Landscape

So, you know where you want to go, you may even have your tickets booked, but what should you be doing in preparation for this trip of a lifetime?

Backpacks, mosquito repellent, zip-off trekking trousers… it all seems like a good idea. Being prepared is the starting block from which to enjoy your travelling experience from the very beginning, which is why I’d recommend taking care of a few things before you go.

Prague By Night

Scan your passport

Apart from arranging the relevant visas, scanning all the important pages of your passport and tickets and then emailing them to yourself is a very wise step to take. If you lose them, getting replacements will be easier. Obviously, emailing these to yourself means that you can access the information from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection, and if you’re going to some pretty remote places, not to worry, you’ll even find internet access in small mountain villages in China these days.

Organise a box.

Get yourself a storage box and put all the important things in it that you’re not going to take travelling. Such as the contents of your wallet, certificates, other I.D, your mobile phone, a printed copy of your itinerary etc.

I once decided that I wanted to stay in New Zealand permanently and found that I needed access to all sorts of educational certificates and employment references that were buried somewhere on the other side of the world. If I had it all in one place, it would have taken a lot of stress out of the process and prevented my poor Mother from diligently searching the dark corners of the loft back home. So try to imagine all scenarios, gather up everything you normally keep to hand and put it in the box, then label it and keep it somewhere safe.

Your first hostel

Taking Steps

Having your first hostel booked with a map and instructions printed off on how to get there is a good idea to get your trip off to a smooth start.

Drawing from personal experience, I can’t help but remember trundling along merrily on the Prague city bus on day 1 of my last trip. It suddenly dawned on me that I had left my hostel booking confirmation, the map and directions, my savings account details, my travel itinerary and all my friend’s names and addresses on the bus ticketing counter inside the airport. I began shifting on the bus seat like I was suffering with a form of restless leg syndrome, not knowing whether to leap from the moving vehicle to retrieve them, not knowing how to say ‘Stop’ and most of all feeling quite like an idiot abroad. If I’d been insightful enough to have a second printed copy stashed at the bottom of my bag, I might have cursed less in front of the good people of the Czech Republic.

Forget the travel toothbrush

As the excitement begins to build, it can be tempting to spend some of your travel budget on a multitude of backpacking accoutrements. There are a plethora of websites and stores offering everything from clothes lines to travel soap to emergency orange whistles. Don’t be tempted. While there are some worthwhile investments out there, try to avoid the gimmicks. You’ll soon realise that these needless accessories quickly become a burden, don’t overload yourself before you’ve even begun. A £30 mosquito net could have been spent on a week’s stay in a Goan beach hut.

Good investments

Going Travelling

A decent bag. Just because a cheap backpack might look similar to the more expensive ones, it probably won’t carry like one. Your backpack is your eternal travel companion, it is the piece of your life that you carry with you across continents, so make sure it’s durable and comfortable.

Good footwear is a must. On my third day in Nepal’s Annapurna mountain range, I hobbled and swore with every excruciating step, and while still mesmerised by the supreme beauty of the region, I wanted to ritualistically burn the shoes I’d chosen. Buying a fake pair of Cat walking boots in a backyard shop in Bosnia turned out not to be such a good idea. I confirmed that conclusion when two of my toenails eventually fell off somewhere in Laos in the weeks afterwards.

If photography is an important part of your travelling experience, then camera insurance (or travel insurance that incorporates lost or stolen belongings) is a fantastic idea. Some of the most rewarding photographs are sometimes taken in not so secure situations, and while you need to be sensible, with proper insurance a stolen camera needn’t be the end of the world. It will go a long way to making photography a much more relaxed and enjoyable part of your trip; just remember to back up your files every night for maximum protection.

If travelling in Asia, you will inevitably end up renting a scooter at some point. Think about doing a CBT test before you leave home. It will really help your confidence when it comes to handling a motorbike. You can organise a day’s CBT training course for around £90-100 in the UK (equivalents may exist in other countries). Almost everyone who has taken to riding a scooter abroad has come off it at some point. Grazes and impressive scabs are a common sight among seasoned backpackers, so do yourself a favour and get a little training first.

With all that said, you just have to throw yourself into the experience of backpacking and enjoy the ride because one thing’s for sure, you’re going to learn a lot, and it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever imagined.

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