If there’s one thing my family taught me, it’s how to travel on a budget. We camped on our vacations or stayed with relatives (avoiding hotels). We also cooked on our own food on the road. The goal was to see as much as possible with a limited budget. We did okay because we did end up traveling a lot. We took a cross country road trip when I was eleven, went to England three times before I turned 14, and traveled through Europe when I was thirteen.
My parents are professors, so they always liked to go to historic sites and often spent hours in museums. They also love to hike. In our trip across the country, our goal was to see as many national parks as possible and we hit some amazing ones: Yellowstone, the Black Hills, and Yosemite are the ones I remember the best. In between, we ended up spending many hours in our VW bus on the road. When we got bored with our books and each other’s company, we would pick up a hitchhiker. The hitchhikers always had great stories to share about their time on the road, and were usually very entertaining.
Traveling on a budget usually meant having some unusual experiences. I learned that roadside food in Greece is spanokapita, that rice takes forever to cook on a small stove at high altitude in the Colorado mountains, that you get really wet when a hurricane hits the Outer Banks, and that the Jack Rabbit bus line in Iowa does not count heads after stopping at a rest area (I had to chase after the bus).
When I compare notes with friends, I realize that I missed quite a few quintessential American experiences. I never went to Disney World or amusement parks. We never ate fast food. My parents didn’t believe in child centric vacations, but took vacations that they enjoyed that they hoped we would to. But I don’t feel like I missed out. In fact, I spend most of my vacations traveling a lot like they did (minus the cook stove), and hope to teach my son that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to see the world. And in fact traveling on the cheap means you get to see a lot more of it.