“But what are you going to do there?”
I got this question a lot after telling friends and family about my plans to study abroad in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for a semester.
But that’s the beauty of it. Study abroad gives the opportunity to have four months to explore a new city organically rather than meticulously planning outings into a short period of vacation time.
Of course, there’s also the study part of being abroad. I will try to pencil in some quality time with my books.
The one part of my trip that I did plan is the financial aspect. Taking a trip is expensive but it doesn’t have to be outrageous.
No matter what country I’m in, I am a cheapskate. My thriftiness is borderline disgusting. I stretch my money so far you would think I’m the love child of Mr. Krabs and Suze Orman. And if this journalism thing doesn’t work out, look for me on Extreme Couponing in 20 years.
Out of fear that I will overspend during my travels, I’ve budgeted $5 per day in spending money. This includes meals, necessities, souvenirs, entertainment and transportation — but not tuition or housing. One U.S. dollar converts to roughly 22,505 Vietnamese dong, and goods are much cheaper there. So being a tourist on $5 per day is feasible but not necessarily easy.
I may make exceptions when traveling outside of Ho Chi Minh but pledge to try to average under $35 a week for day-to-day life.
Even though I don’t exactly know what I am going to do in Vietnam, I am fully ready. I have dreamt of traveling for years. I have my budget. I have my stash of cash from working at a lousy job over winter break. I have a very sore shoulder from receiving an armful of vaccinations, so here’s to hoping my experience is amazing and that I avoid tropical diseases. Stay tuned for dispatches about my spending woes and other inevitable misadventures.