Deciding to go backpacking is one of the most exciting decisions you will make in your life. You're giving up everything you know to venture across the world and live a life of freedom and exploration for months on end. All those daydreams are finally becoming a reality. For me, finally booking my flights and quitting my job after months of saving and waiting was pretty special. It meant it really was finally happening - that it wasn't just a pipe dream or something I talked about with my friends. I walked around for a week or two with a real rosy glow, and nothing could touch my good mood. And then reality hit. I couldn't go travelling and spend my days visiting temples and lounging by the pool unless I first organised a huge list of REALLY BORING stuff. Dammit. So close. Nobody tells you when you daydream about a gap yah quite how complex it all is to organise, especially if you're doing it alone!
Doing it all by myself has been hugely exciting so far and I'm really glad that I am because it means I have to take responsibility for everything. But that doesn't make it any less complicated and long-winded. Thankfully doing a lot of reading of books, blogs and travel websites, and talking to some experts has really helped me to make sure I do all the boring things I just wouldn't have thought of on my own. There are so many things you don't even realise you have to do until you start researching, and it is easy to not even realise how much work, effort and time goes into planning your trip. Of course it all pays off in the end, but it can be a lot of work in the meantime, and it all stands between your and the trip of a lifetime. So what exactly do you need to remember? Well I've created the boring backpacker to-do list - no bikinis and fancy flip-flops here - just the things you are might forget in your excitement:
I can't stress this enough. The more you read and speak to backpackers or travel specialists - the more you will be prepared. They will be able to tell you where to find the best deals, give you recommendations etc. Preparation is key and will make your life a lot easier and a LOT more relaxing on your trip.
If you book your flights through a company like Trailfinders (like I did) you will find they have a visa department. Speak to them and find out all you need to know about the different types of visas available - in case you want to work or stay for an extended period - when you need to apply for them and what you need in order to apply for them. All information is available online if not - get these sorted early.
Make sure you have a card you can use abroad that won't charge you the earth to use. Also, set up a back-up account with another card and make sure you split your funds between them in case your card ends up being nicked or frozen. Make sure the bank are aware you are leaving the country for some time and that they have a log, so your card will not be frozen. Get a credit card, if you can be trusted, and use it for emergencies.
This is a biggie. Your life will be on your back and I'm sure you'll be carrying some precious cargo in things like cameras, phones, laptops/iPads - so it is important to make sure they are all covered in any situation. You never know when you're going to be pick-pocketed and it's always best to be prepared. Also make sure you are covered health-wise, especially if you are planning on any extreme or winter sports which are often separate.
Make sure all those photos, documents, blog posts and books are all backed up online. It is so easy these day to back then up not only online but between devices as well just to be safe. For example, I have two cameras, an iPad and my phone - all are connected through WiFi and will automatically copy across everything without me needing to worry. That will save me from any terrible losses.
Make sure you contact your doctors surgery as soon as possible to speak to the travel or vaccinations nurse - they will be able to make an appointment and plan what jabs you need according to your travel plans. The earlier you do this the better as for some jabs you have to have a course of injections - like I did for rabies and hepatitis. They will also be able to advise on and prescribe malaria pills - very important if travelling to parts of Asia.
When packing, make sure you take basic security items - a doorstop under the inside of the door can help you feel safe while you sleep, as can padlocks on your locker and bag. Give family your intended route, keep them updated of changes as you travel, and set up contact (Skype or Facetime, or even email). & a rough schedule - say you'll check in once a week unless otherwise stated - that will put their minds at rest and keep you safe if anything happens.
So now I've thought of all the boring bits for you, you're free to plan in those jungle treks, yoga retreats, elephant rides and all the rest of the exciting fun stuff you really want to be thinking about...
Can you think of anything I've forgotten? Why not comment below and add to the to-do list?
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