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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Because not everyone can afford to party on a yacht in the Caribbean

Social media has this incredible ability to ‘woo’ its viewers into believing and desiring all that it shows – especially when it comes to the lives of others. You may be drawn in by the countless posts of celebrities and influencers travelling in style, staying at luxury hotels or resorts and partying at high-end clubs all over the world. You may even begin to believe that this kind of lifestyle is what travelling is supposed to look like. However, travelling in this luxurious way will not provide you the rich and intriguing cultural experiences that visiting various countries should.

Exploring new places is most fulfilling and authentic when you can experience life as the local people do. To engage in completely different ways of living can open your eyes to cultures and practices that you may have never even considered. The average individual does not live in penthouse apartments or dine in 5-star restaurants like Instagram influencers do, but that doesn’t mean their lifestyle is not just as interesting (albeit different). Why travel around the world simply to live like you do at home? You can go to fancy bars and hotels whenever you want to, so why waste your precious vacation time on those? Budget travel can give you a real insider experience and a feel for the country or city you’re in – a perfect way to save money and see the real world.

For one, you’ll meet the most amazing people on your trips. Maybe they won’t be millionaires or celebrities, but their wisdom and life stories will be unmatched. They could be single mothers, opening their own business in their backyard and supporting three children, offering you the best advice to gain true happiness in you your life. They may be a surfer whose business collapsed during the pandemic, who packed up and moved to an island and now serves homemade burgers when he’s not out catching waves. Meeting local people means hearing real-life wisdom and inspiration that no yacht-party could ever give you. By staying in local hostels or homestays and dining at small family-owned restaurants, you’ll actually be supporting the people of the country you’re visiting.

Another bonus you get by supporting local is all the new and exquisite cuisine you’ll get to taste from various off-the-beaten-track places. For a complete bargain, you’ll taste food that could put Gordan Ramsay to the test (without making a sizable dent in your budget.) For example, I recently travelled Bali on a tight budget (being a student and all) and I found the most amazing local food. I discovered small warungs (another word for restaurant) that served delicious dishes such as Nasi Goreng (fried rice) for roughly R17 (which is 15000 rupiah, the Indonesian currency). And this was no small portion either. Then, walking a few hundred metres down the road to a more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ restaurant, you’ll be charged up to 5 times the price! Often, the portions are actually smaller and the quality of food just doesn’t have that delicious, home-cooked taste. You may think the fancier restaurant uses better ingredients or gives better service, hence the heightened prices. But there’s nothing quite like sitting in a homey environment with aromas of frying garlic and onion wafting through the air, being served by people with the biggest smiles, feeling perfectly content. It’s these moments that will stick with you for a very long time.

Another great thing about budget travel is that it forces you to try new things. You may have to experience scooter transportation instead of cars; black, bitter coffee instead of lattes and settle for the cheapest drink off the cocktail menu, simply because these are the only things in your price range. However, most of the time, these new things end up being highly enjoyable. Those journeys on the back of a rickety and squeaky old scooter because there’s no Uber – end up being absolutely exhilarating. The cheapest cocktail on the menu becomes your new go-to drink and you find yourself falling in love with local coffee, just the way it is.
You’re forced out of your comfort zone, but that’s what adventures are about! There’s no point flying halfway across the world to do exactly what you would do at home. There may be low points like missed flights, lost luggage and questionable accommodation, but nothing in life comes without its downside. As cheesy as it sounds, there really is no rainbow without a little rain.

Because of these different and unique experiences, you’re more likely to return home with a newfound appreciation and gratitude for all that you have. Don’t fall for the façade that social media creates; living for adventure is better than living for aesthetics.

A 22-year-old girl just trying to find her place in the world.