Somewhere in every backpacker’s story – at least every backpacker heading through Europe – there is mention of a small café, or a broken down pub. It is the essential element that worms its way into our hearts and memories. It was at such a café that I found myself thinking of returning home after three months roughing it through Europe. I was in France, in the case where I had first started by trip, and with a cup of coffee, ledger spread open in front of me, updating my finances. The money had always been tight – I’d started my adventure knowing I would have to scrimp along the way – but it seemed especially tight now. I was considering selling something to get enough money for a ticket home. I had been dangerously close to tapping into my emergency fund.
I’m not a regular traveler. This was my first trip, with friends, and they had all convinced me to come along. After a month, they’d all raised white flags and gone home, but I was inspired by all the beautiful and exotic new things Europe had to offer, and couldn’t bring myself to head back so soon. So I made a decision – I would stay, and worry about the money along the way. Needless to say the money quickly disappeared. I started preparing a list of all the items that I could sell. My camera equipment was of some value; that could probably sell at a decent price. What about my more expensive souvenirs? Were those any good? I just didn’t want to have to wire home for the money.
I was looking through a traveler’s guide – one of those big ones that has a bunch of color coded sections and tips and guides – when I read mention of how you could use accumulated miles to get free trips. I remembered one of the attendants at the airport saying that I had some accumulated and decided to go online and check my account. It turned out that I had enough for about halfway, and I also found out I could buy the remainder of the miles online. Of course I dreaded that it would all be too great of an expense and just lead to another dead end, but I continued my search. A few Google clicks later, I had landed in a bunch of airline mile sites. The Mileage Club was the one that seemed to have miles for the airline that I needed (Delta) with the best rates. They were a little lower than competitors and if I scraped every penny, I could just make it home.
I’m not too confident about online buying. So I called the helpline, I checked out some online forums – did this miles business work? Was it all legit? After about two days of research, I was convinced that it was okay.
Beatrice D. Ware is a travel-hungry 22-year-old vacationer from Maine who spent a summer in Europe and now years exploring Africa.