Beginner Backpackers: A Few Tips for Getting Started
Being a global backpacker is great, but where to start? I once was lost and indecisive the first time I thought about going backpacking. I am such a wanderlust at heart with a burning desire to explore the islands of Southeast Asia, trek through the jungle of the Brazilian Amazon, and pass time exploring the deserts of Africa.
So, where to start? Below I will go over a few things to keep in mind when deciding to go on your first backpacking adventure.
1. How long can you travel?
By establishing how much time you will have to travel, you can plan your backpacking trip so that you are able to make the most of your time abroad. Also, when you only have a limited amount of holiday or vacation time, it’s important to make sure you are spending your time and resources as efficiently as possible.
2. How much money can you spend?
After you figure out how long you can travel, you want to then determine how much money you have to spend traveling. Sometimes, you may have more time off than what your budget allows you to spend or vice versa. In which case you simply make some adjustments, and figure out a way to make it work.
3. Where to go?
This is a huge thing to consider when planning a backpacking trip. The world is so big and the backpacker in all of us wants to explore every bit of this beautiful planet. But, we may not always have the time or resources to just leave on a round the world backpacking trip that could take 3 or more years…So, when deciding where to go, take into consideration the 3 previous points and also a few other things. Safety is always an important part of travelling. Make sure to do your research on your destination. Make sure your research includes up to date information on the current socioeconomic, government, and military status of the country you are travelling to. Residents of the USA please check out https://travel.state.gov and for UK Residents https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice and for residents of Australia, please find the most up to date travel information at http://dfat.gov.au/pages/default.aspx.
You also want to take into consideration the cost of living and how well your current currency converts to the local currency. To put together the perfect trip, I like to estimate how much money I want to spend per week or month in my local currency (USD) and then figure out how much that converts to in the currency of the country I am visiting. After I have those numbers, I find out how much the cost of a hostel will be for a week and I also like to budget in money for food and entertainment. I look online at how much certain tours cost, but depending on the destination, I almost never book it online. I just like to use that information to give me a general idea of how much to budget. You can almost always find cheaper prices for certain excursions in person.
So, If you were like me the first time I went on a backpacking adventure I had no idea what I was getting myself into, When it came to lodging, I looked at hotels and found the prices for just about all hotels abroad to be quite high. Until I had traveled abroad, I had no idea that there was a world-wide network of youth hostels and international backpacker hostels across the globe. A private room or shared dorm for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Grant it, you give up a lot of the luxuries that may be standard in almost all american hotel chains, but you save money and can get a relatively decent nights sleep. I like to use http://www.hostelworld.com or even http://www.expedia.com. One thing I learned and grew to really appreciate is Expedia’s customer service. They guarantee bookings, so if you make a reservation and show up to the hostel and they tell you its full, Expedia will find somewhere else for you to go, that way, you never end up stranded.
On another note, one trick that I liked to use when safe to do so, is to travel by night that way I can save on paying for a bed for a night. This worked really well for travel in South American countries where travel by bus is cheap and sometimes cumbersome.
So, this is a topic that I had not done any research on the first time I went on a backpacking trip. I had habitually over-packed which lead to me carrying around a bunch of stuff that I did not need. Additionally, packing to much will lead to having to pay for airline baggage fees. By travelling with a small enough bag, you can avoid those fees, making you a budget backpacking genius! Moving on, I do not want you to make the same mistakes I did, so I am going to give you the lowdown on what to pack and what to leave at home.
So, first things first, the type of bag that you will be carrying your precious belongings in is pretty important. And let this also be said, travelers travel with backpacks, vacationers travel with luggage. So, when choosing your backpack, don’t immediately go for the biggest one. The bigger your bag is, the more you will have a tendency to load it up with a bunch of crap you wont need. So, the smaller bag you have the better. When shopping for a bag, you want to look for something in the 25L to 45L range. This size pack will allow you to carry all of the essentials and still allow you to pick up a few items along the way.
Next, what goes in the bag is important as well. You probably wont need a tuxedo, or a formal gown, so you are probably safe leaving those behind. Also, if you are going somewhere that is cold, you can probably get away with only packing one pair of shorts. Additionally, you only need to pack a few pair of underwear, socks and shirts. One to two pair of pants and pair of shorts. Most everything that you need, if you run out of something or need to replace something, you can more than likely find it in a local town you will pass through.
Coming up soon, I will post a more detailed article on packing and gear. Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog and receive updated posts in your email.