Budget is one of the biggest deciding factors of how much and how far you can travel; unless you work on the road, most riders set out on a journey with a certain budget in mind. But can it be extended if you go slow, and does slow travel actually save money? The answer is yes and yes: the slower you travel, the more you see, and the less you spend. Here is how:
See More for Less
If you have a set travel budget and only, say, two weeks for your chosen destination, chances are, you’ll want to see all the bucket list places in those two weeks. This means you’ll be on the road every day, spending money on gas and accommodation and likely eating out as you won’t have the time to browse local markets or grocery shops and cook for yourself; you may spend more on hotels if you’re in a rush, as there won’t be time to browse and research. If, on the other hand, you have four weeks for that same destination, you’ll see more while spending less on fuel as you’ll be covering shorter distances, you’re likely to save on accommodation, and you’ll experience much more for the same amount of money.
Basecamping While On the Road
If you have more time to travel, moving from basecamp to basecamp is a great way to both have more in-depth experiences and save money. The beauty of slow travel is that you can set up a basecamp in one country or region – the basecamp can be an Airbnb, a campsite, a guesthouse – and from there, explore the local trails or attractions at your own pace. You will be spending significantly less on accommodation – for example, Airbnb will often offer 20% or bigger discounts when you stay over two weeks or a month – but you’ll be able to see much more. As an example, I am currently spending $350 a month for accommodation in a small Andalucian villa in Spain; from here, I have access to countless off-road trails in the nearby mountains, I’m a day away from the Sierra Nevada and the Goraffe Desert with its insane dry riverbed tracks and eerie cave dwelling sites, and only an hour away from Gibraltar and the ferry to Morocco. If I was constantly on the road, I’d be spending around $30 a day for accommodation, amounting to $870 or more a month. Having a basecamp is a fantastic way to explore more, save more, and the best part is, you can leave your luggage at “home” and ride as much off-road as you like.
On the road, flexibility is everything. When you’re pressed for time, you’re more likely to spend money on more expensive flight tickets or faster bike shipping (think air freight vs sea freight). When time isn’t of the essence, you can afford to wait – and pay less. The same goes for smaller, everyday things like hotels or food: if you’re rushing, chances are, at the end of the day’s ride you’ll be so tired you’ll take whatever hotel you come across first instead of checking out several options and finding a more budget-friendly one; the same goes for restaurants and meals. And when it comes to major tourist attractions like, say, Machu Picchu in Peru, being flexible can also save money: for example, taking the scenic train to Machu Picchu from Cusco is around $80 one way. If you have the time, however, you can ride almost all the way there, then take a hike to Aguas Calientes and either walk up to Machu Picchu or spend $10 for a bus. Things like that tend to add up quickly, and the more flexible you are, the more you’ll save.
Living Like a Local
Slow travel allows you to truly immerse yourself in the local ways of life. For me, having neighbors while prepping to chase the Dakar in Arequipa, Peru, was an awesome experience: being essentially homeless, I’d forgotten what it feels like to be a part of a physical community, and in Arequipa, I rented a small Airbnb studio apartment in a residential area… with neighbors! We swapped recipes, shared coffee and gossip, and it was glorious – but, fun and a sense of belonging aside, living like a local can also save you heaps of money. You learn which local markets to visit for your groceries, where to shop and eat cheap, which mechanic in town truly knows his stuff – the list is endless. Living like a local is great for the experience and the budget alike.
As with most things, if you don’t have the money, you need the time, and if you don’t have the time, you’ll need the money. Whichever way you go, slow travel can boost the experience in ways you may not expect – including your spending.