When I left for my very first long term backpacking adventure in 2009 I knew absolutely nothing. The information was out there, however I just assumed I could wing it and it would all work out for me. Don’t get me wrong, winging it is something I love to do, but it’s also a good idea to get some type of advice as a guide to avoid a potentially disastrous situation.
These are the 7 things I wish I knew before I started traveling
Bank Fees: ATM, international transaction and currency conversion fees. These were things I just assumed were usual travel expenses, but fortunately for us they’re NOT. I once tallied up the amount of money I spent on unnecessary fees associated with withdrawing money whilst overseas and was disgusted to find that I had spent around $1000 within one year. The fees are avoidable if you do a little bit of research. I personally use Citibank and have happily never paid a cent since.
Budgeting Is Necessary: I am yet to meet a traveler with an unlimited source of income, so keeping a keen eye on your week to week travel expenses is necessary. I was the kind of person who never seemed to want to add partying expenses into my weekly budget. I am not proud of this, however next to accommodation and food, partying is definitely a big reason my bank account never looks as good as I thought it would. Although it’s a bit of a buzz-kill, a little bit of budgeting will go a long way.
Avoid A Giant Backpack: Even up until 2014 I was carrying around a giant backpack filled with things I rarely used. It wasn’t until I left most of my belongings in Bolivia and was unable to return due to a visa restriction that I realised I didn’t really need most of the things I had been carrying around for so long. For the past 2 years my backpack has been so small that it is able to be used as carry on luggage whenever I fly. Perfect.
Buy Travel Insurance: Medical bills and the cost of stolen goods is something you really don’t want to have to put up with whilst traveling to different countries. I was silly enough to go traveling 1.5 years without travel insurance and luckily enough nothing major happened. Don’t be me. Don’t skip purchasing travel insurance because you don’t want to spend the money. I recently spent $100 for a years worth of insurance. This gives me peace of mind knowing that if I break my leg in the United States I won’t be paying $20,000 in medical bills.
Don’t Be Afraid To Travel Alone: I started out needing one of my friends from home to travel with me, but as the years went on less and less of my friends were willing join me due to other commitments. I’m going to admit the thought of traveling alone did seem a little scary at first, however it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done. The best thing about traveling by yourself is that you’re never really alone.
Don’t Count On Everything Going To Plan: Before I had even left on my first backpacking trip I had already excitedly planned out months of my adventure. Little did I know that there were places I wanted to stay longer, cities I wanted to leave early and some people I had met that I wanted to travel with. These things didn’t really fit into my travel plans so inevitably my plans were ruined time and time again. My advice would be to always have a rough plan, but always be open for change.
Travel Slowly: “…But I only have a month off work this year.” – I get it . Not everyone has a year to travel and 15 countries in as many days will allow you to tick off a lot of places on your bucket list. Unfortunately all you’ll have at the end of this is your photos, some crazy adventures and a lot of built up stress. This actually doesn’t sound too bad, but you’ll never really have a good understanding or knowledge of the countries you traveled to. Slow down, chill and really take in your surroundings. It’s supposed to be a holiday after all.