 miscellaneous. A load of random crap at Target.

Posts

Travel-friendly design from the MoMA

Whatup, America?

Driving is a novelty

Flying home

Travel prep: immunisations

I know, I know. SUPER FUN. Also: PRICEY. But then, it’s pretty hard to put a price on your health once you start thinking about it.

Sunrise and coffee at Big Cave, Zimbabwe

Not visible: the mosquitoes (and their diseases) I was not worrying about because I was prepared.

I recently scheduled my Hepatitis A booster so that the barrage of jabs I had before heading to Africa could be that much closer to fully effective. Once boosted, I will be covered for Hep A for 10 years. And 5 for Hep B, but I need to wait until January for that. I know this is utterly thrilling discourse but I like to see it as an excuse to take MORE TRIPS. Get my money’s worth. But let me back up a little.

When I booked my first trip that involved places where protecting your immune system was a prerequisite to being let in to the country, I knew it was gonna cost me, but I did NOT research much ahead. And that shit added up quick. Even with the straightforward, non-marketing-led advice of the doctors and nurses at the NHS travel clinic (‘You absolutely need THIS, don’t bother with this one, this other one is probably smart to have in your circumstances…’) I felt like it wasn’t something I should skimp on.

Some things were free on the NHS (I love you, NHS):

  • Tetanus, Polio, Diphtheria booster
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A (including a booster 6 months later)

Some things were very not-free:

  • Hepatitis B series – series of 3 (not including booster in January 2015) – £46.79
  • Yellow Fever – £52.50
  • Rabies – Series of 3 intradermal at £21 each – £63
  • Malaria prophylactics – Malarone for entire trip plus 7 days after – £70.56

The good news is, a lot of these cover me for a long time. Yellow Fever and Hep A give you ten years. Hep B apparently gives you five.

Rabies protection isn’t necessary for another 10 years for travelers unless you’re going to a high-risk area. The rabies vaccine wasn’t mandatory, but since I was going to be camping, occasionally remotely, and around wild animals (yay!), I decided it was worth the extra protection. It doesn’t prevent the disease completely, it just gives you extra time to get to treatment if you get a bite. And the fatality rate of rabies is fucking 100% so, time is good.

Typhoid is only good for one year, but luckily it’s free. And the Tetanus, Polio, Diphtheria booster should technically be the last one I need, but if they recommended it at some point, it’s not like I’d say no.

In any case, that’s all £232.85. That does not include the cost of the buses (so many buses) to get back and forth to the million appointments at which all these were administered. It also doesn’t include things like hardcore mosquito repellant and a personal first-aid kit. That stuff maybe altogether cost around £40. And while I was lucky enough to not have to use much, I’m glad I had it.

One first-aid kit thing I would absolutely recommend saying yes to at the travel clinic is a pack of Ciprofloxacin. It cost me £10.50, and I did not have any gastrointestinal issues on my whole trip. I can honestly say that one or two times, that was thanks to this stuff. You basically take one dose the minute you feel any inkling that your insides might betray you, and it sorts you right out. And it REALLY DOES. So. Worth it.

Anyway, for Africa alone, this makes medical costs alone equal the cost of a European city break. And I imagine all of this is even more expensive in the US where you have to contend with medical insurance and jerkface pharmaceutical companies. But again, you have to weigh the cost against the potential of something nasty ruining your holiday. Or your life. Do the research ahead of time and budget it in and you won’t be quite so shocked as I was.

I did moan a bit about the cost to begin with, but honestly, the more annoying part was the logistics of all the appointments and timings of when doses needed to happen. Forget the money – if you’re going somewhere exotic, start scheduling your jabs as far ahead of time as possible so as not to suffer running around like mad in the entire two-month run-up to your departure.

The good news is, along with other pre-trip anxieties, the mad rushing about and the receipts with big numbers on them fade quite nicely into the hazy bits of the past that don’t matter once you’re on that trip. Because you took care of that stuff so you don’t NEED to think about it.

Next time around, obviously the longer the trip means the more I’ll have to figure out ahead of time. But at least I know to start now.

Trail Wallet app review

I have never been a hard-line budget person. I always know what’s in my bank account (and what’s not) and I have a sense of how much things should cost and what is reasonable, so I just try to stick to what seems like a sensible amount to be spending. But ‘sensible’ is nebulous, and given my goals of a travel-based future in combination with my current credit card debt, I figured I should probably make more of an effort to track my spending, particularly while traveling. Being a little more hardcore about it will not only give me a very clear idea of where my money goes, but also of what I end up spending on that I might have avoided had I been better prepared.

There are a handful of travel budget apps out there. I chose to try Trail Wallet after I saw recommendations on a fair few of my usual travel blog haunts. I had also recently started reading the blog of the team from whence it came (Erin and Simon’s Never Ending Voyage) which I think is great. And I love that they built an app for fellow travelers as a source of income for their own life of travel. RESPECT.

Trail Wallet overview screen.

Trail Wallet overview screen.

Trail Wallet’s got a clean interface, and it’s intuitive to the point where I found my way around in about 30 seconds. This was particularly good as I’d forgotten to download it ahead of my trip and ended up hastily sorting it out around midnight after getting to Helsinki. I was tired. It was still easy.

