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How to satisfy your wanderlust without spending a fortune

On a tight budget but want to travel? Try these alternative ways of satisfying your wanderlust without spending a fortune.


Sep 10, 2021


Satisfy your wanderlust


Almost everyone by now will have heard or seen this word, but what is wanderlust and why is it used so often in the travel industry?

Wanderlust, originally a German word used to describe the enjoyment of roaming around, means a strong desire to travel and explore the world.

This sensation will be a familiar one to many people, which is why it is abundant in Instagram posts, blogs and travel magazines. When I first learnt about the meaning of wanderlust it was a revelation; the way I have felt for as long as I can remember was now summed up in one, simple term.

I have had the luck of being able to travel extensively, with my family when I was growing up and now as an adult. I've been trekking in Morocco, visited temples in Cambodia, talked to Sadhus in India, done wine tasting in California, danced the samba in Brazil... and I still want to explore so much more.

But, there are times when travel is not possible because of time and money constraints. That does not mean, however, that wanderlust goes away.

In this article, I'll be discussing what we travel enthusiasts can do to satisfy our wanderlust without spending a fortune!

How to satisfy your wanderlust without spending a fortune

1. Make a travel playlist

Wanderlust playlist

Music has the power to transport you to faraway lands and take you back in time, without you even having to leave the comfort of your own home. Some songs may remind you of past holidays while others make you dream about future adventures. Why not make a playlist full of these tunes to spark your wanderlust and get you in the mood for travel?

I recently traveled to Brazil and fell in love with this vibrant country where music and dancing is an integral part of everyday life. Whenever I am feeling nostalgic about my trip and get the feeling that I want to return, I just put on a playlist full of music from Brazil, reminisce about the good times I had there and imagine my return one day.

2. Throw a theme party

French cheese and baguette

Who doesn't love an excuse to dress up and party? If you're feeling the desire to travel but you're homebound, just invite a foreign country into your home by throwing a theme party.

In addition to dressing the part, add country-specific food and drinks into the mix, decorate the living room with pictures and objects from that particular place, put on a travel-themed playlist and you've got a great party!

How about a Mexican party with tacos, margaritas, sombreros and a piñata? A French feast with champagne, a big cheese board and baguettes, berets and chansons? Or even a Moroccan night with tagines, fresh mint tea and henna tattoos?

The possibilities are endless so let your imagination run wild and satisfy that wanderlust of yours!

3. Read travel literature

Travel literature

Books are marvelous things that allow us to travel far and wide without ever having to leave our chairs. A well-written and inspiring book has the power to take us backwards and forwards in time and to transport us to every possible location on earth — it's a little piece of magic you can carry around in your pocket.

Whether you like to read novels or prefer non-fiction, there is literature out there to suit your tastes and whet your appetite for travel. Here are a few ideas (books that gave me serious wanderlust when I read them) to get you started:

  • The Beach, by Alex Garland: Set in Thailand, an adventurous backpacker seeks paradise on an idyllic island inhabited by a travelers community but ends up going through hell.
  • The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho: A wandering shepherd embarks upon a long journey through Spain and North Africa to follow his destiny.
  • Full Tilt: From Dublin to Delhi with a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy: Dervla Murphy, at the age of 10, decided she wanted to cycle from her home in Ireland to India. Almost 20 years later, she starts her adventure and travels through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan before reaching her final destination.
  • Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck: Steinbeck travels with his dog Charley in a truck across the United States to gain a deeper understanding of the country he calls home.
  • On the Road, by Jack Kerouac: The classic road trip story, based on Kerouac's experiences traveling across America with friends against a backdrop of Beat counterculture.

4. Watch foreign films

Wanderlust films

Just like books, films allow us to travel the world (and even the universe) while staying put in our own homes. You could watch a travel documentary, a foreign language film, a Hollywood blockbuster or an indie classic... all that matters is that you feel as though you are escaping your current reality and get the sense that your thirst for travel is being quenched.

Here are some of my favorite wanderlust-inciting films:

  • The Motorcycle Diaries: Ernesto "Che" Guevara travels with his friend Alberto Granado from Brazil to Peru by motorcycle and the trip has a huge impact on his view of the world. N.B. Read the book first if you are like me and prefer to see the film adaptation only after having read the story.
  • Into the Wild: Christopher McCandless gives up everything he knows and owns and sets out on a journey into the wilderness of Alaska. The film Into the Wild was also adapted from a book!
  • Under an Arctic Sky: A group of surf-obsessed friends travel to Iceland to find amazing waves in isolated places. A must-see for surfers, but also for anyone who just loves to marvel at beautiful scenery.
  • Baraka: A documentary film without narration displaying some of our planet's wonders and exploring man's impact on Earth. It was shot in 24 countries and contains scenes that will take your breath away.

5. Revamp your home in a foreign style

Scandinavian interior

Unable to travel to exotic places at the moment? Invite the exotic into your home by revamping your interior a little. The changes you make can be as simple or as extravagant as you like!

Hang some paintings of your dream destinations on your walls, display souvenirs collected while traveling in your living room or even paint the walls of a room to create the feeling of being in a foreign country.

Dreaming of island-hopping in Greece? Paint the walls white, add deep blue accents and hang up a traditional charm used to ward off the evil eye. Can't get that city trip to Copenhagen out of your mind? Take a leaf out of the Scandinavian style book and make your interior cleaner and more minimalistic.

Even with just a small budget, you can update your living space and appease your inner traveler at the same time.

You might also like: 14 TOP cheapest countries to visit as a Worldpackers volunteer

6. Enjoy exotic cuisine at local restaurants

Vietnamese Pho

Enjoy the smells and tastes of other countries in your home town or city by eating at restaurants offering international cuisine. If you live in the countryside or in a village you may have to travel a bit to find global cuisine, but that's all part of the experience.

