I went on my first trip alone to India when I was 18 years old, with a one-way ticket to India and no plans at all. I hardly spoke any English at that time and it was the first time that I was going outside Europe on my own.
I ended up spending 6 months in India and visited another 6 countries within 11 months of travelling.
A lot of things have changed since my first trip. I have learned a lot; lost all my stuff, got robbed, few accidents, and even got arrested a few times. But those are all good memories now.
So, here’s my note that makes me ended up with good (and sometimes bad) experience. But I prefer to call it an adventure.
1. Always Say YES
Saying Yes can change your trip completely. Some of the best experiences and the most fun I ever had on any of my trips have been after saying Yes.
When I asked by other travellers to join them where they are planning to, -even if I only met them less than 5 minutes ago.
Or, when I said Yes to an old woman when she asked me if I wanted to meet her family for dinner in Pakistan. I ended up staying with the family for a week trying to teach her grandchildren English in a tiny mountain village.
I was a guest of guest honour in this wedding in Tajikistan after some locals I had just met minutes before asked if I wanted to go with them to their friend’s wedding.
2. There’s No Reason to Plan too Much
There’s nothing wrong doing some planning because it’s very easy to make plans and schedule. I shake my head when people tell me they are planning to spend X amount of time in a certain city or countries. You have no idea if you will love or hate the place if you have never been there before. First time I went to Singapore, I had planned to only spend 2 days there but ended up spending 10 days and I have been back there a lot of times after.
3. Pack Less, Much less
Lighter backpack = cheaper trip. Pack your backpack then take out half of the stuff and leave at home before you leave.
All low-cost airlines in the world charge for your luggage and a lot of ferries around the world charges for the weight of each KG of your bag, and same with a lot of bus companies. And trust me, you don’t want to carry around your backpack when it’s 35+ in the shade.
On my first trip, I used an 80L backpack. These days, I travel with a 48L backpack and I still find that my new backpack is too big most of the days. There’s ALWAYS space in your bag. But I found that the smaller the backpack, the more you can fit.
I once travelled around Vietnam for 2 weeks with all my belongings in a plastic bag from a supermarket. But whatever you do, do NOT buy Osprey backpacks, they might be light, but their quality sucks.!
4.Backup, Backup, Backup
The last few years, it has become very common to backup online on Dropbox, iCloud, Onedrive, etc. DO IT! It’s still pretty common that I see people doing the backup only on an external hard drive. I have also met a lot of people that have lost their external hard drive when they lost their camera and laptop. Unfortunately, I got all my stuff stolen twice (and definitely hope it would not happen again). That was before the «clouds» got common. So I got no photos from my 6 months trip down to West Africa, and no photos from my first trip to SouthEast Asia.
But when I got a boat accident in Sumatra, Indonesia last year and all my electronics died when it ended in the water with the boat capsized. I didn’t lose any photos and data since I had it back up online. Thanks to the Cloud!
5. There’s Always A Way
Nothing is impossible.
Even if it’s not mentioned in the guide book or people say that it’s impossible to go there, it normally means those people have no idea what they are talking about. Until this day, I have never been stuck in a place I didn’t want to be in. There’s always a way to go to the place you want to.
I crossed the border from Burkina Faso to Ghana on a donkey when the locals told me there was no transportation.
6. Get Up early in the Morning
It’s not only the best time for «magical» light for photos but also a lot of great deals. From cheap breakfast deals in restaurants to the half-priced ticket for cinemas compared to the evening. Also, it’s generally safer to walk around bad neighbourhoods coz bad people tend to stay up late and sleep longer.
7. Bring Earplugs
Earplug is one of the most important things that I pack alongside my passport and camera. It’s not only helped me sleep well in the dorm, when it seemed like I always shared the room with people that snore, but also against crying babies and peoples who don’t use earplugs when they listen to music on buses/train, barking dogs, etc. I always carry a pack of 100 earplugs when I leave home. For me, it’s a MUST!
8. Don’t Be Afraid, The World is not a Dangerous Place
I’ve been to a lot of places that western media wants to portray as a dangerous place, and I’m still alive. It doesn’t mean that I do not trust the media for places not to visit, but for me, every place would be safe as long as you use your common sense and don’t act like an idiot.
During my trip, I found that city like Teheran in Iran, or Lahore in Pakistan is much safer than the average cities in Europe. It’s definitely far from what media wrote.
9. Get Off The Tourist Trail
Off the beaten tracks are so much better than the tourist places. Things are not only cheaper, but you also avoid the hassle from sellers, beggars, and people that want to mess you over.
Most important is that you will experience something real that only a few other tourists have experienced.
NO hanging out at a bar in Phuket or a full moon party on Koh Pha Ngan can replace the experience of visiting tiger temple outside Bangkok or even walking around with a sombrero in Mexico will give you a real experience of the country you are in.
Get off the tourist trail and discover places like this.
10. Spend a few extra bucks
Even though I always travel on a shoestring budget, doesn’t mean that I go and sleep at rock button place or eat dirt cheap food every day. If a hostel is cheaper than the rest, then there’s a reason for it. It’s normal for hostels that include breakfast and often free coffee/tea all day to cost more while the cheap one doesn’t have these facilities.
This room that included flat screen tv, wi-fi, and a huge buffet breakfast was only 1.5Usd more expensive than a dorm bed in a hostel in the same street, that did not include breakfast.
11.Guide Books don´t know everything.
Guide Books is often pretty useless, especially if you get off the tourist trail. Even if they do have some info about the place, it’s generally ridiculous outdated. And sometimes you wonder if they have actually been to the place at all.
12. Stop Littering.
There’s way too much garbage around the world, even on deserted beaches, remote mountains and national parks around the world.
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