Traveling on a budget can be a tough one especially keeping your spiritual cool. If you’re like me and your lifestyle and habits could be described as outside the norm, sometimes it can be difficult to keep to a routine, diet and ethical preferences. Here are my top tips for traveling abroad, and keeping up with whatever suits.
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, non-dairy or anything else. If you’re well-used to a diet not supported where you’re traveling for health purposes, it’s probably ingrained in you to pack for that specific purpose. If your choices are spiritual or ethical, sometimes it can be a little tricky.
It pays to be flexible.
I am a vegetarian now. When I began travelling I was a pescatarian. However, in Thailand I ran into trouble on the yoga tour I was teacher for when a host wanted me to eat fish with him and I was no longer eating fish. I don’t believe in eating animals as it’s unnecessary for my body. But I don’t believe it’s wrong. If you end up going to a place without a properly balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, the option most compliant with ahimsa or non-violence is the one that properly nourishes you. Essential minerals and proteins can be hard to find in places less used to vegetarianism within a diet, and travelling with a bag full of supplements is not always an option (although you could try it.)
In Sri Lanka I often found fish was slipped into ‘vegetarian’ sambals (chilli salsa) and usually accepted that my diet was probably low in the rich brain-nourishing oils that come from fish such as mackeral.
However, when I noticed fish stock in my curry in Indonesia, (specifically Gili Meno), a place well used to westerners with a vegetarian diet, I put my foot down.
As for dairy I do as a rule try to avoid too much, but in places where there is fresh local produce, for example in Sri Lanka and India in the form of curd or yoghurt, I don’t personally see this as something harmful. I eat yoghurt though sometimes anyway, as live yoghurt helps to balance the culture in the belly.
The trick to staying on the right side of your bank balance and your ethical preference is eat local produce where you can and perhaps splash out on the inclusion of powdered supplements in health food shops. Rishikesh was excellent for this.
Clothes, clothes everywhere. I failed at this. After a couple of years with little to no new clothing, I may have gone a little bit mad.
I have no clue when I’m returning to the UK, but I can say, going forward, travelling is the time to practice non-attachment. For a capsule wardrobe (for the travelling yogi) I suggest the following:
- A conservative white dress (or long sleeved shirt)
- yoga tights
- a sports bra
- a tank top
- a t-shirt
- a lightweight warm jacket
- a long skirt
- light, long trousers
- a couple of pairs of underwear and socks
- trail shoes (preferably lightweight and good for running)
- flip flops
Obviously, if you’re male omit the bras and dresses (unless that’s your thing – in which case go right on ahead!)
I brought an entire wardrobe. And then bought more clothes wherever I went. My problem is I like variety – the beauty of clothes in life is not to cover but to create. Infinite lines and silhouettes in infinite colours and textures. Unless, of course, you have to carry everything on your back. Then infinity becomes endless aches and back pain.
You can, of course, send everything home. I did send a few beautiful clothes I couldn’t part with, back. But better is to sell or simply give your clothes away, swapping things in and out along the way. Some great ideas for places to donate your clothes:
- Within hostels there are always people in need or want of the odd item of clothing
- Anywhere you may volunteer, such as charities, schools or shelters
- Local businesses or shops that sell second hand clothes
- New friends – if you make friends with local people some can be pretty poverty-stricken and may appreciate some of your pre-loved clothes.
- Expat communities
The next challenge is buying ethical clothing. In some places, there are a wealth of sustainable clothes from well-paid workshops where everyone is smiling and easily accessible on social media. Obviously, this is not always the case. My rule of thumb is buy what you need. And don’t get too het up over haggling over a couple of pounds.
It’s not easy to source what I call “souvenir” clothes items, so I generally try to keep it to a minimum now when shopping, preferring to carefully choose where I shop or buy through friends.
I haven’t yet worked out how to create variety in a travellers wardrobe – perhaps the trick is jewellery, temporary tattoos or creative hair colour. None of these are all that practical.
Perhaps making sure you’re in attendance for Holi, the festival in India where everyone throws colourful paint at one-another, is the best way forward. Make everyday a Holi-day!
3. Be travel-preneurial
Once upon a time, when my mum was in her twenties (so some time ago), she went travelling also. A lot. She loves to retell me the story of how she escaped back to the Greek mainland from an island in conflict by selling her blood.
This is extreme. Prostitution and selling bodily fluids or parts is no longer necessary. You can find a better way. Make your trip easier on your wallet by seeing if you can skillswap your professional skills for cheap or free places to stay. This is great if you:
- have a strong social media presence
- can exchange yoga, bodywork or healing arts
- write a food or travel blog
- take amazing photographs
- cook beautiful food
- make wonderful sounds
Even if these are not what you’d immediately think of as your ‘career’, you never know when they might come in handy. Perhaps photography is a hobby, or you just had a knack for posting great blog posts in your home country. Use what you have. The key is to ask. The worst you’ll hear is no.
In many places, working without a permit even for free is illegal but a casual arrangement between friends is not unheard of. Get networking!
Maybe you have some more great tips to share? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you. And maybe write a blog from your travels!