$3,419.96

Yup. That’s the expense total.  On November 14, 2011 I set out to prove it was possible to travel leisurely and enjoyably for under $100 dollars a day.  This $100 a day budget was to include all transportation, lodging, food, tourism, and souvenir expenses.  Absolutely EVERYTHING.  Those of you who followed the whole trip will know, sometimes it was tough.  The average daily allowance fluctuated between the high of $100 and a low of $54.47.  Sometimes I was over budget. Sometimes I was under budget.  But not once did I pass up a tasty treat, pretty trinket, or chance for an added adventure.

I kept a tight record of my travel expenses, down to every 2 TL metro ride in Istanbul, and 5 Dinar glass of orange juice in Marrakesh.  Sometimes I felt miserly, but mostly I felt intrigued.  Would the average work out in the end? Would I come in under budget?  That Thing That Sucked Me In sucked pretty hard in Goreme, Turkey, when I bought over $300 worth of hand thrown and hand painted pottery (that included shipping, promise!).

But, I am happy to say, I DID come home under budget.  The total spent was $3,419.96.  A full $280.04 under the goal of $3,700 for a 37 day trip.  Wahoo!!!

So, what did I end up spending that money on?

$1,590.87 was spent on transportation.  Planes, Trains (and Metros/Trams), Buses, Boats, and Camels. Still no hot air balloon though.

$321.64 was spent on lodging.  Hostels mostly.

$459.87 was spent on food.  This included meals, grocery store trips, snacks, and water.

$266.64 was spent on other touristy things.  Things like museum entrance fees, my Sahara Tour, and tips for henna done by the little old ladies in Morocco.

$780.95 was spent on souvenirs. So I like new trinkets.  I’ll say it, and I’m sure others have said it- when traveling, go ahead an splurge a little on those strange and unique things that call you in.  What are the chances you’ll be back a second time to pick it up later? Pretty slim, I’d say, so go ahead and enjoy the shopping experience.

And of course, the souvenir budget wasn’t necessary for survival, so I could have skated in almost $1,000 under budget if I wasn’t such a sucker for the rare and hand made.

Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with myself for making it home with cash to spare.  So pleased, in fact, that I decided to spend the remaining funds on a weekend trip to Philadelphia, to visit with some old friends.  I managed to squeeze that trip out for $290; which included gas ($65), theater tickets ($56), a hotel room in center city ($89), food ($50), and a night at the bars ($30).  Getting to reconnect with college friends in a new Grown-Up way- Priceless.

Though I still think I prefer the $10 student rush fill in the front row tickets over the $56 with a terrible view tickets…

Well, now I’m back home and broke, a common enough state for an artistic fairy type. Stay tuned next month for a Great American Journey. A road trip to Arizona and the beginning of a most unique and exciting adventure- the Renaissance Circuit!

Westward Ho!

~Aeri Rose

 

 

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an enlightening bus ride

Essaouira was nice. Warm, sunny, beachy.  I spent three days and $82.78 getting there, being there, and getting back to Casablanca.  The trip itself was uneventful, and not nearly as entertaining as the bus ride back to Casablanca became.

It all started, I think, when I went to the bus station and was convinced to but a ticket for a no-name bus company, despite repeated online warnings by other travelers to take only CMT or Supratours busses.  But the salesman said it was less expensive, and would get me there quicker since it didn’t make any stops along the way. Direct to Casablanca he said.

Well, promptly at 2:00 pm, after waiting in a bus station that reeked of vomit, I stowed my backpack beneath and boarded the bus.  We left Essaouira on the main road, which we just as promptly left.  For the next six hours we traveled along a country highway; past fields of Argan trees, roadside markets, towns with more donkeys than cars, and hovels (homes?)- some of which showed no sign of electricity, plumbing, or even complete roofs.  While we didn’t make any scheduled stops, per-se, we did make frequent stops at unmarked points along the highway for country travelers to quickly hop on the bus.  As we slowed again and again for robed men and veiled women, my aggravation at being mislead by the ticket salesman quickly turned to amusement.

