You may have had a hankering to travel for years, but it’s only now that the itchy feet have become almost unbearable and you have no choice but to scratch. The thought of heading off on a far-flung adventure and venturing out into the unknown is the ultimate thrill. The only vacations that you’ve taken so far in your adult life are of the all-inclusive ilk or the package holiday type. Two weeks in the sun, relaxing on the beach with a good book and the odd jaunt to a cultural site with a whole host of other tourists doesn’t match up to the freedom and delights of a backpacking trip of a lifetime.
Seemingly heading out into the wilderness all on your own can also be a daunting affair. However, with the right preparation, finances and thinking, you can turn your six months or one-year travel sabbatical into the most rewarding time of your life thus far. Take a look at these tips to ensure you have all the bases covered when planning your trip.
The world is a big place. Even with all of the advancements in technology, the Internet and social media meaning that we can communicate with someone on the other side of the globe in a near-instant, we still have to get on a plane for over twenty-four hours to physically be there. You might want to start off relatively local and explore every nook and cranny of the continent that you find yourself on. If you are based in Australia, why not tour the entire country – head to the outback down some untrodden paths, sleep under the stars and head to the hostels of Melbourne and the capital Canberra. If you want to see more of the beautiful continent, you could take a trip into the Blue Mountains, hot foot it across to Tasmania or take a detour to New Zealand.
If you fancy a bit more of a far-flung trek, there are the ubiquitous backpacking Meccas of Thailand, Vietnam, Europe and the good old US of A. The world really is your oyster and this is the joy of backpacking. All you need to do is decide where you are going, sort out your documentation, visas and passport, and away you go.
Even though you pride yourself on being spontaneous and going where the wind takes you, it’s wise to have at least a skeleton itinerary of your travel plans. Work out the city stops and how many nights you’ll be staying, organise connecting flights and any trickier tours to get onto and have a list of suitable accommodation.
Consider random things like food allergies and ensure that if you have one, you have researched potential places where you can get a decent plate of food without enduring anaphylactic shock or take your own grub so you won’t be left hungry.
Don’t be tempted to pay big bucks for one of those giant 70 litre monstrosity backpacks. If you have the space, you’ll fill the space, and you really don’t need too. If you are carrying all of your gear on your back and it’s cumbersome and uncomfortable it can ruin your entire adventure. Go no bigger than 50 litres and pack only what you need. If you’re heading off for six months, you don’t need half a year’s worth of clothes. Take enough stuff for about two weeks, pack a spare pair of shoes, wear your walking boots and think layers. Don’t take some gargantuan overcoat. Even if where you’re jaunting off to is cold, think about thermals that are easy to pack, thin fleeces, waterproofs and a windbreaker. By packing in a more intelligent way, you’ll have much more appropriate attire for your travels, and you’ll be comfortable no matter what the weather.
Ensure that you take the right kit with you and don’t skimp on the essentials. Your trusty walking boots will be fundamental to the success of your trip. Buy cheap and get what you pay for. You may not have even bedded them in before you sense a hole in the heel or a tear in the waterproof outer layer. Stretch as far as your budget will allow and opt for a pair that is sturdy but light. Most reputable shops will allow you to try them on and have a decent walk in them before you part with your cash.
The same goes for your backpack. The most vital part of your holdall is the straps and support. You don’t want a pair of flimsy straps that look like they’ve been taken from a school satchel. They need to be robust, the zippers need to feel secure, and when you inspect the backpack, the space should work for you. Front loaders are the best as they are very much like a suitcase but look like a rucksack. Toploaders can become frustrating if you need your power pack at the bottom of your backpack and need to take everything out to reach it.
You may want to get away from it all and forego technology for the time you are away. But that’s tricky given that you will miss people. (Yes, it’s true) And that you will require GPS or a mapping application to find your way to places if your self-touring. Ensure you have a power pack that is always fully charged so should the worst happen and your battery fails, you can charge it up again relatively quickly while you’re out and about. Use free messaging services a la Whatsapp to stay in touch with your nearest and dearest. Although you may not want to have a mammoth telephone conversation after your supper every evening, a quick heads up to your mum once every two or three days just let her know that you’re still alive wouldn’t go amiss. It’s the decent thing to do.
Venturing off on an adventure that you’ve craved for so long is life-affirming. You will head off on your travels one person and return another. Travelling will change you for the better, make you more confident, tolerant and culturally aware. You’ll have millions of tales to tell, and you will return to your life refreshed, reinvigorated and maybe… just maybe… having been bitten by the travel bug.