Seven Places to Go When You're Lost, Broke, and Ready for Adventure
You’re at a crossroad in your life. Maybe it’s a failed relationship, a crappy job, or just a total “over it” outlook on life. You’re ready to go somewhere. You’re not rolling in dough, but you need to escape and figure sh*t out. All around the world places are filled with affordable adventure and are perfect budget travel destinations, you might just have to look a little harder.
I’ve been there. Actually, I feel like I’m always there. Not always the whole “lost in life” scenario but definitely the “let’s do something crazy and new and book a trip that may be slightly irresponsible but I’ll have zero regrets”.
I’m sorry. I’m a terrible influence. Actually, I’m not that sorry. Just don’t tell your parents/spouses/pets I’m the one influencing rash decisions.
Through the last four years or so (can you believe it’s been that long since I started this blog?!) I haven’t figured out that much in life, but one thing I’m getting the hang of is discovering places that are affordable, adventurous, and worth the money. Booking a trip is a lot of pressure. A girl next to me at a coffee shop just leaned over and asked me to double-check her itinerary on a flight she’s about to book.
So if you’re ready to hit submit on that plane ticket, but need a little extra push, here it is. My six top places to go to find inspiration without regretting the money you spent:
1. New Hampshire
Road tripping through the old Appalachians and renting beautiful remote cabins nestled into the mountains kind of sounds like a cheesy Nicholas Sparks movie, but it’s actually a Nicholas Sparks movie that can be mixed with Indiana Jones. It’s both relaxing, adventurous, romantic, and affordable.
Mount Washington, one of the country’s most wild mountains, is a great trip that can be hiked or driven to. It’s the second highest peak east of the Mississippi and holds the record for the highest wind speed ever recorded. Although only 6,000 feet high, it’s harsh and unpredictable weather makes it a truly unique and heart-racing place to visit.
The relaxed state is filled with adorable New England towns, affordable accommodation, and completely badass adventures around every corner.
2. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Michigan is actually made up of two peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula is a remote and hidden paradise that is desolate and completely underrated among other parts of the United States. Cheap motels run $50/night and there are hundreds of backcountry/free campsites. Some situated directly on Lake Superior, one of the worlds largest freshwater lakes.
There are massive cliffs in places like Pictured Rocks, and picture-perfect sleepy towns like Copper Harbor, which is about the furthest you can get from life’s responsibilities (seriously, look it up on a map).
A trip here is going to turn back time. You won’t have a lot of service, and you’re probably going to have to carry an old-fashioned map with you, but that’s what makes it that much better. If you want waterfalls, hikes, and good places to read a book, try this trip.
Trick your friends into thinking you’re a high roller and Instagram model for a week, it’ll be great.
This recommendation may be a bit intimidating because, yes, Bali is basically on the complete opposite side of the world. An island which is part of Indonesia, Bali is a tropical dream for many dolla bills less than a trip to the Caribbean.
What may be expensive? The flight. It’s probably going to cost around $800. Past that it's perhaps the perfect budget travel destination. A jungle villa with a private infinity pool? $40. A nice meal out? $3. Not to mention there is an abundance of tropical beaches, rice fields, volcanoes, and monkeys. If you want cheap, but also dig luxury, you’re welcome.
4. Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is a dream for budget travelers. Countries like Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Hungry are breathtakingly beautiful and ridiculously cheap. Think entire Airbnb apartments for $30/night or hostels for $5/night.
Everyone dreams of backpacking Europe, but when you initially look at countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Norway, the cost of accommodation, food, and activities can be pretty off-setting. Plus you’ll probably get to Paris and be greeted by hordes of tourists shoving each other to see the Eiffel Tower. Eastern Europe is real, less touristy, and extremely cultural.
So if you want Europe, but also still want culture, rich history, and budget-friendly cities: Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria.
The thing that is great about Utah is the abundance of cheap/free camping and free activities. You can fly out, rent a car, and spend the rest of the time paying little for accommodation. Four out of the five National Parks in Utah double as an International Dark Sky Park, which means they are open 24/7 and you can *technically* sleep in your car in parking lots. Or just stargaze all night with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Either one works.
Not to mention Utah is incredibly underrated compared to its neighbor, Colorado. They are very similar in landscape and adventure, but Colorado is much more expensive thanks to the influx of tourists.
Iceland as a budget destination? Isn’t it pretty expensive?
Yes. Iceland as a country is known to be pricey, however, there are ways around it. Thanks to airlines like WOW, you can book flights to Iceland for as little as $200 from the United States.
In Iceland, wild camping is completely legal, meaning you can camp or park your campervan anywhere on public lands. If you’re not the camping type, campervans are actually pretty luxurious and sometimes can even come with shower hook-ups. Avoid places like the Blue Lagoon, which costs around $75, and instead, go to other natural hot springs that are dotted around the country and cost a fraction of the price. The only reason the Blue Lagoon is so popular is because it’s located twenty minutes from Iceland’s international airport, making it an easy and convenient visit.
Food is Iceland’s biggest expense. I’d recommend eating local once and surviving off grocery store goodies and gas station hot dogs for the rest of your visit. If you’re a foodie traveler, this might not be the most cost-effective place to visit.
7. Groupon Travel Deals
Okay, so this one isn’t *technically* a place, but it opens a ridiculous number of new and exciting locations you never dreamed of visiting. For example, a 10-day trip to China with airfare and hotels included for $700. Or seven nights all inclusive to the Dominican Republic with airfare for $800.
I’ve used Groupon for a trip before, and it was fantastic. And no, this part of my blog isn’t even sponsored. It might not be an insane five-star resort, but if you’re just like “f*ck it I want to take a trip I can afford without having to get stressed over planning”, Groupon trips are like your fairy godmother.
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure, outdoor, and sustainable tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.
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