Engaging with local communities and other travellers, learning from people’s stories, cultures and challenging myself. As a traveller, those are the experiences I am keen on exploring.
Therefore, it is naturally that I connected with Jessica and became interested in her unique story. We first met on a gorgeous day at the centre of Praça do Comercio in Lisboa, and instantly connected throughout our similar philosophy regarding travelling, our passion for cultures, languages and people.
She states “To enjoy yourself does not mean you should have the most expensive things. For me, being able to explore another country and meet other travellers and locals is the best and the most rewarding part.”
Jessica Owusu-Bonsu is a Torontonian of Ghanaian and Filipino background. An avid traveller who visiting countless countries across continents. She is currently working as a travel consultant; she is an advocate for cultural awareness and community-based tourism. Adopting a posture of curiosity, respect and open-mindedness while exploring different lands, spending money wisely throughout one’s journey are some of the topics she is passionate about.
She told me that throughout her experiences, as an exchange student in Spain at the time, she was on a budget yet made the most of her time in each country. As a student in Europe, she visited most of Western and Eastern Europe as well as countries in North Africa and the Middle east.
Intrigued by her story I was interested in her tools, her tips to create memorable experiences while on a budget, to fully and freely live her passion despite what may seem like obstacles navigating her own path.
How did you manage to travel on a budget to so many countries?
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad and make the most out of it! Therefore, I started saving heavily during a year and a half. I wanted to save enough for food, basic expenses and most certainly for traveling. Being able to live in Spain for a semester enable me to travel around Europe using Ryanair and other cheap bus and airline companies.
I travelled so much because while I was saving, I was focused. I was a penny pincher, so frugal, so cheap and careful with my money. My parents are not rich so I knew I had to work harder and saved like I have never saved before. I worked 3 jobs, applied for scholarships and bursaries.
I remember that whenever I wanted to buy anything, I reminded myself the less money I spend in Canada, the more I could spend abroad. I had a goal and a motivation to keep me going. My motto was, live like a peasant now, so I could live like a Queen in Spain.
It is possible to travel on a budget. There is a saying that said, “You spend $10 a day on lunch. That’s $300 in a month, $900 in 3 months… you can afford to travel, you just don’t like making sandwiches”.
Learn how to budget, trust me, it can take you to a lot of places especially if you have that passion to discover somewhere new. Knowing your why, having a specific goal, some tools to keep you motivated, a great motto are some of the things that will keep you on track.
Do you have any practical tips on how to travel and spend wisely?
You should dvaluate your priorities. What do you value the most and which compromise make the most sense to you? You can spend less on some things, that are less important to you so that you have more money left to use on other things, that are of greater value to you.
For example, as a Torontonian I am already aware that my flight ticket may not be cheap since Toronto is one of the most expensive airports to fly out of. However, I work my budget around that, and try to be smart and pragmatic in terms of my choices.
For instance, I may choose go to the grocery store and cook rather than eating out every day for every meal, or choose the $30 8 hour overnight bus ride rather than the $250 flight. Or, most importantly I would spend my money on an attraction or experience instead of going shopping. It is about making the best out of what you have.
How to enjoy yourself abroad while still being careful with your budget?
The best things in life are free! Laughs. I think it’s not just what you do on a trip but also the people you meet that make your trip. Don’t let a small budget prevent you from taking a trip. Again, it’s very important to prioritise. If you went to Florida and the #1 thing you wanted to do was go to Disney World, do so! Factor in what you want to do into your budget and just weave out the unimportant things and cheap out on those.
To enjoy yourself does not mean you should have the most expensive things. For me, being able to explore another country and meet other travellers and locals is the best and the most rewarding part.
Get out of your comfort zone and meet others, do things you wouldn’t normally do, challenge yourself you are in a new country, go live, have fun!
Any general tips on how to make the most of your time abroad?
Research Research Research! Before you go somewhere know what you want to do or at least have an idea. Perhaps you are going to Barcelona but only for 2 nights, make sure you have an idea of the places you want to go so that you don’t just waste your day.
If you go into Barcelona knowing that you want to go to La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Las Ramblas and the Olympic Stadium you can plan out your days figuring out that these places are closer together so after there you can go to another place and then tomorrow on the other side of the city.
The first time I went to Portugal I wasted my first day and only did I realise on my last day in the city “I should have done that, we could have done this”. It is also fun to arrive in a city and just go with the flow, but have an idea of what or where you would like to go so you don’t waste your time especially if you are only in a city for a short amount of time.
Another tip especially when travelling alone is MEET people! Explore together, meet locals that are willing to show you around, find free city tours.