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Stress free on a shoestring (tips for dealing with the stresses of traveling on the cheap)

By Lisa Xia

On the road, things tend to follow Murphy’s law. When everything is on the upswing and things couldn’t be smoother, nothing ever seems to go wrong. On the flip side, it seems that when everything and anything can go wrong—it does.

Traveling on a shoestring means that when things break down, there is less disposable budget to stop and smell the spa. But there are still some easy ways to keep calm when nothing seems to be going right, without breaking the bank:

Level your expectations

1This should be the starting point: stop expecting that everything you plan will happen just according to plan. This is traveling, after all, and things with undoubtedly go wrong. I once booked a connecting flight from Santiago, Chile, to Punta Arenas that was set to depart 40 minutes after my flight from Chicago was to land in Santiago. It was an impossible task but my only option to fly out of Santiago that day. I simply expected the worst and prayed for the best. When you enter situations with a more realistic mindset, wrenches in the plan can seem more a comical error than a hair-pulling frustration.

Go for a run

A backpacker friend of mine said she was the only traveler who stuffed running shoes in her backpack and found it massively relieving to go on a short run whenever she felt frustrated—which was often, since she was trying to start a company while traveling through Peru, the land of the lost wifi connection. Nothing clears the mind of stress like a good sweat. And, sure this could take the form of horseback riding, surfing or rappelling down a mountain, but the great thing about running is that it’s free.

Adopt a problem-solving approach

Although it can be hard to avoid, there’s nothing good that that will come from pointing fingers or dwelling on how you got into a bad situation. When traveling with a buddy, it’s easy to assess blame and focus on how your companion was complicit in creating said situation. Instead, stay laser-focused on problem-solving. Just like there’s a strange satisfaction to figuring out a tough math problem, there is a flood of ecstasy when you collaboratively find a solution to the dilemma.

Read fiction

Although I don’t buy everything Timothy Ferriss is selling on the 4-hour work week, I do buy his advice that reading fiction “engages the imagination and demands present-state attention.” A wandering mind is an unhappy mind said Matt Killingsworth, and an anxiety-filled wandering mind in a foreign country can be miserable. Read some fiction and escape the temporary anxiety. In a state of peace, solutions will become more clear.

Drink wine

Lots of it. No seriously. For those uncomfortable overnight bus rides or long flights, two glasses of wine is a great amount to knock you out until sunrise. On a more positive note, there is little better than flowing wine and good conversation with fellow travelers.

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