Whilst underwater bedrooms, infinity pools, yachts and Michelin meals may be what some individuals look for in a travel itinerary, Will Hatton is not one of them. Through his travel blog, The Broke Backpacker, Hatton is proving that the term ‘budget’ needn’t just be associated with lighter pockets and tighter purse strings. For most of his time travelling Hatton survived on just $10 a day, yet his resulting experience doesn’t seem in anyway hampered, modest or lacking. Instead budget travel has become the epicentre of Hatton himself: its impressions are in his love life, his career, his memories and his palpable exuberance and passion.
Hatton’s ‘poor man’ approach to travelling has allowed him to become rich in experience. Yet despite Hatton’s certainty that budget travel is the right travel, we are still constantly goaded with the allure of luxury, pushed towards us by travel agents, social media influencers and glossy magazines. With such an overwhelming market for luxury travel that smothers its less glamorous yet, crucially, more accessible cousin, Hatton’s grand claim that budget travel is superior is certainly worth listening to.
The most blatant benefit of budget travel according to Hatton is, as the name suggests, the fact it is cheaper than its luxury counterpart. This means that the cliché tale of young individuals desperately pursuing unfulfilling and uninteresting jobs in order to finance their trips needn’t be the case. This is a concept that Hatton is all too familiar with. Through gritted teeth he recalls his pre-travelling 60 hour working weeks that started at 5am: unloading lorries for minimum wage. Once he quit and went on the road he never looked back. In a similar vein, it means that travellers don’t need to run their finances in to the ground during their trip, grappling for jobs or turning to parents upon return. As many young nomads can tell you, nothing feels smaller than your childhood bedroom once you’ve seen the big wide world. Yet for Hatton, who has now dedicated his life to travelling with no plans of stopping anytime soon, the key financial benefit of saving the pennies and the pounds is that it enables him and other nomads to travel for longer. After 10 years of travelling, Hatton still has a hunger for more: a testament to how enjoyable ‘slumming it’ can really be.
For Hatton, budget travel is no longer a lifestyle he is pushed towards, yet even on his enviable salary he surprisingly continues to favour this modest budget. Because what the label of ‘budget’ fails to disclose, is the wealth of benefits beyond a number or sum. Perhaps the label of ‘authentic travel’, ‘transformative travel’ or ‘rewarding travel’ may be more fitting, as the type of travel that Hatton boasts about on his blog goes beyond a pair of hareem pants and a selfie stick. In order to travel for longer, Hatton would often monetise his time by working a few hours in return for board at hostels or in people’s homes. This gave him more time with local people. He was able to form relationships with them and develop a deep and unparalleled understanding of culture that can’t be found in a resort or tour. The people that hosted him and worked alongside him showed him their Thailand, Vietnam, Peru, took him to hidden gems untouched by western package companies. Hatton fondly describes his quest to monetise his days as adventures, using the time he milked a goat as a prime example.What’s more, in the case of many popular travel destinations, small scale employment can support the local businesses of impoverished communities. Hatton by no means sugar-coats how tough this less polished form of travelling can be. It’s unpredictable, but what can be predicted is the self-growth and evolution that comes from being pushed out of the confines of a comfort zone. He aptly argues that the more difficulties you experience, the more capable you become.
Yet for Hatton, the most poignant benefit of budget travel has to be the opportunities he’s had to meet like minded people in hostels and bars. In the absence of the typical western comforts of cosy bedding, soundproof windows and trashy television, travellers can find comfort in the company of others. However, I don’t think even Budget travel aficionado William Hatton could have expected such company to last as long as it has for him. In 2015 Hatton set out on an incredible adventure, travelling from the UK to Papua New Guinea with out the use of flights. He reached Iran suspecting it may be a country where company is harder to find, but then he met Nina and promptly fell in love. But beyond meeting this remarkable woman who is now his wife, are the innumerable faces that embellish his adventures: the washed-up Rockstar, the stripper, the Russian tycoon, the professional poker player, the Kurdish freedom fighter. He likens it to speed dating for friends. Hatton’s version of travel would not fit on the pages of a holiday brochure. It is not prescriptive, text book or replicable… But that’s its charm. Budget travel belongs to the traveller and runs deeper than a perfect Instagram photo. Hatton and his blog serve as proud, living evidence that quality of experience needn’t be dependent on money.
With so much to gain with such little expense, perhaps new cultures, cuisines and quests are closer than we think. Ten minutes of delving in to the archives of The Broke Backpacker and it already seems an injustice to try and compare budget with luxury. Whilst the Balinese beds and overpriced cocktails may still be beckoning, they only promise a chance to relax and have temporary fun. Meanwhile, budget travel offers the opportunity to curate a unique adventure that will be etched in to you for years after the return flight- if you ever decide to return. However, despite his best efforts, Hatton understands that part of the magic of his experience is that the majority of it transcends a blog or article. An itinerary can be written on a page but the smells, sounds and feelings of a country cannot. Whilst The Broke Backpacker can successfully serve as a foundation to promote and encourage more budget travel, the only way to be truly convinced is to pack a bag (lightly), book a flight and take the plunge.