Sunday, June 12, 2011

I REMEMBER...Traveling in Europe in the 70's

...when I traveled in Europe many years ago, I had a self-imposed budget to keep me in bed and board for the six months I was traveling.  It was patterned after Frommer’s – “Europe on $10 a Day” (seriously...only $10 and it could be done.  There was even a $5 a Day earlier version). 

I had a certain amount of money in my pocket.  I had a finite number of days I wished to spend traveling.  Pretty easy math.  Number of dollars divided by number of days.  There were no more dollars coming into the equation, so for the equation to work, I had to be careful with the amount I spent per day.

I carried a little blue spiral notebook with me and it was very much like a checkbook.  On the first page I put the amount of money I had available and the amount I allotted myself to spend each day – all intended to arrive back home with zero dollars and zero days…mission complete.

I would track my expenses minutely, every penny, every day.  If I spent less money on Tuesday, I could carry that over to spend on the following Wednesday or add it back into the total.  I had three columns.  The first was the total dollars available for the day ($10.00). The second was what I actually spent that day.  The third was my plus or minus to carry over to the next day.  Pretty simple accounting.   

If I knew there was a day coming up that would require more money – I would miserly live a simpler life in the proceeding days to save up for the big spending day/week.  When the spending opportunity caught me off guard and I went over my daily budget, I had to pay the piper in the following days until I was even again.

The person I was traveling with voted to spend it all in London on clothes and antiques.  I voted to continue on by myself.

The unplanned cash expenditure of a one way ticket back to California (and eat the already-paid-for second return ticket) put a serious hamper in my budget.  The travel deal I had landed to make the trip in the first place was based on coming home on a specific flight on a specific date from Paris, six months into the future.  I had to make the money I had left for that specific number of days and I had just knocked a hole in that budget with about a month's equivalent of money pulled out unexpectedly.

My solution was to go to Crete - a little island off the coast of Greece and go"Off Grid" for a month until my remaining days matched up with my remaining money.  Walked forever along the coastline until I was miles from civilization (probably multi-million dollar condos there now).  I found a little abandoned bamboo hut - just in front of a large olive orchard and about ten feet from the Libyan Sea (a portion of the Mediterranean Sea) and actually had some of the best times of my six-month jaunt to Europe - doing absolutely nothing - no services - no people- no tourists - no museums.  I would hike into town once a week - buy bread, wine, cheese.  I eventually met the old man that owned the property - he had no problem with me staying there- I helped him in his orange orchard and olive orchard in exchange for the "free" rent.  He had been a wild party man back in his day and now he said the only thing he drank anymore was a small glass of extra-virgin olive oil to "stay regular".

 I still have the little blue book and a couple of photos.  I noticed that I would write down the words I needed to know when going from one country to another  (like: count to ten, bread, wine cheese, train station, etc.) phonetically, so I could pronounce them adequately..It did the job.


A upgrade from the $5/Day book - Europe travel doubled even then...

Cheap Is Still Better, Claims Travel Budgeteer Arthur Frommer, but Europe Costs $10 a Day Now  August 02, 1976    
  • Vol. 6

  • No. 5

  • That was then - this is now....