Back in 1999 R. A. Dalkey experienced his first night of what he describes as wild camping but in fact, is probably more comparable to rough sleeping. What he did realise however is that a small part of him really enjoyed it, even if he was close to getting frostbite.
It was this experience that first made him crave cheap travel and the experiences that go with it. He wanted to see the world but not at huge expense.
The aim really was to scrimp and save wherever possible. It became a challenge. How much could he save even while travelling? He never saw the benefit of paying out for expensive hotel rooms, especially if you were up early for a flight or a minibus pick-up and loathed spending anything if he thought there would be a way around it.
Eating out in a restaurant was never, therefore, an option on his travels, especially at the start of a journey. It wasn’t so much that this would break the budget he had set himself but more the fact that there was no budget to break.
Instead, he had to come up with creative ways of eating as cheaply as possible.
“That meant eating pies from those hunched babushkas. These were dry and flaky, fillings minimal, to non-existent, but they cost next to nothing. Apart from such takeaway delicacies it was cereal and milk in our room in the morning, or supermarket sausage and cheese in our room in the evening.”
He also experienced some amazing experiences while wild camping around the world.
During one trip he found himself wild camping in Russia in order to visit the spot where Europe finished and Asia started. Then to add to the experience decided to spend two nights wild camping in Siberia with plummeting temperatures and only a cheap tent for protection. However, for him, this apparently was all part of the fun while travelling the Trans-Siberian railway. It wasn’t that he was against travelling the same well-worn route as others, it was more the fact that he also wanted to explore areas that few had.
R.A. Dalkey is always searching for the next cheap location so when he realised that Mongolia was a budget traveller delight in comparison to other countries, with accommodation costs coming in at a price that could not be refused he decided to plan yet another vagabond trip. It was during this trip that he realised just why the Mongolian people sleep in yurts. In a country famed for its unbearably cold seasons, these traditional gers (or yurts) were designed with warmth in mind.
That, of course, was one of his more comfortable trips. We also read about his journeys that involve sleeping in a hire car to save money, using free wooden hiking huts in Andorra, and sleeping in a hammock in Timor.
While his friends were growing up, getting married, having children, and staying in nice hotels it seems that R.A. Dalkey never wanted to conform. He wanted to have the freedom to choose where he travelled and how.
Unlike others who have caught the travel bug, however, he is also conscious about being wasteful and overbuying and about the impact we have on the planet, and I got the impression that he was a frugal, considerate individual even when not exploring the globe.
“It was monumentally wasteful… It filled a creaking, polluted, starving planet with piles of wasted food, electronics, crockery and bedding that nobody used. And too many of us failed to consider the consequences of it all.”
Arguably, however, he does show a different side to adventure travel. It highlights that we don’t always have to undertake some absurd activity for a thrill.
My Thoughts on Monte Carlo for Vagabonds
I am always intrigued by how people are able to travel on a shoestring and therefore found R.A. Dalkey’s tales rather informative. He undertakes the kind of journeys however, that I feel I prefer to have from the comfort of my own armchair. Not because I am a bore or like the expensive things in life (however, I have been known to enjoy a night in a fancy hotel) but because I am an introvert who often struggles to make conversation with my own family let alone a group of strangers.
That being said I have been known to sleep in the car to keep costs down when undertaking a long road trip and do enjoy camping under the stars, just not on my own.
Monte Carlo for Vagabonds, in my opinion, is a fun, light-hearted read that is also quite informative. If you are thinking about doing a budget trip it is definitely something worth reading to gain ideas, even if you don’t fancy sleeping on a park bench to save a few euros.
It is an account that helps to open your eyes to a different way of seeing the world. So frequently I read about those that vocalise their disdain for individuals that stay in fancy hotels and take guided tours because they are not seeing the real country, or experiencing time with the locals, however, after reading this I am not sure even some of those have truly authentic experiences.
What you will read about in this book is possibly the cheapest way to travel and that money should not necessarily be an obstacle in doing so. It may perhaps open your eyes up to a new way of doing certain things and even if it doesn’t it is a charming collection of stories told from the heart of someone that has accomplished vagabonding in some of the more obscure, off-the-beaten-track locations around the world.
Have you read any books on budget travel experiences that you would recommend?
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