If you are traveling for any extended period of time, chances are, you are on a budget. Money can be restricting. That’s just a part of life. The typical traveler hasn’t been blessed with some limitless income from a trust-fund, rich uncle or investment residuals. There’s no way around it – the length of time you want to travel and what you want to accomplish is going to have a direct correlation with how much you should probably save, or at the very least how much you are willing to work.
I don’t like the topic any more than anyone else, and I am not the type to obsess about how much money I am spending. But also, except in the most extreme of circumstances, neither am I the person that tracks every Balboa, Euro, or Yen spent, but of course it must be considered as much as anything else when traveling (especially when you are not working). Like anywhere else in the world, there are places that are simply more expensive than others.
We have been on Little Corn Island all week, which is a fantastic place for diving, fishing, and generally just getting off the grid a bit. While heading to have lunch with some friends we had met (our small family grew from 3 to 6 over the past weeks, which for me, is outside of my comfort zone for party size) in Granada, there was a tension in the air about where we were to eat. The size of our group made it difficult to agree easily on a place, the price, the fare, whatever.
But what got to me more was that there was always someone ready to be upset over a 20 Cordoba difference in price for their meal. Here we are, in the Caribbean, on a remote island that took us two taxis, two buses, and overnight stay, a panga, a freighter boat and a fishing boat to get to, and we have people debating an 80 cent difference in the price of their food.
Don’t take me wrong here: I am not some bourgeois fool without a budget that can spend freely without consequence. Quite the opposite actually, I too have a budget, work on the road, trade work where I can, and generally try to narrow my losses. Like anyone else, I have a fixed income. But in this case it seemed a bit queer. We had people in our group ready to spend hundreds of dollars diving, pay the fares of domestic flights to and from the island, and whatever else, and there is a still a seemingly endless commentary about prices, how expensive things are, and generally how unaffordable it all is.
It does pose the question in my mind: you knew this was a tourism-driven destination, and still came with the mentality that you are on a shoestring budget? It can be done; I am not claiming that it can’t. We met plenty of people that did it, but they also accepted the fate that they would have to give up certain opportunities to do it. Like anything else in life, your choices have parameters. We chose to go to a beautiful island in the middle of nowhere, where the economy is heavily reliant on the visitors that bring dollars into the local economy. Projecting your expectations from the last place you were to the place you are now just doesn’t work.
To put it in perspective, everything that is not locally grown or raised on the island (pigs, mangoes, chickens, eggs, fruits, veggies, fish) already has a higher cost attached to it simply based on the fact that it had to come from somewhere. A truck didn’t pull up with flats of soda and beer; that was brought on a boat. The crew was paid to do it. Someone paid for the gasoline in the tank. Someone paid for the product before it was brought to the island. The brewery isn’t local (although...). Clearly the food isn’t going to as affordable as the local eats in the city.
At times, it is easier to comment on how far your dollar goes (or doesn’t go) than to truly step back and take a look at why it may be different.
Photo from Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, November 2014.