By Ben Thompson
Babette Lucas-Marriott is a second year History student at Manchester Metropolitan University, but through her Instagram account, @student_on_tour, she leads a whole other life. Her bio, reading ’20 Years | 25 Countries’, would leave many perplexed as to how a university student finds the time – and the money – to do such extensive travelling, but Babette was kind enough to answer some questions I had about blogging, travelling and budgeting so that the aspiring travellers among you can follow in her footsteps.
1) What initially made you want to start documenting your travels through Instagram?
I initially began documenting my travels during my first year at university. I travelled to Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, Malta and Portugal during first year and people couldn’t believe how I could afford to do this. I wanted to show other students travelling on a student budget is nowhere near as hard as it can seem. I also wanted to document my travels somewhere so I could look back on everywhere I have been.
2) Of all the places you’ve travelled to, which has been your favourite and why?
In Europe, my favourite place has to be Amsterdam – I have been there twice now. It is full of history and culture but also has a lively night life. There is something so peaceful about wondering by the canals of Amsterdam in the sun!
Malawi was also an amazing experience. It was a huge culture shock but the most incredible experience. I met so many people from entirely different walks of life, some of whom I am still in contact with today. It was a truly humbling experience to meet people who are living on the bare minimum yet were so welcoming and are truly incredible people.
3) In making your travel decisions, do you go bargain hunting or spare no expense?
I cut down costs in every way possible! In order to be able to travel as much as I do, I always stick to a tight budget. This means budget hotels, buses instead of taxis and not eating out. If you are happy staying in budget accommodation you can get some amazing deals – an apartment in Malta for £5 a night, a hostel in Bangkok for £2 a night or even a 4-bed apartment in Portugal for £5 a night. Although I always choose budget, though, you do have to be careful when picking hostels – I’ve had my fare share of nightmare hostel situations!
During first year I travelled to Malta, Portugal, Frankfurt and Berlin, and these four places combined cost me £300. This included return flights and four nights’ accommodation in each place. There are some amazing deals online, you just have to be persistent, delete your cookies and keep looking!
4) A lot of students want to travel more but feel they have no time or no money. How do you work around these constraints?
Money constraints can seem to make the idea of travelling completely unobtainable but this is far from the truth. You can easily get 4 nights in Malta including flights and accommodation for £65 off season. It is easier then it seems to save up to travel. Miss a night out once in a while or skip eating a meal out and put the money you would have spent in a travel fund and you save up in no time. Being at university is the perfect time to travel as we have the flexibility to travel in term time, meaning prices are often half that of the summer months. It can feel like a huge stress travelling in term time with deadlines, but it can also be great motivation.
5) Do you have a lot of students asking you for travelling advice?
Again, this is why I set up my Instagram account – I had so many people at university asking me where to find the best deals or how I managed to travel so often. I absolutely love sharing tips and tricks I have learnt through my own experience. I often get messages on Instagram from people who are on a budget but would want to travel and I love giving my advice and helping the best I can!
6) What’s one thing you’ve learnt about travelling on a student budget that you’d give as advice to somebody if they were to ask?
It’s hard to chose just one… Just do it! Prices change all the time, so if you see a deal, just book it and make the most of it. I have had the most incredible experiences travelling, from cooking with monks on top of the tallest mountain in China to staying on a private island in Malawi. Make the most of every opportunity, meet new people and try new things!
To keep up with Babette and her travels, you can follow her Instagram: @student_on_tour