I went on my first backpacking trip for a volunteering trip to Vietnam when I was 18. I had decided during sixth form that I needed something different, something to take me away from the normality of the UK and I also wanted to experience something no-one I knew had also done.
Before I left my mum insisted on taking me to an outdoor store and buying me pretty much everything and anything I would need in any eventuality whilst I was away. Of course as everyone knows I didn’t use half the things we bought and came back with just as much as I took. I ‘googled’ to my hearts content, researched all my journeys, studied maps and asked every person I knew for advice.
Four years later and I have spent most of my adult life backpacking around distant countries. Although it’s been on and off for four years, the passion has never died and once I make my millions I will ensure that I get to backpack the rest of my days around this incredible world.
I might have thought I knew it all whilst on the road, but there are also things people never tell you about backpacking. Here are 5 Things Noone Ever Tells You About Backpacking…
1. You never actually sleep
It’s true, you’ll never sleep. It’s like a cycle; get up early for breakfast, head on out to be all cultural, come back mid-afternoon, bump in to someone you met three week ago, grab dinner, decide you’re going to go out, have drinks, head on out in to town, get home in the early hours of the morning, wake up, and do it all over again. You learn to deal with it though and your body does adjust. Just make sure you find a day once a week where you can revive yourself and recover. Or if you’re like me you’ll find yourself falling asleep in the weirdest of places. Up right sleeping in a van crossing the border between Thailand and Cambodia isn’t fun, nor is it comfortable.
2. You can always find something for dinner
No matter where you are you can always find something to eat for dinner for cheap. Why spend $20 on a restaurant meal when you can nip to a local cafe or buy food from a street vendor cart. Your mum telling you it’s not safe to eat isn’t always true and are you really experiencing a country if you just stick to what you know?
3. Your stomach might not be your best friend
3. This leads on to my next point, your stomach. Just be careful with what you eat, of course don’t just stick to the commercial cafes, the posh restaurants and the well-known places but if you think it doesn’t look cooked, don’t eat it. You eat with your eyes, so whatever looks good, will taste good and hopefully be good (for your stomach). And if you’re unlucky, just be prepared.
4. Being ‘clean’ doesn’t become a priority in life
Suddenly feeling clean doesn’t always matter than much when you’re climbing up a Machu Picchu or riding a camel in the desert and it certainly won’t bother you when you realise everyone else is doing the same. Just remember to take the deodorant and the dry shampoo for those days when dirty gets too much. After all a swim in the sea counts as a clean right?
5. Generally people are nice
No matter what the media makes out places to be, usually it isn’t the locals that are hostile. Luckily wherever I have been the good has always outweighed the bad, and in the long term people wouldn’t travel if it wasn’t an enjoyed experience. Every country has bad people and every country has good people. You could be mugged walking to your local shop at home or you could be mugged walking through Hanoi city centre, its weighing up the pros and cons. Just remember travelling is about meeting different people, talking to people and creating relationships with those people, and everyone has a sense of humour so crack a joke and you’ll make a friend for life.
Let me know in the comments things you learn’t on your first trip away travelling!