Traveling overseas for the first time is a significant step outside your comfort zone, especially if you’re traveling on a shoestring budget. You might think it is scary to travel with a very limited budget, but from my experience, it really isn’t, so this financial limitation shouldn’t intimidate you.

I’m going to share with you six reasons why you should travel on a shoestring budget on your first trip overseas. And what’s best is that these reasons go beyond just saving money while traveling.

Backpacking in Australia

1. It makes you resourceful

When your limited budget is the lifeline of your trip, you have no option but to be resourceful if you want your trip to last and if you wish to do a decent amount of sightseeing.

You can search ahead and plan your trip online to find cheap and even free tours and activities in your destination of choice; but once there, you can find even cheaper options through the recommendation of locals or other likeminded travelers.

Often, some of the best travel experiences are had when you discover these “not-so-known” activities during your local research to do things on a shoestring. For me, this has almost always been true.

These local recommendations have been “lifesavers” on several of my trips and have led me to some of my best experiences abroad.

Be creative and social. Ask your local hostel employee, your Airbnb host, the bartender, the waiter at the coffee shop, and even other travelers. They all have their “secret sights” they’ll be happy to share with you, so you get the best impression of their city.

2. It will challenge you to be more proactive, independent, and responsible

Traveling is one of the best ways to learn how to be independent and encourage a proactive mentality on your self.  When you travel independently and on a small budget, everything relies on you – from finding airfares, accommodation, transportation, cheap food, and other travel details.

Action and responsibility are the things that will make your trip a reality. How far you go depends on you.

How can you be proactive? Again, ask the locals for starters. Locals know their city, so they know how to live there as cheaply as possible.

Ask them where’s the cheapest supermarket, what’s the most affordable means of transportation from A to B, local restaurants with lunch deals, and so on.

Hiking Routeburn Track in New Zealand

3. You’ll prioritize on what really matters to you

Do you want to do a snorkeling tour or a hiking tour? Or, can you do both? If your budget allows for both, great! But if it doesn’t, which would you choose? What’s the experience you want to take away from this place?

Or, is it worth it spending $100 on a 1-day tour to a volcano in East Java when those same $100 could get you five days of relaxing beach time in Bali? This is the time when you start prioritizing things according to your preferences, trip goals, life goals, and other current influences in your life.

If it comes to the point in which you want to do more than you should budget-wise, you can keep trying and be even more resourceful (see #1) to find things cheaper.

Sometimes, when you search deep enough, you find some “gold nuggets” most travelers don’t know about. If it doesn’t work out, think that this first trip overseas is a teaser for future trips to come.

4. You’ll get street smart and become adventurous

“School smart” can take you far, but pair it with “street smart” and you’ll go even farther. Traveling teaches you a wide variety of things that can be applied to your daily life –from the common to the most indispensable– especially when it is up to you to be resourceful.

I like to say that budget travel makes you an adventurous traveler because you’re willing to go through extra hoops to accomplish specific travel goals with the least amount of money possible.

I’ve had experiences where I’ve wanted to go to a specific site, but the only way I could get there (without splurging too much money) was hitchhiking. In fact, that was what encouraged me to hitchhike for the first time in my life – back in Zimbabwe in 2012.

Money in Cambodia
It might look like a lot of money, but I’m holding the equivalent of a whopping $0.25!!

5. You’ll learn how to better manage your money

It’s not good being on the road and run out of money halfway on your trip. When you travel, everything depends on you; especially how you manage your money.

Traveling serves as a great “teaching lesson” on financial planning and management since today’s budget decisions will affect the outcomes of tomorrow and the future of your trip.

You learn to control spending, value your current capital (which you worked hard to earn), understand better the relationship between cost and value of anything you acquire, and learn to prioritize on what you really want (see #3).

6. You’ll grow culturally

Growing culturally can happen on any trip of any budget if you’re open to it, but when you travel on a shoestring, there are chances you’ll interact more with different layers of society, from the lowest to the highest.

They could give you different perspectives on the same culture and share the uniqueness of their lifestyle in that given place.

When you travel you get exposed to different cultures that can have a direct impact on your life. Your tolerance could grow as you experience them, and in many cases, you’ll even learn how to see things from a different perspective. Every culture is different, and so is every person in it.

In the end, all these reasons listed above are only possibilities, but it all depends on your attitude towards travel. Look at travel as a learning experience in a different environment, and your shoestring budget as a means of challenging yourself to get more for less. It is an adventure!

Ready to see how far you can go on a shoestring budget?

6 Reasons Why Your First Trip Abroad Should Be On A Shoestring Budget

Adventure Awaits


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  1. Great advice! As much as I currently rely on Google Earth/Google Maps when traveling, relying on paper maps and asking locals for directions is also a challenging yet empowering undertaking.

  2. Great advice! As much as I currently rely on Google Earth/Google Maps when traveling, relying on paper maps and asking locals for directions is also a challenging yet empowering undertaking.

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