If the title wasn’t already a giveaway, I’ll just warn you now. If you are someone that enjoys travelling with all your luxuries, packing enough clothes to last you a year, staying in an expensive hotel sipping cocktails, sticking to a tight schedule that is all planned out; then this post probably isn’t for you!
But if you have an open mind, a burning sense of adventure, a love for new experiences, a love for backpacking or are genuinely just curious, then read on. Here are some great tips to help you get the most out of your travels whilst backpacking.
Make Sure You Have a Decent Backpack
You are going to be carrying this bloody thing day in and day out. So get a quality pack. And not a top loader! They suck.
Be prepared to invest a decent amount of cash on a backpack. And if you have a tight budget, scour the net. Do research. Have a look on E-bay of even Amazon for some great deals.
I am a light traveller. At any given time, my pack weighs between 10-15kg (sometimes less than 10). Only pack what you’re comfortable carrying on your back! If it’s too heavy or need another pack YOU DONT NEED IT! You will be grateful when you are walking long distances, trust me.
Consider investing in a micro-fibre towel. Not only is it a lot lighter, it takes up less space in your bag and requires less washing. It also dries quickly – meaning you don’t have to pack a wet towel in your bag.
Embrace Local Culture
In any country, most locals love sharing information about their home country, particularly the ins and outs of thereof. Let your guard down and dive into their culture. Don’t stick to the tourist safe house.
This applies equally to food. Try local food and avoid known food chains, particularly the fast foods.
Have An Open Mind
Be open to new experiences, to getting out of your comfort zone and random spontaneous adventures. Approach that random stranger in a Hostel. Say Hi, Introduce yourself.
I am a strong advocate of being disconnected whilst travelling, but it’s nice to use a bit of technology here and there, particularly if it makes your life a whole lot easier.
It helps to have a smartphone with you so that you can make use of free Wi-Fi to book accommodation in advance. But even if you don’t have that you can make use of computers and Wi-Fi access in most hostels.
The following two apps helped me tremendously.
Couchsurfing is a hospitality exchange and social networking website. The website provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travellers, or join an event.
Upon arriving in New Zealand via Thailand, I actually used this App to organise a bed for two nights in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Lady even went so far as to pick me up from the airport at 02:00 am in the morning and show me around the sights in Christchurch.
It’s a great way to travel cheaply, get insider knowledge of an area and make new travel friends.
Book accommodation on hostel bookers or other apps as you move along. I am a strong advocate of not booking too many nights in one place (reasons below)
The Path Is The Aim
Booking too many nights at one place reduces your flexibility. What happens if you meet someone who you want to travel with for a bit? Or if someone tells you about a place you should definitely visit? Or if you find a cheaper deal nearby? Or if you just outright don’t like the hostel or the area where you are staying?
Plan less and give yourself flexibility. My German friend Robin Hudepohl sums it up rather nicely with the following saying “Der Weg ist das Ziel” (The path is the aim).
Orientate Yourself by Jogging
I personally haven’t done this enough. But I have a friend who has been doing it for ages who vows that it is better than a map and a great way to orientate yourself.
Connect with People
Don’t be afraid to ask people for help and chat to fellow backpackers in your room. They often have amazing stories and tips to share. They may even be able to point you in the direction of a job opportunity.
In writing this blog post, which is actually a prelude to an E-book that I want to put together, I asked fellow travelling friends if they could provide some valuable insights and advice that they have learnt through their travels.
My one America friend wrote the following and it is the perfect example of how connecting with people can change your life – I have decided to leave her exact words, give or take a few typos and words
“Smile like an idiot and introduce yourself to anyone and everyone you see you never know what they can add to your journey. The best example is the idiot writing this blog post! 🙂 He was the first person I met in a small hostel in Thailand. I bugged him to take me around and he showed me the ropes and led me to secret spots that changed my trip!
We Kept in touch and a year later taught me how to milk cows in New Zealand by coincidence which later allowed me to embark on my greatest adventure yet in the Swiss Alps. Keep your mind open and enjoy! ” – Gabriella Cobb
The above demonstrates the power of making real human connections, connections that can ultimately change your life.
Learn Some of The Local Language
If you are travelling to a country that does not speak your mother tongue, take some time to learn basic greetings. Through showing such effort, people will be a lot warmer and welcoming and willing to help. When I went to Thailand I actually bought a book that covers basic greetings. Needless to say, I didn’t use them all, but it helped.
Make Copies of Your Passport
This is a Golden Rule! This is always handy, particularly if your passport gets stolen. Even email a few copies to yourself.
Buy Travel Insurance
This gives you piece of mind whilst traveling, particularly if you are engaged in outdoor activities such as hiking and extreme sports. You do not want to be in a position where you break your leg or are in a critical condition and have no cover. So don’t mess around with this one. Get travel insurance.
I used World Nomads for most of my travels. It honestly is the best in the business for people who travel for extended period of time. You can top up as you go.
In the words of World Nomads “Travel Insurance, simple & flexible. Buy, extend & claim online from anywhere in the world.”
Accept Things as They Are
A perfect example of this is when you lose luggage or if there is a plane delay. If you lose control and find yourself arguing with people at the airport, it only causes stress. So relax and be calm – this is all part of travel. It’s all part of the adventure. Besides if a plane is delayed, there’s not much you can do, it is what it is, accept that.
Being positive and having a positive mindset is a choice. I hear far too many people in my country (South Africa), bitching and moaning about the smallest bloody things. It just makes me sad, especially as we live in such a wonderful world, with such amazing people and places to see.
Have the mindset that this experience will change you for the better and being positive throughout despite what may happen will be to your benefit.
P.S. As alluded to earlier in the post, this is a prelude to an E-book that I am putting together, which I am really excited about.
Do you have any tips to add to the above, that you feel I may have missed?