Thinking about taking the plunge, packing your bag and travelling around the world? But when you really start thinking about it, the prospect of the unknown freaks you out a bit?
If you’re thinking about heading off on an adventure we’re guessing this scenario may sound familiar. You’re super excited to go…but all those ‘what if’ questions start circling around in your head…What if something bad happens? What if I run out of money? What if I don’t meet anyone to hang out with? Who will I meet, will they be weirdos? Should I just stay at home and work harder for that promotion? What will my parents think; I just got that new job?
I totally know how you feel. I’m now 36 and have travelled, worked and lived in 33 countries on this epic planet. But I’ll openly admit, when I was planning my first round-the-world trip I was scared shitless! And it wasn’t even my first ever trip overseas.
This trip was set to be different though. All I had was my stupidly heavy backpack, some cash in the bank, an emergency credit card and of course a very vague itinerary (nothings changed there!).
My previous trips overseas had been more deliberate. I’d done a trip to Canada to go snowboarding, a brief stint in the USA to hit up LA and a ‘singles’ week in Noumea to party hard. All those trips were planned. I knew what I’d be doing each day and who I’d be doing it with. Easy! But my round the world trip…now that was a completely unknown entity!
The first leg of the trip I was going to be travelling with my younger sister Amanda. She’d recently returned from teaching English in Korea and was keen to hit up South East Asia.
That’s when the doubt set in.
I’ll be honest here; I knew nothing about South East Asia. This was way back before social media or the internet so it’s not like I could just Google it, or check a few hashtags on Facebook or Instagram.
I had no idea of what to expect. I didn’t know if we’d meet anyone, or whether it’d be just my sister and I. I didn’t know what we’d see, where we’d stay or even what we’d do every day. No one I knew had ever travelled around South East Asia before. Pretty scary really!
So I did the only thing you really could do back then. I bought a Lonely Planet guidebook, sucked up my fear and booked our tickets. First stop was Bangkok, Thailand.
Amanda’s mate Nick had decided to join us in Bangkok on his way to London. So we did what backpackers on a budget do and crashed at his fancy hotel.
If you’ve been to Bangkok you’ll know it’s a massive, bustling city and if you don’t know what to do or where to go you can feel really small, insignificant and lost. This happened to us within minutes of arriving.
In all honesty, our first couple of days were horrible. We clung to the hotel like our lifeboat. Leaving only for essential items and quickly scurrying back. Those first few days we saw nothing of Bangkok. We didn’t eat Thai food and instead ate whatever western cuisine the hotel was serving up. Not great.
Around day five, we knew we had to do something. We’d planned on being in Asia for a couple of months and we both agreed that living like this sucked. I felt like going home. Suddenly I remembered the Lonely Planet guidebook that I’d purchased. We skipped straight to the section about Bangkok to find where to go.
We discovered our hotel was located in a business district where there was absolutely nothing going on for backpackers, so we decided to look for somewhere more tourist friendly to stay. The book suggested Khoa San Road, so we packed our bags, farewelled Nick and jumped in a taxi on a mission.
Driving into Khoa San Road there was an audible sigh of relief from both of us. Even though we didn’t have any accommodation booked there were illuminated signs everywhere (in English!) pointing to places we could crash. Fellow tourists all around us, bars and vendors lining the streets flogging everything a backpacker could want – cheap tours, alcohol and CD’s. Yep back in those days we travelled with a wallet full of CD’s! This place had it all.
As soon as we arrived at Khoa San Road I knew I had nothing to worry about. This was going to be the start of an EPIC adventure and everything was going to work out from here, I could feel it. I ended up travelling for close to two years from that point on and had the best time ever!
So, if you’re thinking about selling all your worldly possessions to head off on an adventure of a lifetime, here’s a list of everything I wish I’d knew before I’d set off…
New Travellers Guide: What you need to know!
#1 You’re not alone
Being alone is one of the biggest fears that hold people back from booking their ticket and going on an adventure.
When you first start backpacking, you quickly realise you’re never really alone. Wherever you are in the world there’s always other backpackers travelling in the same direction as you.
There’s a well-travelled backpackers trail on most continents around the world and as soon as you jump on it you’ll meet a bunch of new friends. The only real question is where you’ll leave them? That can be the saddest thing about travelling, saying good-bye to the friends you’ve made along the way.
