Over my 40 day backpacking trip through South Africa and Europe, it’s safe to say I learned a lot. In fact, you can read about the major lessons I learned here. For this post though, I think I’ll touch on something more practical. This is for all the prospective backpackers or the ones who have just booked their adventure and are itching to go.
10. Book Early
I’m not a last minute person. If you are, that’s completely okay. However, if you already have a target destination, book as soon as you can. Waiting only drives up flight and accommodation prices. Example: I paid $1300 Canadian dollars for my round-trip flight to South Africa while booking 6 months in advance. If I had waited until the month before, I would have paid $2500.
9. Pack Duct Tape
Seriously. It fixes everything. And when your shampoo leaks all over your stuff from being knocked about while walking, flying, or catching a train, it is a life-saver.
8. Leave a Copy of your Documents at Home
My partner and I almost had a panic situation in South Africa when we thought we lost very important documents that would hinder our return home. Though we found them, it could have been disastrous and seriously put a damper on our trip. Make copies of your passport, travel insurance and other important documents and leave them at home. That way, should disaster strike, you can get someone to scan them to an embassy to save your behind.
7. Slow Down
I made the mistake of jam-packing my 40 days. I rarely stayed in a location longer than 3 nights. What I discovered though that this made for very hard travelling. I became very tired very quickly and found I was not quite processing everything. I found I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wanted to, and all the moving around made it feel like a chore.
So, slow down. Relax your schedule. Take a day or two to just do nothing. In fact, you’ll need to just do nothing every once in a while, especially with long-term travel.
6. Don’t get too Photo-Happy
Photos are fine. Travelling behind your camera lens is not. Enjoy it, because living vicariously through your photos when you get home isn’t half as fun.
5. Check Visa and Travel Restrictions
This could seriously save you time and headaches. Find out all you can about entry into the countries that you would like to visit. Does your passport allow you to travel there? Do you need a visa? Some visa processes take MONTHS to complete.
4. Bring a Travel Journal
As a writer, this was a must for me. I wrote down everything I did and everything I felt. I also used it as a muse for long train and airplane rides. When I got home, I was surprised at the material I had written. It now serves as a great memory keepsake AND as inspiration for my writing.
3. Say “Yes”
Some of the best experiences I had were the times when I had no plan and I just went with the opportunities that presented themselves to me. That’s how I stayed with a host family in Cape Town instead of some dodgy hotel. That’s how I climbed the Alps in Austria.
Be safe, of course. If your gut says no, then pass. Be careful to avoid scams, but if it seems safe enough, what’s the harm? It could end up being the best moment of your trip.
2. Be a Minimalist Packer
There are probably a billion websites and videos and blogs telling you what you should and should not pack. My advice to you? Pack the essentials. No, you don’t need every article of clothing you own and the kitchen sink. I thought I did when I left, but trust me, I was wrong. All the things I thought could be useful or maybe I’d need, I never. even. touched.
Leave that at home. It’ll only weigh you down. And when you’re lugging your backpack through city streets, lost and just wanting to find your accommodation, you’ll thank me. Besides, if there’s anything you don’t have and you absolutely need, the reach of global capitalism has you covered.
1. Just Go… NOW!
What are you waiting for? Seriously. The longer you delay, the less likely it is to happen. There will be no perfect opportunity. No one will hand you a flight ticket and get your life in order for you. If you want to travel, the time is NOW. Everything else will work itself out. Trust me.
Where are you travelling to next?