After spending five weeks on a remote tropical island, Ash London knows how to enjoy herself on a budget
Ahhhh the old "escape to a tropical island and forget all of your problems" scenario.
If you, like me, have felt the itch to escape boring and live it up on an island for a while, then this may just be the push you need to book that flight. After five weeks in a remote tropical paradise in the Philippines where the hardest decision I had to make was whether I wanted rum or vodka in my $2 cocktail, I reckon I've got island living on a budget down to a fine art.
If five star luxury is your kinda holiday, then maybe return to your St. Tropez inspired Pinterest board. But if you're not scared of a little compromise in order to have the adventure of a lifetime in the hot sun, then ditch your shoes, pack some sunscreen and read on, baby!
1. Drink the local beer
Yes we all know you're a big fan of boutique distilled gin with organic tonic, but while you're on the island - it's all about the local beer. It's brewed for the specific climate you're in, gets you in the local spirit and the best part? It's usually the cheapest thing on the menu.
Which means you can afford other stuff - like more beer.
2. Eat with the locals
The best food is always the local food - and if you can push past the fluoro lighting, plastic chairs and perhaps a couple of dodgy stains on the tablecloth, chances are you might be surprised at just how good the food is in the village. You're surrounded by locals, so ask them where they're having dinner and give it a go.
What's the worst that can happen? Actually, don't answer that.
3. Cut out the meat
Let's face it - we all eat too much meat. Island life is the perfect opportunity to change up your diet a little, and focus on vegetables and seafood - both of which are probably locally sourced and mega fresh. Just don't get overexcited start using any #vegetarian tags on Instagram, because guaranteed an Aussie steak will look mighty tempting once you're back on home soil.
4. Save cash on accommodation
Resist the urge to splurge. Yes the beachside 5-star accommodation with private butler and lap pool looks swish and will make for some seriously enviable Insta-snaps, but you're on a tropical island, so you shouldn't be in your room all day!
Save your cash for activities and adventures, and take a punt on a cheaper alternative away from the main beach strip. If you're really desperate for a 5-star fix, have a drink by the pool and pretend you're Kim K.
5. Ditch the phone
I'm not going to tell you to throw your phone into the ocean and experience a true holiday disconnected from the perils of social media, because it's 2016 and I would die without my iPhone. But bringing a camera along means you won't be tempted to reach for your phone every time you wanna take a snap. Also, everyone silently judges the tourist that walks into the restaurant and asks for the Wi-Fi password before sitting down. Don't be that guy.
6. Tone down the nudity
Beach holidays are always going to mean showing a little more skin than usual, after all - it's not a holiday if you don't come back dark enough to remind every single person in the office that your life is more exciting than theirs. But not all places in the world are cool with you rocking the bikini from the sand to the main town. Consider religious and cultural factors - the locals are sharing their home with you, so bring a sarong/singlet along out of courtesy.
7. Learn to say 'hello'
Starting conversations with strangers. Ew. It can be daunting even for extroverts like me. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. One of the highlights of travelling solo is the people you meet. In one week I've dined with a construction manager from London, a prawn trawler from Queensland with a beard to rival Ned Kelly's and a German man called Tobias who remembered it was his birthday halfway through dinner and shouted us drinks all night. But none of it would have happened if I first hadn't simply said hello.
8. Show the mozzies who's boss
Every Aussie knows that mosquitoes are the devil. Not only do they carry gross diseases like dengue fever and malaria, but the itching will slowly drive you mad. I was wary of covering myself in chemical repellent three times a day for months on end, so set out on the search for a plant based alternative (because I'm sahhhh hip). Coconut oil, lemongrass and citronella does the trick, and as a bonus, is super good for skin that's been dried out from all that suntanning
9. Bring cash money
I got stung big time in my first week on the island (no, not by a malaria-ridden mosquito thanks to aforementioned repellent), but by an 8 per cent credit card surcharge on my accommodation. The 12-year-old behind the desk could not be less interested in my complaint, insisting that it was island standard, and she was right. Remote destinations will usually charge more for credit cards, so bring along cash. Using physical currency is also a great way to monitor your spending.
10. Do something crazy
I chose skinny dipping (yours doesn't have to include nudity but extra points if it does). Take the opportunity while you're away from home and surrounded by strangers to do something that scares you.
It might be scuba diving, or karaoke, heck it might just be rocking the bikini that you're too self conscious to wear at your local beach back home. Say no to fear, and yes to crazy holiday experiences that will make for great stories once you get home.
Ash London is a TV and Radio presenter, who wrapped up hosting duties on Shazam Top 20 at the end of 2015 to pursue life as a hummus connoisseur (read: she quit her job and is currently travelling).