How the Hell, I asked myself, do I get myself INTO these situations? 

Well, I answered myself, this bus left at a more convenient time, and it was a whopping 40 dirham cheaper. At least you’ll get to learn how the locals really travel, I rationed.  Settle in and enjoy the ride. 

And the ride really was enjoyable, once you got over the vicious side to side sway of the bus just barely maintaining it’s position in the road, and being very liberal with its use of the lanes.

Looking out the window at the passing fields and setting sun, I let my mind wander.  I started out wondering at the motivation for travel some of the passengers had.  They looked like they carried their whole world with them, shoved into a few twine-tied boxes. One came on board with a hamper full of tomatoes at their feet.  The only thing missing were chickens in the overhead shelf.

Not for the first time, I cringed at the things most Americans complain about. The “horrible”, “unfair” conditions of our country.  A country where every child has access to a school, a school that will probably feed them most of their meals if necessary.  I thought about the little beggar kids I’d seen in the desert and at the beach.  Where was their school?  I’d willingly pay taxes to maintain the system we have.  That’s what a community is for.  To work together to make things better for everyone.  The US is just one big community.  Sometimes, in search of our American Dreams and individual aspirations I think we forget that.  But then of course the next argument is, “Well, we wouldn’t have to pay so many taxes if we quit blowing people up.”  And thats true too. If our army expenses were smaller, we would have more room in the budget for community building.  Thinking about communities made me again think of the recent protests, protests for more and more things for the people.  Perhaps what we need to protest isn’t for more, but for less.  To use less resources, to stop using resources so wastefully, so that there are some to share with other people. People who still don’t know the comfort of constantly available water, steady heat, or a light in the dark.

I think about the way some people have to live, and I think, “Now, THEY would have something to complain about.” And I’ve never even been to a third world country! Second world at “best” and even those can be considered on the cusp of becoming a first world nation.

Sometimes I talk like a fairy, to disassociate myself and give an unbiased perspective. But today, I can’t remove myself from the culture and community I’ve been fated to represent.

All these things were swirling in my  head as I disembarked from the bus in Casablanca. Before my bag could be pulled from beneath the bus, I saw trash bags, plastic laundry bags (you know the plaid square kind with a zipper), and- yes- live chickens being removed.  So there were chickens on the bus, I thought with absentminded amusement.  Before I’d even gotten my bag I had cabbies shouting at me, offering to take me to my final destination.  I admit I was a bit overwhelmed.  Unlike the Casablanca train station, the bus stop was not well lit, well signed, or comforting to a lone traveler.  Then, out of the blue, another travel angel saved my day. She was a quiet girl with a leopard print scarf wound tightly around her head.  She spoke perfect English.  She had an entourage of several other scarf bedecked women, probably sisters or aunts. She asked if I was traveling alone, and took control (much like my previous travel angel) when I replied yes.  She helped me to a fair cabbie, helped me call my host, and gave me her number- should anything happen on the way.  This much confidence and love for a stranger from a woman suppressed by her nation. Just think how strong these women would be, were they allowed to stand up for themselves!

I was so grateful for her help, and somehow humbled I almost cried in the cab.

I don’t have any more answers for the world than I did before my bus ride.  I wish I did.  Or maybe all I can wish for is to be as confident and loving as that leopard print lady had been.

And the rest will follow.

~Aeri

bazaar chumps and camel humps

My sojourn in Marrakesh couldn’t have had two more contrasting settings: the bustling, energetic Medina and the calm, expansive Sahara. In the Medina I spent too much money. In the Sahara I spent none. In the Medina I was overwhelmed with colors, smells, sounds, and people. In the Sahara I was just overwhelmed. The magnitude of the dunes, the fineness of the sand, and the camels. Just, everything about the camels. The camels were cool.

