Last year I quit my full-time call center job to travel and pursue a career as a freelance writer. I’ve definitely learned a lot about traveling over the past year and I feel pretty confident to jet off and explore new lands, but I was pretty hopeless when I first started.
Looking back, I really wish I had listened to my dad’s advice (my dad is a seasoned backpacker) and followed these tips, but at least I can now try to stop you making the same mistakes. Here are 9 travel tips which I wish I’d listened to when I started backpacking.
- You Need A Smaller Bag
When it comes to packing, you think you’ll need to take more than you’ll actually use. You’re used to living in a house full of possessions and so you assume you’ll need to take plenty of outfits, accessories and random bits and pieces.
When I went on my first trip I brought a horrendously huge suitcase which was stuffed full of pretty much all my clothes and anything else I thought I might need. Needless to say, I didn’t use all of it and it was really annoying to lug around.The fact is that when you backpack you will need to lug your bag from place to place and there is a chance that you may have to carry it for an extended period of time, so make sure it is small enough and light enough for you to handle for longer than a few minutes.
Also whilst we’re on the subject, consider investing in a backpack. Suitcases may seem easier because you don’t have to carry their weight, but they can actually be really difficult if you have to walk for extended periods of time, walk up any stairs or travel by public transport.
- You Won’t Wear All Your Clothes
It may sound counter-productive, but most of the time you should actually pack less than you think you’ll need. You should take clothes for different weathers and situations, but it’s unlikely you’re actually going to wear all the clothes you bring and you don’t want to weight yourself down. Plus if you do need anything you can always buy it on your travels!
- 6 Days Is Not Enough Time To See New Zealand
My first trip was to Australia to visit my extended family, and whilst I was there I decided I’d ‘pop over’ to New Zealand.It really wasn’t long enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time. I stayed in Auckland which is one of those cities that no one really seems to like, but it’s a great base if you want to visit the surrounding islands.Rangitoto Island is an amazing young volcano with stunning views (and the tour is a great place to meet people if you’re traveling solo), and Waiheke island is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see.
I also went to Hobbiton which, whilst I’m not actually that big a fan of LOTR or The Hobbit, was a really fun experience and it’s something I’d recommend to anyone
I definitely don’t regret going, but I just wish I’d had the foresight to stay for longer so I could’ve seen Wellington and the South Islands. New Zealand is pretty far away from most people, so if you do get the chance to visit make sure you make the most of it.
- You Won’t Always Meet People
Instagram and Facebook can make traveling look like a never-ending party where you make new best friends every single day and no matter where you go you’ll find people to party with, chat to and even team up to travel with, but in reality, it can be quite hit and miss.When you travel alone you do need to put yourself out there, but some places are definitely easier than others and the hostel you choose to stay in can make a really big difference. However, a lot also depends on who happens to be in the same place at the same time as you.
You’ll meet tons of people in some places and barely talk to anyone in others.If you don’t meet anyone at the first hostel, or even the second hostel, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen or that there’s anything wrong with you, there’s just no way of knowing who you’re going to meet when you travel alone. You will meet people, no doubt about that, but it might not happen at every place you visit.
- Trip Advisor Isn’t Always Right
This Romanian train really wasn’t so bad…You should always be alert and cautious when you travel alone, but there is a difference between taking care of yourself and being scared off of visiting destinations because of someone else’s bad experience.
When I was traveling to Romania I read the Tripadvisor advice on the best way to get there, and pretty much every comment I read was telling me not to get the train.They said that the train would be full of creepy men smoking in the compartments, that I’d be robbed by corrupt border guards, that the train would be at least three hours late, and that traveling to Romania counted as ‘advanced’ traveling.
The reality really wasn’t like that at all. When you pick budget travel options (the train cost around £17 from Budapest to Brasov) you’re obviously not going to get a luxury experience, but there were charging sockets, the train felt reasonably safe, it left on time, and it got me from a to b in one piece. Eastern Europe has changed a lot, and I do feel that people still have the wrong perception of this beautiful part of the world
This picture was taken in Brasov, Transylvania.
- You Can Have A Bad Experience Anywhere
One of the most common questions people ask is whether a specific destination is ‘safe’. The reality is that some places are not safe to visit right now due to war or other practical reasons and you need to be careful and practical about where you go, but realistically the majority of cities have the same risks.
I was robbed in Cologne but experienced absolutely no problems in Cancun.People’s experiences vary and their perception of how safe a destination often depends on the experience they had. You need to be careful and take all the precautions you would take at home no matter how safe you assume somewhere is, but you shouldn’t assume that just because one person had a bad experience in a certain destination it automatically means the same thing will happen to you.
- Anywhere Can Be Expensive
Some destinations are definitely more expensive than others in terms of transport, accommodation and the price of food, alcohol, and attractions, but even the cheapest place in the world can become expensive if you spend too much money.
When you’re using a foreign currency, and you know that your exchange rate is good, it can lull you into a false sense of security where you don’t realize how much money you’re spending until you go home, check your bank and proceed to sob for days.
If you budget well even somewhere like London, Paris or Tokyo can be fairly affordable depending on where you stay or what you do, and if you literally go on every tour, eat out for every meal and go out every night pretty much anywhere, even the cheapest countries in the world, can drain your bank account.If you need to travel on a budget you need to apply most of the same rules you would at home no matter how much cheaper you think things are.
- Sometimes The Dingiest Hostels Are The Best Hostels
Your experience and perception of a certain hostel will depend a lot on who you meet, what you do and what you enjoy doing, but in my experience, the ‘hotel’ style hostels which are large, clean and have everything you need don’t tend to be any fun.It’s harder to meet people, everyone else seems to have come in a group, and the atmosphere is normally non-existent.Other hostels which may not be as clean, large or have an attached restaurant tend to be more social, they have a better atmosphere and it’s just easier to meet people.Where you choose to stay depends on what your priorities are and what is more important to you, but just keep it in mind the next time you log onto Hostelworld.
- There Is More Than One Way To Travel
Travel is a wonderful thing and it definitely changes you and (in many cases) make you a better and more interesting person, but some people can’t just put their lives on hold to go and ‘find themselves’. And that’s okay.There is this idea that the only way to travel is to take an extended break (around 4 months to a few years) where all you do is travel around the world and avoid the realities of adult life, but this format doesn’t suit everyone and it doesn’t need to.
You don’t have to put your future life on hold in order to travel. The two things can and sometimes need to go together.It’s great to travel when you’re young and free, but that doesn’t mean young and free people are the only ones who can do it. You don’t have to stop seeing the world when you get a job, you just have to be good at saving you up your holiday dates!
How about you? Do you have any advise for new travelers? Is there anything you wish you’d known or something you’re curious about? Let me know in the comments!