Make a proper outing of it. And, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere with a good range of foreign restaurants, make use of it. To satisfy your adventurous side, try something different than the usual Chinese restaurant or all-you-can-eat sushi buffet (not that there's anything wrong with those options of course) and opt for Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Peruvian or Portuguese food.

Reward your taste buds with dishes and drinks from around the world! If you're on a really tight budget, you can swap eating out for cooking exotic dishes at home and, while you're at it, hone your cooking skills.

7. Learn a new language

Studying lakeside

Learning a foreign language will not only help you to communicate with speakers of that language, but it will also teach you a great deal about the country or countries where it is spoken and about the people who live there. The process of language learning involves finding out a lot about the history and culture of a group or groups of people, something avid travelers will appreciate.

You may want to learn a language in preparation for a trip you are planning or perhaps you fell in love with a country in the past and want to get to know it better. Maybe you met a special someone abroad and want to be able to communicate with them and their loved ones better or, maybe, just like me, you just enjoy learning languages and want to give yourself a new challenge.

Whatever your reason, you can be sure that learning a new language will help to satisfy your wanderlust without actually having to travel far. It is something you can do very cheaply too; there are many free language-learning applications out there and all you'll need to buy are some books.

In order to practice speaking, try and find speakers of the target language in your area and see if you can arrange a language swap. This way, you'll get to meet new people too, meaning even more fun!

8. Do what you would normally do on holiday, but at home

Montmartre, Paris, France

When we travel, we explore places with childlike curiosity and awe. We seek out adventures, look for beautiful spots in nature, climb to the highest viewpoint above a city, surf the net to find out about the coolest stores, experiment with new foods, try out new activities, and even talk to strangers in bars.

Why, then, do we often stop doing this when we are at home? We should try to chase that exhilarating feeling of discovering new things when we are in our home villages, towns or cities.

In doing so, it will feel a lot like traveling and your wanderlust will be satisfied without you having gone too far or having spent too much money!

9. Have a staycation

Relaxing on the beach, Tarifa, Spain

Continuing on from the previous idea, there is the concept of a staycation. I first heard this word in Britain in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis; many people could no longer afford to go on holidays abroad and so the idea of spending the holidays at home suddenly became very popular.

Traveling doesn't have to mean flying to a faraway place or crossing an ocean to get to your destination, it is something you can do within your country's borders. You can do all the things you'd usually do on a holiday abroad, but at home: go camping, visit national parks, marvel at local architecture, rent a camper van and go on a road trip, eat ice-creams on the beach, try out a new water sport, go pony-trekking, and have barbecues almost every night.

By seeing your country through a tourist's perspective, you'll learn to appreciate it more and see that travel does not necessarily mean traveling long distances.

10. Meet and host other travelers

Travel friends

Satisfy your wanderlust by seeing other travelers fulfill theirs! One of the best things about travel is meeting and getting to know new people, and you could be one the of the people that a traveler meets, forms a bond with and perhaps never forgets.

Thanks to the possibilities of social media today, it has never been easier to connect with people and make friends while traveling. There are countless apps that are either aimed at bringing people together or offer the chance to do so.

Join Facebook travel groups, use Flip the Trip (an application that connects locals with tourists), take a look at Meetup to find out about local events where there could be travelers present, join Couchsurfing and offer fellow travelers a place to stay, rent out a room in your flat or house on Airbnb (and earn some money in the process), or even use dating apps to find people new to town.

11. Reminisce over previous travels with photos

Travel photographs

Sometimes, nostalgia about past travels can consume us and all we want to do is be taken back to that particular place and time. Looking at photos and watching videos of these trips and adventures is a great way to satisfy your wanderlust and will bring back loads of happy memories. Doing this will probably even motivate you even more to start saving for future travel plans!

Organize your photos in an album, make a scrapbook, make prints to hang on the walls, create a slideshow and watch it on a big screen... just do something to make sure that your photos don't stay hidden on your phone or computer!

12. Plan your next trip

Travel planning

So, you've started saving and you have a destination (or destinations) in mind. Now it's time to start planning your next adventure.

How are you going to get there and then get around? What is your budget? What will your route be? Where will you stay? What sights, monuments, areas of natural beauty do you want to see?

Finding answers to all of these questions can be a daunting task, but planning is actually part of the fun of traveling. And luckily you have a wealth of online resources at your disposal these days to help you plan the perfect trip.

If you're a creative type, you may want to create a mood board depicting how you visualize your trip. You can then start planning how to transform your ideas into concrete plans.

If you're someone that plans things by writing, make lists of places you want to go and things you want to see. Then order these in terms of importance to give your travel plans some extra focus.

While you're doing all of this planning, coping with feelings of wanderlust will become a much easier task because your dreams will be becoming reality.

13. Join Worldpackers and do a work exchange

Work exchange

So far, this post has been about how you can satisfy your wanderlust without actually traveling to other countries. But thanks to something called Worldpackers, you can travel without having to spend hardly any money at all.

Worldpackers is a collaborative platform aimed at connecting travelers with hosts all over the world, where they can exchange their skills for accommodation (and, more often than not, much more). The organization's motto is: "Life changing travel experiences on a budget" and I wholeheartedly agree.

Doing work exchanges while traveling not only saved me a great deal of money, it also added a whole new dimension to my travels. I got to know people and places so much better and I felt like I was contributing to local communities.

Without Worldpackers, I would never have been able to manage traveling for so long in Portugal and Brazil. Join this global community and start traveling!

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