#2 You’re going to get ripped off
The reality is, you will get ripped off when you’re travelling. Just go with the flow and roll with it.
The first place you’ll get ripped off? The airport! Those taxi drivers will get you every time. My advice, don’t stress and just accept the fact that you’re going to pay too much money for your ride from the airport to wherever you’re going. You can do some research first to see how much the cab ride should be but you may find that when you try and haggle with the driver they’ll always come up with some reason why you’re wrong about the price.
I’d recommend doing some research beforehand and see if there are any common risks and scams for tourists in the area that you’re heading to, but don’t let this ruin your trip. Just play it smart and don’t take your life savings in cash out with you each day. If you’ve got expensive shoes, bags or jewellery and you’re travelling in a third world country, I’d suggest you leave them at home!
#3 Travel slow and save
The number one way to spend less money on the road is by travelling slowly. The longer you stay in each country the less money you’ll spend. Why? Instead of burning through cash by buying flights everywhere you can catch inexpensive buses.
You can also find cheaper accommodation if you have more time, for instance I rented short-term apartments on my travels that worked out so much cheaper than staying in a hotel or hostel, plus you can buy and cook your own food. Winning!
#4 Don’t lose your cool when haggling
Haggling is part of the travel experience in third world countries. If you want to buy something, nine times out of ten, the price is always negotiable. This can be fun but some people can find it really stressful.
My top tips for haggling:
- Ask a local first what the price range should be for what you want to buy
- Know and accept that you will usually have to pay more than a local
- Don’t buy at the first store, shop around
- Remember how much you’re actually quibbling over, it’s probably worth a really small amount back home
- Have fun with it!
#5 Keep a copy of your important documents with you
Bags go missing, it happens. To prevent any real major dramas, keep a copy of your important documents somewhere that you can access them quickly. I used to leave a copy of my passport, visas, bank details, travel insurance and proof of my travel vaccinations with my mum back home. I also contacted my bank and gave my mum authority to access my account.
When you’re leaving for an unknown amount of time, you don’t know what will eventuate while you’re on the road so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
These days I can access my important info online so if I need it I can grab it easily.
#6 Always buy travel insurance
Backpackers always question whether or not they really need travel insurance. I get it, it’s an additional cost that you’re not sure you’ll use or not.
However, I ALWAYS buy travel insurance. Believe it or not, there are not many times I haven’t needed it! Accidents happen and I’ve ended up either at the doctors, or worse, in hospital overseas. Plus I’ve also had stuff stolen.
Do some homework before buying your travel insurance. I look for plans that I can claim on while I’m overseas if I need to. If you’re on a long trip, you don’t want to be out of pocket for months. Some plans will only let you claim any expenses when you get home and that totally sucks!
Over the years I’ve used World Nomads consistently. These guys are easy to deal with and are great value for money.
#7 Travelling solo is FUN
If you’d asked me if I’d want to travel by myself before I set off for my first round-the-world adventure the answer would’ve been a resounding NO! I’m an introvert and sometimes struggle in group situations. But travelling solo turned out to be one of my favourite travel experiences ever.
Like I said earlier, when you’re backpacking there are so many cool people to meet. Even when you’re travelling solo, you’re never really by yourself.
Find out why travelling alone is amazing! READ: Travelling Solo Will Change Your Life.
#8 Invest in a good camera
I really wish I’d done this when I first started travelling! On my first few trips I didn’t even take a camera and it’s one of my biggest regrets. Now, years on I’d love to go back and reminisce about those adventures.
Investing in a good camera will ensure you remember your trip and all the new friends you meet forever.
Spend some time here and do your research. My biggest piece of advice is to buy a camera that’s going to suit YOU and your needs!
Think about it, are you going to want to carry around a bulky DSR or would a point and shoot suit you best? Whatever you decide, invest in a big memory card (I always buy two!) and a spare battery. Trust me, you don’t want to be in the middle of the Amazon Jungle and run out juice or have a full memory card.
I’d also recommend backing up your photos on the road. I’ve heard heaps of horror stories about people losing their camera and months worth of travel snaps that they hadn’t backed up along with it. A small portable hard drive is good for this or the cloud works well too.
