"No matter how much you plan, research, and prepare for your travels you will make mistakes."
So you’ve done it, you have decided to take the plunge, whether it’s six weeks, three months, one year or more – you’ve decided to go backpacking.
You will hear the positives and the negatives, but one thing you will hear the most is that you will have the best time of your life.
On your first adventure, whether it’s solo or with friends, things are bound to go wrong despite the amount of pre-planning done.
So, here are some of the basics of what you should do when embarking on one of these adventures.
Firstly, decide how long you want to go for and then plan for that, don’t go for one month and try to visit four different countries in that time.
Most backpackers will tell you one month in a country is perfect.
You’ll probably discover for yourself how long you will want to remain in one country before moving on. This is one of the benefits of backpacking.
If you decide you want to go for three months plus, look at a region rather than hopping from one side of the planet to the next.
The people you meet along the way are likely to be travelling through a region, and these are the travellers you are most likely to bump into time and time again and if you travel solo you will revel in these types of gatherings (as long as you like them anyway).
Solo or Group
When judging the right travel companion, choose someone who has a similar outlook. If you’re the type who likes getting up at 8am and cramming everything in one day, you’ll experience conflict if you travel with someone who likes to sleep until noon.
Find someone who is as independent as you are. While travelling, you may come to a point where you want to do different things. And you should both be confident enough to separate and go your own way, whether it’s for a short period or for the rest of your trip.
If you decide that you are going to travel solo, have no worries. Sometimes, the best companion you can have on an adventure is yourself: the idea of doing whatever you want whenever you want is appealing and it’s the reason why many people choose to travel alone.
But don’t worry, you will always find people while travelling as you’ll constantly be meeting other travellers and locals in hostels or the tours that you go on.
Generally speaking, the best option is to look at the region you wish to travel to and buy a ticket to a country within that region. While travelling, the first thing you will find is that your plans change.
You may be in Thailand and meet people along the way who are travelling to Cambodia and, on the spur of the moment, you may join them. If you are travelling for more than a year than it is best if you decide on the regions you wish to visit beforehand.
A world ticket may suit you best, but by paying a little extra, you can decide what dates you want to leave a country or region without incurring excessive costs. This is better than changing your mind and booking another ticket mid journey and having to pay an extortionately high price.
What to Pack
The most important thing you will ever take on your trip is your backpack, so don’t be stingy purchasing a one. It’s the one item likely to stay with you your entire trip and you don’t want it falling apart when you’re in the street searching for a place for the night.
A backpack with varying compartments and excellent lumbar support will make life easier. You don’t need a bad back while constantly moving. You should consider the amount and the types of clothes to take with you. Shirts and shorts are a must, depending on the weather.
You’re not going to find many backpackers who travel without their phones or computers, and why not? Just because you are travelling, this does not mean that you should ignore the rest of the world.
Travel with a camera to capture all your experiences and a smartphone to remain in contact with loved ones via Skype and Facebook. Facebook is useful for showing your friends and family where you have been and what you have experienced. It will also be a great way to keep in touch with those you meet on your travels.
Common sense is the most basic thing to keep you safe and things like looking both ways before you cross the road and don’t walk down dangerous streets.
Just because you are in a foreign county don’t let it stop you from exploring, be careful, keep your wits about you, and if it doesn’t feel right don’t feel pressured to do it. Don’t travel too far off the beaten track and don’t stray too far from the tourist regions, particularly after dark.
Never carry all your money with you, there is a high chance that somewhere along your trip you might get robbed. So it is best to only keep a bit of money in your pocket and the rest in your card stashed away. Also be very careful of pickpockets or scam artists, every country have some.
Nevertheless, no matter how much you plan, research, and prepare for your travels you will make mistakes. It’s inevitable but also part of the fun. Be observant and alert and you should remain safe for the entirety of your trip. Over planning or trying to stick to a strict itinerary is one of those mistakes that all backpackers make somewhere along the line.
Make sure you go at your own pace, travel the way that you are most comfortable with and don’t allow yourself to be pressured by others to do things you’d rather avoid. As long as you do what you want, you will have the experience of a lifetime.