The overview screen is very clear and it’s useful to be able to switch between currencies with a simple tap. I think the ability to see my totals in multiple currencies so often also helps me get a sense of the exchange rates much faster, which is the thing that teaches my brain what are good and bad prices locally without having to calculate back to pounds in my head all the time.

It’s also very fast and simple to add new entries, and you can go in later and add more detail to the notes if you want to. The categories are customisable, including the colours used to code them (attention to detail. NICE TOUCH). You can then look at your spending breakdown by category (nifty pie chart included) or by day. The by day breakdown is where you can get back into individual entries. The only thing I really wish you could also do is get into the same kind of list via the category breakdown. They do say there will be a big update soon so I’m hoping this will be included.

Trail Wallet category breakdown.

Trail Wallet category breakdown.

The other thing I wanted to mention was the budget comments on the overview screen. I didn’t actually set a trip budget for Finland because I just… didn’t. The app displays congratulatory or cautionary comments depending on how far over or under your budget you are. I was spending quite a lot of money but I had no limit set, so when I kept getting things like ‘Hope it was worth it…’ and ‘Over budget. No cookie for you.’ I was laughing, but I was also like, JUDGEY APP IS JUDGING ME. I like the comments, because I like when tech has it’s own personality, but I did find myself being all ‘Shut up, app, I’m not over budget because there is no budget, GEEEEEEZ’. However, maybe pointing out that I was spending a lot was no bad thing. You gotta stay in check in a variety of ways. I guess I just want to know what the default daily budget line is that makes it start telling me to watch my wallet.

This brings me to the way I feel about travel budgeting in general. While I don’t usually properly track things, I am hyperaware of how much money I’m spending all the time. In face, I often over-estimate what I’m spending on a daily basis and then exist in a near constant state of freakout about it. This really can’t be healthy and I wish I could cool it a little. I mean, of course it’s good to control your outgoings and of COURSE it’s good to be aware of your own financials, but life is about living. Sometimes I wish I could forget the money for two seconds and just realise that what I’m spending it on is likely worthwhile, as I decided to spend it on that in the first place and I have good judgement when it comes to my own enjoyment.

Yes, you gotta pay for everything, but I also believe that money is easier to make than memories (think I heard that first on Yes and Yes) and if you don’t go ride a rebellious elephant early in the morning after a big night out in Zambia just because of what it costs, you are probably gonna regret that. I know I would have. $80 is a day or two’s worth of smacking computer keys for me, end even if I had to do a bit more of that to make up for it, riding an elephant is worth so much more to me than the cash I paid for it.

I wish I would have had this app for Africa, because frightening as the final figure probably would be, I really would like to see how much I spent in total on that trip. You can’t put a price on happiness, but sometimes you can see how much getting there costs.

In any case, I am a fan of the Trail Wallet app and I’m looking forward to see what surprises the next big update holds. I think an app built by people who are living the lifestyle of the audience it’s aimed at can only be a good thing. And they seem to take constructive feedback from that audience, so I have a lot of confidence that the work going into improving it is well-aimed.

I have also just now decided that I’m going to use it to track my usual spending for September, and I AM going to set a budget based on what I should be sticking to to help reach my financial goals. I’ve got no travel planned in September so it should hopefully be a good control experiment. I’ll check in with the results at the end of the month.

Finland 2014

Suomenlinna island

Suomenlinna island

Here’s the final rundown of my Finnish adventure. This trip grew out of my trip to Africa. That’s where I met Johanna and Carolina and they were awesome enough to invite me to stay after Carolina told me about how great the Flow Festival was. They truly spoiled me! Finland was absolutely amazing and I hope I can go back, but that’s not surprising given my love of the Nordic countries and culture.

Photos

My full Flickr set for Finland.

Cost

I used the Trail Wallet app for the first time on this trip, which I will review in more detail in another post, but it definitely made it easy to keep track of what I was spending.

Trip total: £651.13

At 9 days, 8 nights, that’s an average of £72.35 per day, which is pretty high, but not outrageous considering the amount of stuff I did and the high cost of everything in the country where I was. I also offset this by renting out my flat for the week for £150 and putting £125 of some freelance income towards the trip.

Breakdown

£207.68 on food and drink. I didn’t actually do as much drinking on this trip as I usually do on holidays, but that’s because alcohol in Scandinavia is notoriously expensive. I was no worse off for it though. I had one night of beer variety which was part of the most expensive day, and the rest of the time I just had one here and there. The food was absolutely amazing all the time. Johanna and Carolina also did a lot of making stuff for me, which was so nice and VERY much appreciated.

£178.60 on transport. Including flights and local transport in Helsinki.

£163.64 on entertainment. Mostly of which was my two-day Flow ticket (£122).

£41.65 on gifts for other people. This was largely things for Carolina’s birthday and some hostess gifts. (I had no accommodation costs on this trip because she very kindly put up with me in her flat for a whole week.) I also got little stuff for my parents and candy to bring to work.

£35.52 on gifts for myself. One wooly reindeer hat and one cushion cover from Marimekko!

£24.04 miscellaneous. In this case it was sunscreen and the trail wallet app.

Posts

Not being early is not the same as being late

A hat for the next ten years

Work in the wilderness

The (unexpected) neverending day

Being a touristy-tourist in Helsinki

Coveting design, eating fish, and havin’ a sauna