I spent about four days in Marrakesh, arriving the night of the 7th and departing the morning of the 11th. The night I arrived I was met in the square by someone from my hostel and led through the winding unmarked roads of the Souks, finally arriving at the door of La Casa Del Sol. I wondered if I would ever be able to find my way out and back again the next day. The hostel was great, and worth much more than the 70 dirham ($7) a night I paid to stay there.

I was taken to the common room, a narrow room lined with thickly cushioned benches, and offered some sweet mint tea. You drink a lot of mint tea in Morocco. Mustafa, the hostel manager, showed me a map of Marrakesh and circled some of the main sights, and gave me some tips.

  1. Boys will offer to lead you to the sights, some of which are pretty hard to find in the Medina. If you’re hopelessly lost, you can let them, but set a price in advance. They will ask for 100 Dh. Offer no more than 20 Dh.
  2. With haggling, on big ticket items, divide their initial offer by three and start from there. With little ticket items, divide by four. Don’t ever pay more than half their starting price. And they’ve all basically got the same stuff. Be willing to walk away. Playing them off each other is a good way to get to the price you want.

After that, I thanked him, finished my tea, and was led to my bed. The next morning I DID brave the winding roads myself, and while they were confusing, I managed to get myself around. I first tried my hand at sight seeing, and found the museum, school, and ancient mosque they highlighted. Leaving was a bit harder, because it became impossible to retrace my steps. I ended up treating the Medina like a forest, on a hike whose trail I had lost. I treated the roads like rivers, using the mentality “well, if I keep following the cars and turning onto progressively bigger roads, eventually I will get out of the Medina at least. From there I can figure out WHERE I popped out using the map, and follow the big roads back around to the square.”

This method worked for me, and I was out of the Souks, in fact out of the entire old city, in no time. When I found myself on the map though I realized I was at the entire opposite end of town. Since it was early afternoon already and I had been walking all morning, I cheated and took a $2 cab back around to the square. From there I had some lunch, took a break, and prepared myself for the second half of my day: Shopping!

There is a lot of cool stuff in the Moroccan marketplaces. It can be overwhelming and hard to decide what to get. It can also be a lot of fun! Here are some haggling aids I picked up while trying my hand at this ancient art.

  1. Price a few guys out first, just ask their starting price and walk away. You’ll be amazed at the variety you’ll find, even here.
  2. Keep different amounts of money in different pockets. The best way I found of getting the price I wanted was to stick to it, and say that was all the cash I had left. Even take out the cash and show him that’s all there is. Then at the end, scrounge around in another pocket for some loose change and say “Ok look, this is REALLY all that’s left”. They’ll usually take it.
  3. Really scrutinize the product, look for weak points or defects. Tell him, you’d buy it for the price he’s offering, except for the mistakes. Then offer him another price.
  4. Like I said before, play them off each other. Tell him there’s a guy around the corner that was offering it for the price you want (use the numbers).

  5. Agree to go up in price if he’ll throw in something small like a figurine or scarf.

These are the styles I found most successful while haggling. Hopefully some will help you too! Some may be a little underhand, but its all a game anyway. My favorite victory was when I wanted a green leather purse and talked the guy down from 600 Dh to 250, and then he handed me a wooden camel as I was leaving. Who gets presents for haggling down the price to almost a third of the starting price? Funny stuff.

The next day was the Desert Day and the energy totally changed. In the early morning I hopped on a bus with several other Americans, some Italians, and some Australians. We took a winding ride through the High Atlas mountains and arrived at the edge of the desert in the afternoon. Now I’ll admit, it didn’t just suddenly turn into sand dunes stretching out before us as far as the eye could see, like a golden ocean. It was just kind of rocky and brown, trailing into dusty dirt. But on the left of the road was a big group of camels, lying peacefully on folded legs. CAMELS!!! The desert men, complete with robes and turbans, tended to the camels and waited for the tourists to assemble. We were taught how to wrap turbans with any length of fabric on hand. One girl even used her Burbury scarf, which made quite a silly turban, to be sure.

