How to Live in France for 10 Weeks on Less than $1000
It’s looking like I should have around $1000 for my 10 weeks in France, working out to around $100 a week, or around €12 a day. It’s going to take a lot of work and perseverance, but I think I can do this. I know that a lot of you have been hearing about my super-budget travel and have been wondering how it is that I manage to travel for several months of the year while having an income that is solidly under the poverty line. Well, here’s how:
1. My lodging is taken care of. The first 4 weeks will be spent on a farm where I’m working in exchange for room and board through the WWOOF program. The rest of the time is going to be split between a gîte that Marc’s family has rented for their family reunion in Grazac, couchsurfing in Paris and Lyon, a visit with a blogger in Montpellier, and a friend’s house in the teensy weensy village of Lagamas. So, no lodging expenses.
2. Food is largely taken care of, and I’m good at eating cheaply. The farmers will feed me on the farm, and Marc’s family is picking up the tab for both of us in Grazac. In Lagamas my food costs will be kept low by the fact that the only food available comes from the local farmer’s market. The rest of the time I plan on eating cheaply the same way I did in Switzerland, by limiting my eating out to cheap cafes and getting my food from corner stores, grocery stores, or street vendors most of the time. I’ve generally found that I can eat for about €10 a day this way. A cup of yogurt for breakfast is usually €1.50, a sandwich is about €5, and a snack is another €2.
3. My airline ticket was purchased with frequent flyer miles. Most of these miles were acquired during my flights to and from Korea, but some of them were gotten with information gleaned from Chris Guillebeau’s Travel Hacking Cartel and his Frequent Flyer Master ebook. I was still short by only a couple thousand miles, and my parents graciously donated them to me for this trip. If they hadn’t, it would have only cost me around $80 to buy them.
4. I’m not really buying anything new for this trip. I’m buying a hanging toiletry bag, and I’m buying a new (used) pair of Keen sandals for cheap off of eBay, but that’s pretty much it as far as things that I’m buying for this trip (and arguably, I’d be getting the sandals anyway). I really wanted to get a new camera bag, but really, my current one works fine, it’s just a tighter fit for everything. There’s lots of stuff I wanted to get for this trip, but after careful consideration and obsessive use of wishlists, I realized that most of the stuff really was just wants, not needs. I can say no to wants, once I realize that’s what the are.
5. I’m giving myself a daily allowance. I plan on only carrying €15 with me on a daily basis. I’ll have my debit card with me, but ATMs are a pain and expensive, so it will be for emergencies only, or in case something really special comes along. I’ll keep 10 days of cash at a time in my main bag, and will give myself my daily allowance from that.
6. I rarely ever do things that cost money. I’m not a big fan of museums or tours, and I’m really happiest when I just wander around town all day with my camera. With the exception of a couple days in Paris and Lyon, I’m going to be out in the countryside anyway, where there’s nothing to spend money on.
While I am planning based on an estimated per-day cost of €12, really it’s going to be more like €20-€25. All of the time I spend at the farm and much of the rest of the time, I will not be in a situation where I have to (or even can) buy anything, even food, so the funds from those days will roll over onto the rest. The resulting savings from the fact that I’m going to be spending most of my time on a farm or in a village with less than 100 people will mean that I won’t have to scrimp and scrounge quite as much when I’m in a city.
I fully recognize that my method of traveling is decidedly not for everyone, and that my travel budget is really only possible when you like to travel the way I do. Most people want to go to museums or nice restaurants, and that’s great, but I don’t really care about those things as much. I like to people watch, wander around in rural areas, and take pictures, and that’s about all it takes to make me happy. I eat the same way while I’m abroad that I do while I’m at home, which means a lot of corner store snacks and home cooking. I’m also willing to work or to live in places where there’s “nothing to do” if it means that I get to spend more time abroad. With only $1000 to go with, I’d rather use it to spend eight weeks living in the French countryside than to spend two weeks living la belle vie in Paris. It’s all about priorities, and the number of days I spend abroad is my priority. That’s just me.
I am showing you this so that you all can get an idea of how it is that I’ll be doing this trip so cheaply. I am also showing you all this so that those of you who think that Europe has to be expensive or that you can only do multi-month travel if you have a ton of money saved up can see that neither case is true. During my trip, I’ll be posting my weekly expenses (and occasionally a daily expense report as well) so that you can see exactly where the money went.
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