Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat September 05 2015

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | September 5, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    When Not to Skimp

    When Not to Skimp

    PHOTO: Although I don’t typically like tours, I decided to do the balloon ride in Cappadocia after everyone swore by it. It has been a top highlight in my eight months of travel and worth every penny. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    It’s true — I’m an extremist. When it comes to budgeting or pursuing a goal, I go in tenfold. I will work seven days a week, forgo sleep and sometimes rely on apples as my only sustenance for a week. I am creative in my ways to cut costs, but the way I do things isn’t for everyone. As time goes on, I’m learning there needs to be a balance between being fiscally frugal and spending extravagantly.

    In eight months, I have met people who are happy to blow their money on anything and everything, the pickers-and-choosers, the penny-pinchers (me) and the few who are just downright cheap.

    Common sense can be a big help to decide what you don’t need to blow your money on, but below are things you should NEVER (and I mean, NEVER) cheap out on:

    Vaccinations and Travel/Health Insurance

    To be honest, I was dumbfounded by the amount of people I have met on the road who decided to forego travel/health insurance. Sure, it’s expensive — hell, one year of insurance cost me more than three plane tickets, even after an exhaustive web search for the best deal. But I’m smart enough to know that this is something you don’t want to mess around with. If something happens and you need to see a doctor, you’re screwed without it. (And after my $500 spent just to see a doctor and getting a basic prescription in Costa Rica, this proves insurance was worth it).

    Comfortable Shoes

    You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Eight months of travel, a lover of fashion and even after all this time, I’m still not able to wear ugly shoes. I have demolished two pair of Vans, destroyed my feet thinking I could get away wearing Converse and bought knock-off Birkenstocks thinking that because they were from Florence, they would be quality: WRONG.

    I threw away my Vans, left my Converse in the airport at Rome and regret my expensive purchase with my fake Birkenstocks now that they’re falling apart. The only thing I did right in my shoe choices were investing in Nike Airs. Do yourself a favor, buy quality — because clearly I’ve gone through the quantity.

    PHOTO: One of the trendy, yet terrible shoe choices I made for traveling: Converse. 

    Bottled Water

    I’ll admit it — at the beginning of my trip I refused to pay for bottle after bottle of water as it cut into my daily costs so I just drank less or took my chances with the tap.

    1. You need water to stay hydrated. 2. If you decide that you will go the tap water route, be prepared to deal with the unsightly consequences. Point blank, don’t skimp on bottled water. It’s as simple as that.

    Online Backup

    You take a million photos, videos, save contacts, you name it and you have it all on one hard drive or SD Card.

    You think to yourself “Ah, its FINE! It’ll be safe”

    Well, I’ve had my fair share of cards going missing, corrupting or being stolen. I had my bag taken which had my hard drive in it — my life’s work and in that moment panic hit like a tidal wave. Luckily I got it back but not everyone is that lucky. With that said, I was hesitant to pay $10 a month for online storage, but not anymore. Some things you can’t be frugal with: for me, it’s my photos. Those are priceless.

    That being said, below are a variety of options for a safe and secure backup. (I chose MediaFire’s 1TB backup and I couldn’t be happier with them.) Additional choices and insight can be found here.


    The sun is setting and the moment is perfect — if only you had that pina colada or that balloon ride in Cappadocia that’s €120 and that Croatian Sail you’ve heard so much about that’s way beyond your budget… what to do?

    This has been the biggest push and pull for me — Choosing which moment was worth the splurge but you have to choose your battles.

    For example, I chose the balloon ride in Cappadocia over Croatian sail because seeing the sunrise was more important than drinking my week away on a boat. I had that pina colada like I wanted and I have no regrets. When I pay more, I spend a week in what I like to call “recovery mode” to get my money back on track. Don’t cheap out on experiences but learn when to splurge and when to conserve.


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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