Take a look at the camera that’s on my current wish list! It’s wifi enabled so you can easily post pics to your social media accounts when you’re on the road! Canon PowerShot G7 X Digital Camera – Wi-Fi Enabled
#9 Ask the locals
Referencing a guidebook is a good place to start and will give you an overall idea of what to expect in each country but the best way to get the most from your trip when you’re there is to talk to the locals.
Locals can recommend the best places to go and they will also tell you where to avoid. In my experience, you’ll always save money by doing as the locals do.
This also applies to finding good places to eat. Guidebooks will usually recommend a handful of places to eat so most tourists will go there. That doesn’t mean they’re the only places to get a good meal in town. Ask the locals and you’ll usually be able to eat cheaper and better elsewhere.
#10 Pack light (and not white!)
Hands down, packing light is one of the hardest things to do. And it only gets harder when you’re travelling to both hot and cold climates.
Here are my top packing tips:
- Leave your hair dryer at home (your hotel, hostel will usually have one)
- Don’t pack white clothes! We all know wearing white is asking for trouble. You’ll almost always get it stained and they get dirty real quick. Pack clothes that are easy to hand wash and you can wear multiple times.
- Buy Packing Cells Packing cells are the bomb and make packing a whole lot easier. I’ve got multiple sizes so I can separate clothes easily inside my bag i.e. dirty shoes, wet clothes, dirty clothes, clean clothes, etc. Last thing you want is to have your clean clothes smelling like yesterdays hike. This is what they look like… Travel Packing Cubes Set- 4 Mesh Luggage Organizer Accessories and Shoe Bag
- Less is more Wherever you’re going, there will be shops! If you’re packing items that you’re not sure you’ll even use, ditch them. You can always buy it later if you really need it.
- Don’t take a towel The best item you can buy on your travels is a sarong. Sarongs are thin, quick to dry and are multi-functional. Just think, you can use them as a beach towel, bus pillow, long skirt for temples, curtain, and I’m sure much more!
- Take a travel washing line My travel washing line is one of my fave travel items. Great for hanging up wet clothes or if you need to create a makeshift blind or curtain.
- Cull before you go Before you leave home, lay out all the items you want to take so you can see everything. Now before you pack be brutal and cull! Remove all the items you’re umming and ahhing about.
Which leads me to my golden rule of packing! Make sure you’re bag is NOT FULL when you’re starting a trip. When you’re travelling, you’ll inevitably end up buying stuff and if your bag is jam packed at the beginning you’ll be struggling to find space for the stuff you want to buy!
#11 Go with the flow
Travelling is fun and I guarantee if you loosen the reigns on your itinerary you’ll have even more of a blast. I’ve travelled with people who have super rigid plans and it seems so stressful!
You’re going to meet a bunch of awesome people and if your plans are loose you’ll have the option of travelling longer with those peeps if you choose. I’ve experienced some of my most epic travel moments when I’ve met a random person on a bus or a boat and just said YES to going wherever they’re going next.
#12 You’ll come back a better person
If you believed the media hype, you’d think the world is a really bad place. In reality, the world is a remarkable place full of amazing places and people! You’ll discover first hand different cultures; amazing food and you’ll learn how epic other human beings really are. Travelling the world will give you the best kind of life experience.
#13 Eat like the locals do
The best way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new place is eating as the locals do. Steering clear of western food will not only tantalise your tastebuds, but you’ll also save money and, in my experience, have less chance of getting food poisoning.
#14 Have FUN
Travelling is the BEST thing in the world to do. But be warned, once you start you may never want to stop!
There are so many adventures and experiences to be enjoyed on this planet, all you need to do now is get out there and find them!
Hopefully my post has given you a few handy tips before you set off. If it has, comment below and let me know!
Are you a seasoned traveller? Leave your top tip for a new traveller below!
Thanks for reading my article New Travellers Guide: What you need to know before you go!
Here’s another post I think you’ll enjoy How we Quit Our Jobs to Travel The World.
Has to be one of our most memorable moments from our recent China trip! It’s not everyday you get taught some serious kick ass tai chi moves from a master tai chi expert! To top the experience off, we learnt it at Mount Qingcheng the birthplace of Taoism where Tai Chi originates from. How do you like our get up? Pretty fancy eh?! I definitely think we’re rocking the white robes and sneaker look! ✌️?? #mountqingcheng #China #chengdu
A photo posted by Victoria & Elaina (@thefreedomtravellers) on