An adventure travel
Question: Hi, I can already hear you replying "are you nuts? Worry about reducing debt and stockpiling your emergency fund first!" But I feel that it's one of those things that you must check off the list, before I am tied down with kids. Do you have any suggestions on how I can fit this in without dropping the ball on my financial, educational and career goals? I am about to start graduate school, and could take some time in between semesters or wait until after I graduate. I was thinking 4-6 weeks of adventure backpacking. 1-2 weeks at a time wouldn't work for this type of excursion. PS -- I do love listening to your show! Thank you. Mia, Marlborough, MA
Answer: Go! You're not going to hear from me that taking an adventurous backpacking trip is nuts. (I might say I'm jealous but that's a different story.) The economy may be down, but that doesn't mean your spirits should spiral lower, too. You want to take a break to refresh your mind and body and spirit before during or after graduate school? That's wonderful. So let's make that happen without taking on any or much debt.
One questions is how to hike and walk for several weeks frugally? A trip with a backpack should be a low cost excursion anyway. Better yet, there are plenty of deals in the travel business right now, from low cost flights and cheap excursions to price cuts on rental cars and hotel rooms. Travel is down, and businesses of all kinds are cutting deals to stay in operation.
The real trick is to carefully plan ahead. Map out your route. How will you get to where you are going? Where will you stay? What is your budget? It's so much easier to be frugal when you take the time to do research and planning. We all end up spending more than we should when we rush to book a flight or dash off to the grocery store at the last minute. With research and planning you'll be able to find and book deals, create a tight budget that you can live with during the trip.
If the numbers still don't quite work out, consider hiking for 4 to 5 weeks rather than 6 or choosing a less expensive spot for your adventure. It will still be worthwhile, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to go on long trips later in life--even with kids in tow.
Of course, there are the bigger financial questions, such as the debt burden you're taking on at graduate school and the kind of income you'll earn when re-enter the job market. Still, with careful planning and a frugal budget you should be able to come up with a trip that's both cost-effective and soul nourishing. It's also good to go off on a trip like this before you embark on your new career. That's an adventure in itself. .
Have fun with your frugal adventure. Let us know how the trip goes, and relay any "frugal" tips you pick up along the way.