So you’re all packed and ready to go, flights are booked and you think you will just sail off into a life of eternal summer holidays…
Well I’ve got news for you; backpacking has a steep learning curve! Every beginner traveller makes some mistakes before they find their flow but read through these 13 common backpacker blunders, to set yourself one step ahead of the game. They may sound obvious but I can’t count how many travelers I have come across on the road suffering after one of the following:
Too much stuff:
Unless you’re heading into the wilds of Alaska chances are you will be able to buy that second tube of tooth paste or the 3 novels when you get there and do you really need two pairs of dress shoes, or 8 pairs of pants? Remember you have to carry all this on your back, occasionally for long periods of time. Find a pack that fits you well and take only the bare essentials, you’ll be amazed at how much stuff you don’t need.
Too many gadgets:
Smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, laptops, backup drives and cameras. All these things you will have to carry, charge and protect from the elements along with their charges and adapters. Unless you a running a business from the road try and find a phone or tablet that can do all these things in one. You won’t have to fight for a power point at the local hostel or make yourself a target for thieves and you can get on with experiencing the travel rather than recording it.
Booking too far out:
Flexibility is important. You don’t know who you’ll meet, what you will enjoy or the opportunities that will come up. If you tie yourself down to a pre booked itinerary months out, you won’t have room to room to spontaneously change your plans. Stay longer in the places you love or grab that last minute deal. Booking major flights or in areas that there is an event or peak season is a good idea, but otherwise give yourself some space to manoeuvre . You may end up doing exactly what you planned but at least you have options when you book as you go.
Bad travel partners:
Just because they are your best friend or partner does not mean you’ll travel well together. You need similar priorities and serious communication skills to be a good travel partner. I suggest taking a short holiday for a few weeks before committing to travelling with someone for a long period of time. Travel can be stressful and you don’t need to add ruined friendships to the mix.
See too much:
Another common problem with new travellers is “FOMO” or fear of missing out, when it’s your first trip, no matter what I tell you, won’t make you slow down or not stretch to see alllll the things. Once you get it all out of your system try to calm down. Not rushing from site to site, you will soon realize that your stress levels drop and you have time to enjoy and explore deeper than surface level.
Not getting immunised/insured:
Thinking it won’t happen to you is just wishful thinking! Anything can and will go wrong and when you are in a foreign country far from you support network and safety net, you need to be prepared for that. Don’t be a news headline, go to your doctor and find out what immunisations you need and front up for at least health insurance when you travel. It’s just not worth the alternative.
Following the crowd:
It’s all very overwhelming I know, but slavishly following your guidebook to the most popular sites just won’t do. If you believed the guidebooks then there are only so many attractions and we all must see them, you might get the impression that travelling is a string of crowded sites and overpriced accommodation. Don’t get me wrong guidebooks have their place, they are great at setting a route but to really get the hang of travel you need to learn about what appeals to you personally. Often times there are cheaper, less crowded alternatives to the main attraction that you can discover by simply asking a few questions of your hosts and fellow travellers.
Promising you’ll call home at xyz:
Depending of course on your destination finding reliable phone or internet at a certain time of day may be nearly impossible. Try not to leave a mother or partner at home panicking because you didn’t check in exactly when you said you would. Make sure they know if you’re headed into a place with skimpy coverage and try quick updates on Facebook or your chosen travel app, so the people back home can keep track of you without the stress.
Budget blow out:
Look at all the once in a life time experiences to have, all the beer to drink…. now look at your bank balance. Longer term travel is often about prioritising , are you willing to give up the 5 star accommodation or the night out drinking, to see that one outrageously expensive site you have dreamed about since you were a kid? Remember just because your hostel mates are living it up doesn’t mean you have to, they will be back home at their day jobs while you are still out adventuring. As an added tip make sure you have some cash hidden somewhere in your belongings for emergency’s. Your good looking bank balance won’t help you if the only ATM in town that does international banking goes down. It pays to be prepared.
Chasing best season:
Ok we all imagine ourselves on that sundrenched beach or knee deep in fresh powder but here are some facts about peak seasons. It’s hard to find accommodation, the sites are crowded and everything is suddenly twice the price. Seasons are great to consider when planning your travel but seriously consider bridge season (between peak and off peak) you get off peak prices but not the full on weather associated with off peak.
Not wearing in your footwear:
This is really a beginner’s gaff, you wouldn’t go hiking in new boots but it’s amazing how many people will head out for 5 hours of site seeing or carry their packs for an hour while looking for a hostel with brand new shoes on. Blisters are not fun, especially when you have no choice but to put the same pair of shoes on and head out again the next day. Don’t let something this simple ruin your holiday.
Not backing up memories:
I have been personally devastated by losing months of irreplaceable photos, trust me its gutting. Whether you’re taking pics on your phone or a camera, back them up to the cloud! A laptop or hard drive can easily be stolen or fall prey to the weather. Cloud storage may only be accessible with an internet connection but your precious memories are safe. You can even have family back home download them onto a drive ready for your return.
Not drinking enough water:
Most new travellers are wary of unknown foods but we tend to forget about hydration. Caution over water purity is important but when you’re walking all day, sometimes carrying a pack and often in higher temperatures than normal, getting dehydrated can be a serious problem. Front up and buy a decent filter or even bottled water and make sure you can carry it in an easily accessible place. Train yourself to drink often and help avoid heatstroke and all its nasty effects.
There you have it; 13 mistakes you could easily avoid and make your journey into backpacking that much more smooth and enjoyable. There are so many awesome things about the freedom of backpacking, so try and learn from my mistakes and you’ll have adventures you will never forget.