HEMA on a budget for the first time international young traveler.
By: Mariana López.
The views and opinions of this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Esfinges
As a recently graduated college student of México who has been for the most part unemployed due to college schedules and daily live complications, I’ve been fortunate to travel to international events far more than people (including myself and my parents) would expect.
I won’t deny I’ve had plenty of luck over the when it comes to HEMA traveling, but to be honest there are several “obvious” tools on HEMA traveling that I’ve seen tons of people to avoid out of either procrastination, laziness or just because miraculously they never thought of it.
My first HEMA event was Fetchshule America in 2012 I made it to this event thanks to a ginger community (yes a redhead community I know it’s not common) who made a surprise donation program to get me to go to this event after I failed the prior year and was about to fail again for that year despite a lot of efforts. Once I made it there, I couldn’t think of not keeping on the international scene… there was just so much knowledge that I felt out of reach as the Mexican HEMA community was very young and I felt the best way to actually grow as a fencer was to commit to this events, once started my journey here are a few key points to make international traveling easier:
Note: Consider and understand my pieces of advice may be limited in countries with higher price rate difference and distance (plane cost) at the beginning of my HEMA journey the rate change was 1 USD to 10 pesos, now it’s 1 USD to 20 Pesos.
Tips to HEMA travel on a Budget:
1.- Volunteer: VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER!!! “but! Then I have to work too much and I can barely take a few workshops” Stop it! That is BS. Those few workshops from outstanding instructors are already more knowledge and opportunities than the ones you get by not going. Only one tournament? With only one tournament I got the honor to be invited to teach my first workshop (and that trip was fully paid !! 😉 ) Volunteering sometimes will give you full free entrance to an event and sometimes even a meal (LESS MONEY!) this can make a difference on affording a trip, besides, all the networking you get equals to more people to ask HEMA questions with ACTUALLY knowing if they pull off what they preach.
2.- Find a host: ¿First event and you don’t know anyone? E-mail the organizers, tell them your situation, HEMA people is so kind they will welcome you as if you were family, without a second thought, Hotels are the second if not first most expensive part of traveling. Just remember, give them a thank you gift, they are already saving you tons of money, and second, be a guest your granny would be proud of, don’t close future travelers the chance to spend a weekend with a HEMA family by being a poop guest.
3.- Track Flights daily on the official sites: Despite what you see, airlines often have cheaper prices than the ones offered in “cheep-flights-lies.com” you can use this tools, sometimes they do have good deals for sure, but don’t buy without double check with the prices of the original airline. For Latinos, sites like “mundo joven” have student discount seats.
4.-Search for flights daily: There’s plenty of theories on in which day and in which hour you’ll find cheaper flights… Start tracking the flights within 6 to 4 months in advance on a daily basis. Miracles happen and you might get that one flight that you can actually pay.
5.-For desperate cases: If the Budget is really limited, don’t be scared to take those nasty flights… yes, traveling with 3 scales sucks hard, but if this is the one chance for your first International HEMA event, JUST DO IT, we don’t get the fancy life because we are not rich, but the experience is worth the airport hell.
6.- Cut useless expenses: Ok, not everyone is willing to have a more humble social life. I was. I got the nickname “the buss girl” while I was in high school for about a year, because every time a classmate suggested to go to X or Y place after school by bus, I would answer “a bus is 8 pesos, that’s almost a dollar on a trip, no thanks” and so I either walk to as many places I could and put those coins into a box, take a lift from a friend, or I just didn’t go to the place. Also cutting alcohol expenses save a ton!… Now, I’m way to extremists, but other savings I did weren’t that hard: Reduce the movie theater nights, go to a coffee instead of a bar (much cheaper) and instead of going out, plan things in your place, cheaper AND you avoid those “annoyng friend of the friend” you don’t want to see, etc.
7.- Make deals: If like me, you’re still a student and parents can help, make a deal with them “I want to go to –X event, it costs X000 money, I can make X000, can you help me out with the extra?- My mom would often times make the deal with me that if I paid the plane and got where to get hosted she would pay for my food! It worked wonders!.
8.- Make sales of about everything: I sold my artwork and later on, I started freelancing. Up to date this pays almost all of my HEMA expenses, A friend afforded a flight to Italy after a full year of selling Candy in college on a daily basis, a frees bee freak friend made it to all his national and international tournaments by daily selling 10 homemade brownies, 10 pesos each. It requires realistic goals and A LOT of dedication, but it’s not impossible.
9.- Get gear loans for SEMINARS: Note: for the most part I don’t agree on much loan gear for tournaments for security reasons (starting with proper fitting and such), but for seminars getting loaners is a great deal, some airlines are cheap but won’t allow the needed suitcase space. Bring the minimum gear with you, and find someone who can lend you the weapons for the workshops or tournament (they take the most space… thanks, longsword!) Just let them know ahead to avoid “passing the gear back and forth” during the event. Also remember: is cheaper to pay a second bag than pay overweight!.
10.-Donations and sponsorships: in my state you can find several sponsorships for “entrepreneur” youth, you can try to search if there’s any near you, from leadership to world citizens programs aiming for people to travel to different countries, some NGO’s or such might be willing to sponsor your travel, it’s worth a try, even more, if you are committed and respond well to them, you might even be able to use those same programs to, later on, invite one of the instructors you’ve meet to your own club.
11.-If you failed your goal: Not getting all the money and missing the event is HORRIBLE, but don’t get discouraged, depending on how much money you managed to gather, track for the next HEMA event in the area or with the instructors you were interested in, worst case scenario: HEMA events are regularly semi-permanent, keep the money and keep saving so you can go the next year, maybe even with some new gear, or with money to buy plenty of things on your trip because you could save more!
Disclaimer: I currently travel from about 2 to 3 times a year to the USA due to extra support I’ve got on the long run, several years ago by using these methods I would be able to travel from Mexico to the USA for about twice a year, now days maybe that has gotten reduced to once a year… but it’s still better than nothing!
However (unless life happens) if you’re not even interested in even trying any of these things. In my book, you don’t get to complain about not being able to make it.