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Cambodia Summer Program.

X-Phase from the perspective of the stressed budgeter

When we were first choosing our roles for Expedition phase, I immediately knew I wanted to be in charge of the budget. I have a tendency to get obsessed with anything and everything involving responsibility and organization. Although our group’s trip had survived 3 weeks without disaster, I had little trust in my fellow Dragons to carefully keep track of our $1600. So I volunteered to be budget keeper. Technically, Adam is meant to be half on budget too, but he was pretty selective about when he chose to engage with the role. In the early stages of planning, being the budget person was a chill job. I googled the prices of potential activities and compiled them into an Excel document. The document had several sheets: Overall spending, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Food. I can say with all honesty that I have not even touched that spreadsheet since that first day of planning. It’s the thought that counts.

I broke the news to the group that we couldn’t do the circus AND the cooking class (which together culminated to over $400), and that was the first and basically only disappointment our restrictions gave us. By eliminating the circus, we could add $270 to the total spending, and I was relieved. X-phase would start the next morning.

Before breakfast in Anlong Weng, Claire handed me the money to distribute for the meal. We decided to give each person only $2 in order to be “fiscally conservative”. Somehow we managed to spend $32 on breakfast even though I only handed out $30…

Then, the bus came. The bus could comfortably fit 12 people without bags. We were 15 people, each with a carry on and a 50-60 liter pack. We repeated over and over that we were spending responsibly to compensate for the pins and needles in our legs and lack of access to any bags that had iPods, books or journals. But hey, we saved $50.

When we arrived at the Landmine Museum, I paid for our tickets, grimacing as I handed over a $100 – the first big dent in the budget. Lunch was the main test. I had to collect everyone’s drinks money, partially in riels and partially in US dollars. This was a challenge I would continually face over the following days.

That night, we went out to dinner, where everyone was given a budget. Our group, of course, ordered extra food to pay for on their own, which kept me on my toes.

Over the next few days, I paid for meals, tuktuks and activities. A sizable portion of our total budget went on the tickets for Angkor Wat – $481. That was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

Last night marked the end of our Expedition Phase. I settled up with Claire, finding that we had $302 left which we could put towards the Dragons community fund. I was relieved to resign from my position but thankful that I was only $1.50 off in the end. I am stopping my 3-day role with a much greater appreciation for what our i-team does, and for the economy of authentic travel.