Hello from a train in the Hungarian countryside!

Last week, my husband and I landed in Rome on the first stop of our month-long journey through south-eastern Europe. Before we left, we had already spent around $1,300 on additional hotel and airfare expenses. Europe for Free didn't end up being completely free. Though, I want to make clear it could have, and your own Europe for Free could be.

But, outside of the Europe for Free hotel and airfare, we still have to eat and keep ourselves entertained during the trip. And having left my job and currently without a paycheck, I wanted to make it pretty tight budget to ensure the lack of pay wouldn't interfere with our savings. Thus, my $100 a day budget was created to fill the gap.

$100 a day

Outside of our hotels and airfare, which are mostly covered with points and miles anyways, we're on a pretty strict $100 a day backpacker's budget for food and activities. It's pretty interesting leaving for the day from our 5-star hotel to eat $5 hot dogs.

At times this $100 budget has taken us far. In Prague I shared our first $100 in a day story on Instagram and only spent $47 for the entire day trying to spend the $100. But having just left Vienna, $100 barely saw the surface of the available things to do and foods to eat.

At times, being so strict to our budget can be hard. When you're on a weeklong vacation it's easy to say, "what the hell" and just spend money on memories you want to make. But when you're traveling for an extended period of time, you have to look at it like you would your finances at home. If we say, "yes" to this $20 per person ticket, what does that mean for the rest of our day or the rest of our trip?

I want to show you that you can have any amazing adventure for very little money. Sure, sometimes you'll say no to experiences but you can also choose to spend your money more wisely on the things you will value. You might have a $10 lunch but at the end of the day you still have $45 to spend on an incredible Italian dinner. For us, it's all about finding that balance.

Do I feel like we're missing out?

Yesterday my husband was on the phone with his mom. During the call it came up that we didn't do something we wanted to in Vienna because everything was so expensive and we're sticking to a tight budget. It was pretty clear she wished we could do more.

But, in all honesty, I don't feel like we're missing out on anything. We're doing everything on our must-do list. We've marked off every Lonely Planet 1001 Places to See on our route. We've eaten at every must-do restaurant and food stand. We've been enjoying every moment of this trip. We're literally thriving!

Travel isn't about checking the boxes of every attraction or must-try slice of cake. It's about the total cultural experience. We're thriving because we're doing just that.