I still can’t quite believe that I sit on a wheelie chair behind a desk surrounded by airline branded plastic pens but I AM A TRAVEL AGENT.
At work I often get asked things like ‘what do you think of this hotel?’ and ‘do you think that’s expensive?’… Oh the struggle I’ve seen trying to save a couple of bucks a day! I know people call agents because they want an opinion on something a lot of the time and not just a reservation, but my opinion is not one I think a lot of holidaymakers will agree on. I’ve spent years refining (in an exceptionally unrefined way) the art of travelling on next to nothing. My thinking is if I can survive on one meal a day, I can stay for an extra month. It’s no surprise that when I flip through my travel journals most of the content is not about connecting to the majestic energies of the ancient pyramids of Palenque or about the incredible journey from Spain, through Gibraltar to ferry across the strait and set my feet on African soil for the first time in years… But rather about how I yearn for niknaks and nuts.
One rule of disintegrated shoestring travel is that you don’t book accommodation. Ever. Being a solo traveller the idea is that on the way into whichever town you may strike it lucky and meet another of your kind who might want to share a room and with that the wonderful possibility of negotiating the rate down by potentially as much as R5.
I’ve slept on mats rolled open on dormitory balconies in Vietnam to save the extra dollar it costs to sleep on a bed. I’ve walked (with a 75 litre backpack) along a beach for 3km in the Cambodian summer to get to the cheapest backpackers in the Lonely Planet rather than take a taxi on a highway with a spare change fare. I remember arriving in Varanassi in India, the holiest place for an Indian to die, in mid-summer, batting taxi drivers away and taking on those winding dark alleys in my quest to find a resting place (NONE with street names, ALL flowing like rivers in the monsoon rain, carrying floating islands of dog, monkey and cow faeces) lined with living corpses, waiting to die, slumped over with metal bowls in their hands begging for one last donation, one more meal. Being taken by a local from a dark opium den to filthy back rooms in his cousin’s step brothers’ house looking for a place to sleep. Rather than picking a reasonable option from my guidebook and paying a taxi a few bloomin’ Rupee’s to take me there. I wistfully recall spending night after night swotting bed bound cockroaches that spat out scratchily through the floorboards in my beachfront bargain in Belize. In a $2 a night old army barracks on Lake Titicaca I’ve taken showers where the water drips through showerheads clotted with thick long hair before it blesses me with beautiful brunette freshness. Sensible? Not so much. I redeem it all with the excuse that it’s character building.
You see, travel for me is not about burgers and chips for dinner and luminous all access wristbands, it’s about experience, divine upside downness and adventure. It’s about lifting the veil of what you think is normal, exposing an exotic unknown face and smooching her right on the lips.
And so the answer is that your EUR60 per night looks like the flippen’ Ritz to me, and I don’t mean the one in Sea Point. And no, it’s not expensive.