Cheap Travel in Southeast Asia – Alert!

I found a very interesting post on Couchsurfing.org where I am getting back as an active member now.

Written by LEOC ~ Thank you for good important points in your message

Frans, my couch is for free. But not for every body. I am pretty selective about who stays at my couch. When I host someone, that person essentially becomes my friend. There are many different types of friendships. But if I don’t think the person requesting the couch is worthy of my friendship, that person is not sleeping in my couch. My standard is not that high though. 😉

My reply to E (or anyone who has that sort of objective before they star a journey) has a more general purpose. I absolutely disagree with the idea of setting this sort of limits and think that it is away to live a “sustainable” life. I have enough money to live that way for many life times over. But what would that get me or the people I meet? While it might be grand to think that we “enriched” the live of people we meet along the way. The reality is simply not true. It is particularly not true for someone who came from a developed country who might never have done a single day of true hard labor and come to countries such as Vietnam and Thailand and they the locals how they live like we do. It might be “inspiring”. But they will never get to try it. 

If we meet people who are not locals, then someone eventually have to pick up the bills. And what kind of inspiring experience would it be to travel to other countries only to meet with other travelers? 

I am not saying this in anyway direct at E. I’ve met enough young people in areas like Pham Ngu Lao who brags about how they have been able to travel so cheaply and save the money for drinking and such that I don’t care to meet any of them anymore. Again, I am not making a moral judgement about the purpose of their travel. I am just old enough to know that’s not a good reason.

I have been a professor of finance and economics for many years. If anyone wants to argue with me about the economic impacts of tourism, I have no problem to take on anyone. When we come to another country travel so cheaply, we think we are actually using up the resources implied by the price we pay. The fact is we bring in far more problems than we could ever imagine. Tourists are the main reason for a lot of the destruction of some of the most beautiful natural resources. When we come visit a country, a new place, we bring with the potential for economic activities. When we travel to countries that are similar in cost of living, we have to pay the price for most of the resources we used up. When we travel to countries that are less developed, we underpay for the resources we used up. In fact, the worst form of unfair trade is tourism of this sort. So, the least we can do to less developed country is be mindful of their cultures and try our best not create to much damage to their environment. If we can save money and experience their culture, I am sure the next logical step is to do something good for their community. Donate money to charitable organization or provide micro loans are two of the ways we can improve the life of the people in the less developed countries. 

And to think that to live like the locals and ends with that is somehow a way to improve the lives for the people you visited is belittling. They want to live like us. They want cleaner environment, better roads, better education system, better food, etc. So how are you going to make that happen? Teaching the kids how to speak English for couple of days is going to do it.

Couchsurfing is about making the world a better place for all, not just yourself. Now, if someone tells me: hey, how can I travel for $2 a day for the next year so that I can give the money I saved to help a hospital in Peru? That person can stay with me for how ever he/she wants. I’ve hosted a few of those. Of course, that’s my idea of couchsurfing in grand scale. I am just playing a small part.

It has been almost a year since I started my on-the-road live. I have enjoyed it a lot. I have met so many cool people. I have experienced so many cool things. I have involved with Couchsurfing (CS) so much. I do not have many friends on CS though. :D, well if I compare my Facebook friend-list, CS friend-list is nothing 😛 So, what do I want to say when I reposted LEOC’s message on my blog?

When I traveled around Southeast Asia, I set myself a very low-budget, something between 15USD and 20USD per day. Surely I could make it lower. Yet, what was the point for a super cheap budget?

Nothing!

Super low-budget makes you think TOO much how to spend money per day and how much left that can  help survive in coming days. It simply makes you headache. Too much calculation.

There are many ways to help travelers save up their money. Please make it with senses. Staying with friends/local host family/CSer host is a way. Make sure that you are not taking use of those resources. Nothing comes to you for free AT ALL. Exchanging is a fair way. You receive what they offer. They also want to get back something from you. All depends on your deals.

When I decided to settle down, aka no more traveling around like a home-less woman, I want to open my place for CSers. Frankly, things I want to receive from CSers who I will host are travel stories, post cards and anything about tigers – which is my fav animal in the world. Things I can offer CSers are free place to crash like their away-home, my travel stories, fun times with my friends and travel information (as  much as I can). I do not take use of you. You should do the same.

I do not like people come to see me and tell me how cheaply they have been traveling and in return they do not respect what they have had. I am old enough and have enough CS experiences to figure out what is going on.

So, yes! if you agree with LEOC’s message and are on the same boat with us, you are welcome to my place in Ho Chi Minh City, VIET NAM

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