Budget travel tips from the girls of Sixpenny Globe

Last year, recent college graduates Kelsey Ogden and Kristen Refermat set off on the adventure of their lives — a four-month, 12-country backpacking trip — armed with two packs, four cameras, and a desire to document the ups and downs of traveling on $30 per day.

The result is Sixpenny Globe, a Kickstarter-crowdfunded travel documentary series following Kelsey and Kristen on their budget round-the-world trip. Episode 1 premieres on February 12 on their website and Blip.TV, with a prologue providing the girls’ backstory launching the week before. I caught up with the girls to see what inspired them to create Sixpenny Globe, how they made it happen, and what their tips are for traveling on a tight budget.

What inspired Sixpenny Globe?

We both had always wanted to do a huge trip. We’d both traveled quite a bit and lived abroad, but we’d never traveled for a truly extended period of time. So six months after we graduated from college, the time felt ripe for the Big Trip, but we were both pretty broke. Voila, the $30-a-day budget was born. As far as the web series aspect goes, there just seemed to be this gaping hole in travel documentation. There’s that romantic, idealized open road you read about in Kerouac, where all you need is 2 bucks in your pocket. Then there are the travel shows you see on TV where the perfectly manicured host is cracking canned one-liners about bratwurst from the comfort of her chic boutique hotel room. You can either read about bohemian broke people having adventures or you can watch Hollywood’s fake versions of adventures. But there seemed to be very little video documentation of real people traveling cheaply. Tons of people do it, but very few have endeavored to tell the story for the screen. So we figured we’d give it a go!

Once you decided to take the plunge, what were your first steps?
Our first step was buying the ticket! We had just casually emailed a round-the-word ticket broker to get a quote. It wasn’t as expensive as we’d expected, so we spent a couple days tweaking the itinerary and then just impulsively bought the ticket on credit, bandaid-removal style. Then once we decided to do the web series, we raised some money on Kickstarter for the cameras and equipment, got our visas sorted out for the countries that necessitated them, and got our shots and vaccines! That’s pretty much it. We really had absolutely no plan, aside from the set dates of our flights.

Where did your travels take you?
We left Los Angeles on February 28, 2011. We landed in Paris and spent almost a month going overland through France, Austria, Germany, and Denmark. We left out of Frankfurt but ended up with a detour through Cairo on our way to Amman, Jordan. Next came India, then Thailand. We went overland from Bangkok, through Cambodia, and into Vietnam. Left out of Ho Chi Minh City, landed in Sydney. Flew out of Melbourne back to LA after four months away. Compared to everyone else we met traveling, we went extremely quickly!

How did you survive on just $30 a day?
It wasn’t always sunshine and daisies, especially in Europe and Australia, where everything is so expensive. We Couchsurfed, hitchhiked, tap danced in the street with a hat out, slept in hallways of hotels we weren’t staying at, accepted a lot of hospitality from friends and strangers, and probably broke a few laws. We couldn’t do a lot of the museums or the other attractions with hefty price tags, but I think that actually made the whole trip better. We spent a lot of time walking the streets and a lot of time bonding over cheap wine. Since we couldn’t afford to have a rigid schedule of activities to stick to every day, we ended up actually enjoying time instead of worrying there wouldn’t be enough of it.

What budget tips can you give other wannabe globetrotters?
1. STAY AWAY FROM PACKAGE TOURS. No matter how much they tell you they’ll give you a good price, you can always arrange the same thing on your own for a fraction of the cost.
2. Stay at hostels with free breakfasts and LOAD UP. If you stuff yourself properly, you might not be hungry until dinner.
3. Don’t take taxis. There’s always a bus.
4. Learn to trust people, but follow your gut. If someone offers you help, take it, but if you start to feel like something’s fishy, bail out of that car and roll.
5. Just roll with the punches. When you’re on a budget, something will always go wrong and you won’t necessarily have the cash to fix it. It’s a lot more fun to laugh at it than cry about it.