The camel ride into the desert was nothing what I expected. It was BUMPY! My bum is still sore! The camels were adorable somehow, with their giant feet and bushy eyebrows and fluffy swiveling ears. We wandered on, led by a desert guide, until we could no longer see the road behind us. Gradually the rocks and dirt did give way to sand and small dunes. Nothing like the mountainous, frozen waves of sand I was envisioning, but sand dunes none the less. Toping one rise we saw a tent village in the distance. Our destination. Our home for the evening.

Sadly, the sky was cloudy, and not a single star revealed itself that night. But our eyes were kept grounded by the entertaining drumming of our hosts around a campfire. After a sunrise and a quick breakfast the next morning, we again mounted our camels for the ride home.

Chastise me for taking a dreaded Tour if you wish, but my mission was accomplished. I wanted to ride a camel and check out a desert, both of which I got to do. On top of that, I got to play a ceramic drum with a desert nomad. And I learned how to tie a turban. Well worth the $100 price tag.

Next up- Essaouira and the beach!

my travel angel

Morocco!!!

So far, Morocco has been everything I expected Istanbul to be. Or at least Marrakesh has been.  Warm, vibrant, energetic, colorful.  The markets are still filled with handcrafts and ethnic goods, rather than Chinese imports (or if they are imported, they do a better job disguising it).  The dry air is warm. The weather, sunny.  Walking through the narrow streets of the Souks, one could be in 2011 or 1911, it’s hard to tell with the donkey’s pulling carts of fruit or bread, being led by robed men with thin  leather sandals.

I actually landed in Casablanca on December 7th, and found my way to Oliveri’s Cafe, the meeting point set by Ali- my couch surfing host.  Too much? Let’s back up.  For the Moroccan leg of the journey I was hoping to couch surf or stay in hostels.  In Casablanca, however, there were NO hostels! Or I correct myself, there was one- Hostel International- but it was booked full for the night of my arrival.  Luckily I found a friendly couch surfer who would have me.   From the airport, as per my habit, I stopped at the information desk when I landed.  The resulting events encourage me to list “stop at the information desk upon landing” as an important travel tip.  The attendant recommended the best way to get into town being to take the train (40 dirham) and then a cab (which shouldn’t cost more than 20 dirham).  At the train station cabbies offered to take me to my final destination- for 70 or 80 dirham.  I was insistent with my 20 and eventually found one who would take me for 25.  At the cafe, I met Ali my host.  We met, hit it off, had some dinner, etc. General good time with new people stuff.  The next day I toured Casablanca, particularly enjoying the beaches and experiencing the Atlantic Ocean from the other side.  That evening I took the train to Marrekesh (for only 90 dirham/$10).

While trying to hail a cab back to the train station, I met my first true travel angel.  You’ll meet them, when you most need them and least expect them.  Mine was not “angelic”.  She was not tall and lean with golden hair and a white dress, sprouting feathery wings like an over grown pigeon.  What she WAS was friendly and quick to smile, with curly brown hair.  She was a little chubby, and was wearing a long  black sweater over black leggings with grey boots. She was standing on my street corner, waiting to be picked up.  I asked her if this was a good place to hail a cab to the train station.  I must have looked inexperienced in the ways of hailing a cab in Casablanca during rush hour (which, of course, inexperienced I am).  She took my hand like a child, and began to hail down each cab that passed, asking if they had room for one more to Casa Voyager (the station).  She was patient. She stuck with me.  Each one that said no, she would return, take my hand, and smile.  One dozen, maybe two dozen later (I lost count) and finally success! She put me in the cab, made sure the driver understood, and than stood on the curb and waved while we drove away, like a mother whose child was getting on the school bus for the first time.  I smiled and waved back, knowing that without her help I NEVER would have gotten a cab on time.  So, thank you travel angel!  Thank you! My tip from this experience is not to find yourself a travel angel, but to leave plenty of time to get to the station. It’s rarely a matter of “just” hailing a cab, or hopping on a bus, even when you know where you’re going.

Once in Marrakesh I checked in to the “La Casa Del Sol” Hostel, right off the main square- Place Jemaa El Fna.  I had booked it the night before using hostelworld.com.

