Budget Traveler Interview: Tony Slater
October 14th, 2011
We love hearing from travelers, so we’re starting a new series on Cheap Ticket Links in which we’ll talk to one budget traveler each week. If you know someone – or are someone – we should talk to, please let us know!
This week’s budget traveler is Tony Slater. Tony describes himself as “very strange,” as he believes himself to be indestructible, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. He is often to be found making strange faces whilst pretending to be attacked by inanimate objects. And sometimes – not always, but often enough to be of concern – his testicles hang out of the holes in his trousers. It is for this reason (amongst others) that he chooses to spend his life far from mainstream civilisation, tackling ridiculous challenges and subjecting himself to constant danger. He gets hurt quite a lot.
Do you like traveling on a budget? Why or why not?
I LOVE traveling on a budget! It challenges me so much more than a luxury vacation would. I meet people. I find myself in unexpected situations. I connect to the world around me rather than being insulated from it in an expensive bubble. It limits me, and I love to challenge those limits. I couldn’t afford to go sightseeing in the Galapagos, but I had a lot more fun volunteering with the same animals – and I came WAY closer to being eaten in the process!
What’s your favorite budget-friendly location that you’ve ever visited?
You’ve heard it before a million times I’m sure, but it’s Thailand, all the way. Yes, I’m an eco-conscious, animal loving volunteer. I’ve hugged my share of trees. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love to PARTY! And Koh Phangan is where it’s at. I bridged the gap twixt the two worlds there – for almost a year I volunteered in an animal clinic by day and boogied on the beach by night. A year! I lived cheap, made a lot of local friends (working at the clinic helped most of all for this) and managed to spend about £3000 in total – a lot of which I earned while I was there by taking people diving!
What do you do to make expensive destinations easier on the wallet?
I eat on the street. I have a cast iron stomach and am never afraid to try something new – pretty sure I’ve eaten cat once or twice and I know for sure I ate a huge winged insect in Thailand – because the stall vendor waited until I’d taken my first bite to point out that I wasn’t supposed to eat the wings. It took quite a while to get all that carapace out of my teeth…
What are some things you consider to be worth the splurge when traveling?
SHOWER!! Every so often, whether it’s a slightly nicer room with an en-suite, or just a good meal’s worth of Euro’s at a Parisian train station – a decent, powerful shower just blasts the weariness right off you. I’ve bought hotel rooms before, just to spend time in a good shower. And then washed all my clothes in it!
Oh, and entrance fees. Damn them! They’re almost always more than you want to pay – someone, somewhere has a job of pinpointing the exact price at which you almost won’t pay it on principle – but not quite. I hate that person! But you really have to save a bit of cash for entry fees. Can’t go to Jordan without seeing Petra, can you? Even if it is £50 for one day. ARGH! If I think of it in terms of the amount of felafel I ate instead of real food to save up for it… Well. Want to see a grown man cry? Tears of hummus?
If money were no object, do you think you’d still be more of a budget traveler or would you spend lavishly on travel? Why?
I’d travel budget. In fact, I’d put money in trust and travel purely on the interest, so I could keep going forever! Sure, a man can fancy a luxury holiday, a bit of pampering once in a while – I once took a Caribbean cruise (paid for by my mother, when she got a bonus from work) and it was lush. I ate more in one week than in three months of regular travel. But ‘traveling’ in luxury kind of takes the point out of it for me. Who are you going to meet when you’re being chauffeured between posh hotel suites? Other than people paid to serve you? I could never afford to go on an African Safari led by my good friend Peter Allison – but hearing about the guests he deals with… Frankly, I’d rather be one of the staff! Which, for me, is far more likely.
What’s the most over-priced part of travel – the budget-buster?
It’s having it done for you. Ask a travel agent about the cost of a long-haul flight with a couple of stop-overs and you can practically see them foaming at the mouth. Well not all of them – just the ones with rabies.
But I tell everyone to find their own flights, transfers, accommodation etc – such a small thing, so easily done, yet a lot of people still prefer to rely on the ‘security’ or ‘peace of mind’ provided by having professionals book their itineraries. Sure, it can go wrong – but most of my best stories come from times it all went tits-up, and now I’m literally eating out on the proceeds! (My book is for sale on Amazon!)
There are so many websites allowing you to book your own flights and hotels/hostels, it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as rocking up in a foreign airport at 2am with no clue where you’re staying that night. Ease yourself into that part slowly! Start by putting together your own flights and hotels, then jump a local bus at the airport – at the very least you can wave a piece of paper at the driver with your hotel on it. You’ll get there. And feel stronger as a result. And, I guarantee – wealthier!
What’s the most embarrassing thing you do to save money (travel or not)?
Hmm… a few candidates here!
Well, I’ve cleaned plenty of hostel toilets in exchange for a bit of free accommodation. And I’ve slept on the odd park bench… beach… public monument (last one not recommended – Das Polizei take a dim view of such things). And traveling around Oz, three to a van, we took it in turns to lie on the floor when pulling up at camp sites, so as to only pay for two people! Yeah, works great until the owner decides to show you to your site personally.
But the best? It’s gotta be the old weight-allowance luggage dodge. Learnt from another friend (Benny of ‘Fluent in Three Months’), I try to lighten my baggage to fly on low cost airlines (like Easyjet) without paying the ridiculous fees for taking hold bags. It goes like this: Buy a cheap jacket with big pockets. Cut holes through the pockets into the lining of the jacket. Fill jacket with all your heaviest stuff, like phone chargers, books, belts… yes, you will look like an idiot. Especially when you have to empty it all out every time you go through security. But by then you’re already on the plane and no-one will question your bizarre dressing habits – just crack a wry smile at your ingenuity! But beware. You can also sweat quite a bit, which is even less likely to endear you to your fellow passengers than looking like a deranged kleptomaniac!