Travel was unfamiliar to me as a child. My parents couldn’t afford to take me to Disneyland or off the coast of the Caribbean Sea. When my family could, we took picnic trips to Central Park with baskets filled with fried chicken sandwiches, potato salad, and a fresh lemonade. Before the Guidos invaded Jersey shore, occasionally we drove to Jersey Shore to watch the sun rise from the balcony in our 3 star hotel. I was grateful for any opportunity to leave our cramped 1 bedroom apartment. I accepted that travel was a privilege that I would have until I went to the UK in the summer of ’14.
My best friend Niko moved to the UK for his master’s degree. My wallet screamed bitch where when I promised him that I’ll visit in the summer. Like every other student, I was working and going to school full time. The only savings I had was the loose change sprawled out on my dresser. A month before I anticipated on booking my flight, my car’s engine sounded like a helicopter and broke down. About $500 to my name, I signed my life to the devil and bought a new car. Failing at adulting, no funds, and a promise I couldn’t take back, I got a credit card. And $1200 later, I was on my way to Liverpool.
Miraculously, I saved $500 (£385) for this trip, which I was able to flex by the grace of Niko. Because of his superb budgeting skills, I ain’t miss no meals, saw 4 cities, and partied with friendly strangers. I went to Liverpool’s Pride Parade, explored the Kirkstall Abbey Ruins in Leeds, toured York City walls, and literally chilled at King Edwards beach in New Castle. Feeling successful, I managed to have £40 by the end of my trip. Budget travel felt too good to be true. It was, when I missed my flight home to New York.
It was our bright idea to go to a Chinese restaurant at 3 am, 3 hours before I had to leave for the airport. Unexpectedly, the restaurant closed. So we found a chicken spot to cure our hunger. Returning to Niko’s flat, I regrettably took a nap. Long soap opera short, I got to the airport 50 minutes prior to departure. Thinking all airports operate like JFK, I was sure I just made it. Denied check-in and no working cell phone, I briefly went into panic mode. Knowing that Niko was long passed out, I used the last of my cash to contact my cousins in London via Facebook. Maxing out my credit card, I took a 4-hour ride from Liverpool to London. Grateful to have family abroad, I still had no idea how I was going home. With dust in my wallet, I convinced American Airlines to turn a $800 flight to $400. Courtesy of my cousin’s loan, I was on my way home that same day.
For a moment I never wanted to travel again. But this series of unfortunate events turned into a series of laughter. Learning my lesson, I plotted my next return. Researching budget travel hacks and tips, I learned glitch fares, accumulating flight miles shopping, on/off peak seasons to travel, alternative accommodation, and dis