The last years have seen an increase of first-time travellers and backpackers wanting to discover the world. Exploring new countries has become more accessible with the introduction of budget airlines and the rise of independent travel.
Preparing for a trip involves a lot of planning and it can be quite overwhelming. What’s the most comprehensive travel insurance to get, staying or taking the big leap, where to go and what’s the best time of the year to leave… It’s unlikely that anyone has the wisdom to provide all the perfect answers to those questions. There is no right or wrong way to approach travelling, one can only learn from experience and from making mistakes.
Seasoned travellers have all gone down that path and are still there to tell the tale. Don’t be fooled by what you see on their social media profiles, everyone will agree that there are certain things they wish they knew before they first set sail into the unknown.
1. Take Your Time!
There’s nothing worse than rushing through a destination ticking off items from a bucket list. Sit back and relax, do some people watching, enjoy one last sunset, this trip is yours! It’s better to visit fewer countries or cities, but to spend some quality time appreciating that new culture.
Know that it’s okay to take a day to rest and do nothing, especially when you’re travelling long term.
2. Don’t Bring Too Much Stuff
There’s one simple economic principle called the Pareto Law. Basically, this means that 80% of the time you will use 20% of the items you packed. If you’re missing anything, you will most likely be able to buy it abroad. If you need to pick three things that you absolutely cannot leave without, it should be:
• a sarong (that can be used as a scarf, blanket, towel and even a dress),
• toilet paper or tissues (you will be surprised how only a minority of public toilets provide it, especially in Asia),
• hand sanitizer (you guessed it, no soap either in those restrooms!).
3. Be Smart With Your Money
You don’t want to get halfway through your trip to realize that you’ve burned almost all of your budget and you need to cut it short to head back home. Be conscious of the money you spend, but keep some breathing room for unplanned activities. It would be a shame to be sailing in the Great Barrier Reef and not go diving because it was not included in the initial budget.
Learn to be creative to save money by cooking for yourself, hitchhiking or couchsurfing in areas you know are safe and even stretching your dollar by exchanging work for food and accommodation
4. Purchase Travel Insurance
It might seem like an annoying cost, especially considering all the money that is already spent for flights, accommodations and activities. However, this should not be taken lightly… If you don’t have the means to pay for your travel insurance, then maybe you shouldn’t be travelling. Anything can happen while abroad and the last thing you want is being on your own on the other side of the world.
5. Keep Your Belongings Safe
When you fall asleep in a train, no one will protect your important things but yourself. Pack your valuables in your day bag and care for it like your life depends on it. However, don’t put your safety at risk for material possessions. Remember that everything is replaceable. Without sounding patronizing, a good coverage by a travel insurance will alleviate the stress of theft and loss.
6. Stay Healthy
It’s all fun and games until your body can’t keep up anymore and you’re stuck in bed for a whole week, missing all the action. There’s no need to get plastered every night or eat whatever you want because you’re on holidays. Use this as an opportunity to discover exotic fruits or vegetables. Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to forget about staying hydrated when water is not as available.
7. You Might/Will Get Sick
It won’t be fun and you will maybe have to get acquainted with local health facilities. Stay on the safe side and make sure you left with Travel Insurance to avoid any complications. Carry activated charcoal pills for minor stomach ailments and other basic medicines. Bring Tiger Balm to relieve bug bites and sore muscles.
8. Be Flexible Learn to Adapt to Your New Environment
Travelling requires a great deal of open mindedness. You will be expected to know about the culture and to respect it. It’s alright to go with the flow, but remember that you are the visitor and certain behaviors can be interpreted as cultural insensitivities. Make sure to make some research before to find out what is acceptable and what is not.
9. There Are Moments When You Will Feel Lonely if You Travel Solo
The feeling will come and it will pass. Learn to recognize it and know that it’s okay to feel homesick. Don’t be afraid to meet fellow travellers or locals. Most human beings are genuinely nice and will help you if you ask for it. Strangers will become your best friends and goodbyes will sometimes be heartbreaking. Try to keep in touch with the people you meet. No matter where you end up in the world, you will realize that your vibe attracts your tribe.
10. Culture Shock Is a Real Thing and So Is Reverse Culture Shock
There are so many things that will hit you in the face when you get to a new destination. It is not like home! In some developing countries, trash management and the protection of the environment is years behind western standards. In high-density cities, the notion of personal space is nonexistent. Maintaining that big bubble is not only impossible but it goes against the culture. Patience, patience, patience… This will be one of the hardest character traits to develop because not everything runs as smoothly as we are used to. It will happen that the ferry leaves only once it’s full or that the bus breaks down on the side of the road. You will learn not to rely on schedules and plan accordingly.
When you return home, you will be shocked by the rat race in which we live. It’s normal to feel this way and it will change your perception of our society.
11. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle/Negotiate
You will get ripped off at least once … get over it and grow from that experience. In certain countries, it is customary to engage in a negotiation with the seller. Learn what the social cues are from one place to the other and play along with it.
12. Keep a Journal and Take Pictures
Memories fade… Even if just quick notes that you scribble every other night, make it a point to write down addresses of places you went that you liked, people you met and feelings you experienced. Being able to share those moments with your friends and loved one is precious. Having visual supports and written accounts will help you delve into this past journey. Take mental pictures. Stop for a minute and enjoy this time for yourself as well.
13. Experience the Place and Don’t Rely So Much on Your Guidebook
“Why not” should be your motto, try to go off-the-beaten-path. You’re not obligated to visit a landmark because it’s a famous tourist place, it’s your trip, your time, your money. Your guide book is exactly that, a guide. Talk to locals, read other travel blogs, get lost…
14. Don’t Underestimate Visa Requirements
Not all passports have the same power. It would be a shame to get to your destination only to be boarded back on a plane because you didn’t produce the necessary entry documents. For travellers visiting multiple countries, it’s important to take into consideration the time and procedure to obtain a visa. It can become tricky to have to find the nearest embassy that will issue a visa and that’s not even accounting for last-minute requests. Be aware of the space left in your passport as it’s not always easy to renew it while abroad.
15. Trust Yourself and Just Go for It
If there is one thing to take away, it’s that travelling is not as intimidating as it looks. It is not as dangerous as how the media is portraying it. Finally, it is definitely not as expensive as what the travel industry wants you to believe. Learn from your mistakes and know that it’s those mistakes that help you grow as a traveller.
Article by Nomad Junkies team