That was last night.  This morning I woke up, ready to explore yet another new city.  But the results of that exploration, should be, I think, a story for another day.

Cheers!

Aeri

 

the trip

This is the first trip I’m going to share with you.  Its about to happen and I am SO EXCITED!  But I’ve realized that people care a lot about this stuff  called “money”. They want to collect a lot of it, and try not to give it away once they have it.  But they have to trade it for almost everything they want!  Sometimes people think that when they don’t have too much money they can’t go traveling. Well, I never use much money when I travel, and I get to see great people stuff, and meet great people!  So, I’ll try to show you how I do it.  I hope it can convince some more people to go visit each other!

I want to show you how it can be possible to travel comfortably, and completely, on a total budget of $100 a day. Yes, one-hundred dollars per day for everything. That includes travel, tourism, food, souvenirs, everything.

So here is what we have so far.

The Dates: November 14 – December 20, 2011. That’s 37 days.
The Cities: Istanbul, Turkey; Paris, France; Casablanca, Morocco
The Budget: $3,700.00

The big travel tickets have been purchased.
Washington D.C. to Istanbul, Round Trip: $637.30
Istanbul to Paris, Round Trip: $222.23
Paris to Casablanca, Round Trip: $139.56

That great price between D.C. and Istanbul is what started this whole adventure. How could I pass up the chance to visit one of the oldest cities in the world? Nope, I couldn’t do it. And then, once across the pond I just had to visit my good friends Elise, Cloe, and Sandra in Paris. I think that will be the most challenging part of trip for my budget. But I think my friends will enjoy the challenge of the game as much as I will!

So, How’s my budget doing, before I’ve even taken off?
$3,700.00 starting budget – $999.09 for flights = $2,700.91

I’ve spent a little over a quarter of my budget on travel so far. I think I’m doing pretty well, but only the future knows the results of this little challenge.

To be continued…

travel blogger reboot

I promise we DID get to Portugal last December. It was a whirl of a time. We carried on to Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, England and Ireland before returning home. I guess the lack of posts shows just how busy and fun the trip was…right? Can I really get off the hook that easily? Well, the itch has risen again and this time it will be scratched on November 14. Five weeks in Turkey, France, and Morocco. I promise to be a better travel blogger. I PROMISE!

I’m putting myself to a challenge on this trip. We all know Rachel Ray’s $40 A Day show, on the Food Network. She travels around and shows viewers how to keep to a tight food budget, of only…”only”…$40 a day for food, and still get the flavor of the place (pardon the pun). That’s right, $40 a day JUST FOR FOOD!

Anyway, in the spirit of that show, I want to take it a step further. I want to show my readers how it can be possible to travel comfortably, and completely on a total budget of $100 a day. Yes, one-hundred dollars per day for everything. That includes travel, tourism, food, souvenirs, everything. If it works I’m going to either turn it into a book, or pitch it to The Travel Chanel. What do you think?

So here is what we have so far.

The Dates: November 14 – December 20, 2011. That’s 37 days.

The Cities: Istanbul, Turkey; Paris, France; Casablanca, Morocco

The Budget: $3,700.00

The big travel tickets have been purchased.

Washington D.C. to Istanbul, Round Trip: $637.30

Istanbul to Paris, Round Trip: $222.23

Paris to Casablanca, Round Trip: $139.56

That great price between D.C. and Istanbul is what started this whole adventure. How could I pass up the chance to visit one of the oldest cities in the world? Nope, I couldn’t do it. And then, once across the pond I just had to visit my good friends Elise, Cloe, and Sandra in Paris. I think that will be the most challenging part of trip for my budget. But I think my friends will enjoy the challenge of the game as much as I will!

So, How’s my budget doing, before I’ve even taken off?

$3,700.00 starting budget – $999.09 for flights = $2,700.91

I’ve spent a little over a quarter of my budget on travel so far. I think I’m doing pretty well, but only the future knows the results of this little challenge.

To be continued…