Tag Archives: backpacking

Tips for the aspiring traveller

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Me and the man in Ireland, near Waterford

Since announcing my travel plans for next year, I have been talking to countless friends and family who have all either just finished their gap year or are about to embark upon it – some were even messaging me excitedly from the side of the world to share their tips and recommendations. I’m so pleased I know so many people who have been travelling and in the same areas I plan on visiting because that means that outside of the guidebooks, there is a wealth of information for me to pick through from real-live experiences had by people who know and understand my tastes. I can judge the recommendations based on the tastes and preferences of my friends and family which helps me understand better which parts I’d be happy to skip and which places I simply must visit.

Throughout all this talk, I keep getting given tips on things to look out for and ways to approach travelling, all of which are very welcome and are a big help as I plan my route around South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I found some of these tips so helpful that I wanted to share them with my readers, some of whom I know are also planning their travels and others who are just in the daydream stages. I feel that these tips, from experienced travellers who have learnt first-hand, are valuable to anyone planning a trip – whether a weekend break to Paris, a two-week holiday in Greece or backpacking around America.

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Hiking amongst the heather in Ireland

Here’s the top tips I have been given by fellow travellers:

  1. Throw yourself into absolutely every experience. Never say no, unless you don’t want to, get out of your comfort zone and push your boundaries by doing things that you wouldn’t normally do at home.
  2. Don’t obsess over money – yes you need to budget and make sure you spend wisely, but don’t let that prevent you from doing the above and enjoying yourself. Spend wisely the rest of the time so you can splash out on an elephant trek or white-water rafting experience.
  3. Don’t let your travel buddy dictate your experience. If you’re with a friend or in a couple, don’t be afraid to say no to some activities and go off and do your own thing, don’t be afraid to explore opposite sides of the country and meet up later. Likewise, don’t limit your experience by spending all your time with one person, get out and meet people at every opportunity.
  4. Solo travellers must not be afraid of being lonely or not meeting anyone. Everywhere you go you will meet like-minded individuals and make friends, many of them also travelling alone.
  5. Use your time the way YOU want to. You cannot be on the go 24-7 for months on end, you need some downtime to really appreciate and enjoy the country you are in. But just like staff in overworked offices at home, you can get burned out on the road too and it is important to have days of lazing by the pool as well.
  6. Try everything – similar to number one – but  in terms of food. Don’t shy away from local cuisine, it is a huge part of the experience and a little spice never killed anyone.
  7. When preparing for your trip, don’t plan every detail, give yourself a guide of where you would like to go and what you would like to do, with an estimate of how long you will spend in each area – but be prepared to drop it all if an opportunity arises – don’t be afraid to go off the map.
  8. Shop around for flights, accommodation and activities – there is always somewhere cheaper and be prepared to barter to get the price you think is right.
  9. Capture every moment with photo, video, blogging, any form you want – even just in your mind’s eye. Just make sure you remember everything and everyone.
  10. When packing, get all your clothes and money together. Then half the clothes and double the money to keep going as long as possible.

Have you got any more top tips you would like to share with me or other travellers? Share them below in a comment.

The Great Escape: Why are all the twenty-something’s heading overseas?

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Every time I log in to Facebook or scroll through my Instagram feed, I feel like I’m just waiting to see which of my old school friends, workmates or which person off my university course is heading off into the great unknown, flying off into the sunset, or just taking a break from real life. The ‘Gap Yah’ used to be a right of passage for the elite and the wealthy who fancied putting off work a while longer, while the rest of the world knuckled down into earning a steady wage and getting their foot on the property ladder. So when exactly did it become the norm, if not expected, that most twenty-something’s will be jetting off as soon as they are free from education?

I’ve had several friends over the last few years who were leaving for various reasons – some had been waiting for this moment for years, for their chance to escape and see the world, others had left university and found themselves unable to find work in their chosen field, others had found work and loved their jobs but just needed to get out and see what else was out there. All of them valid reasons, but where had this motivation come from? A few years ago, it seemed there were just a few spirited individuals who saved up the cash and upped sticks, heading off with their backpacks and hippy trousers. Now, it seems like the majority of young people are heading off at some point or another.

More and more are choosing to take advantage of their university courses offering a year abroad – my younger sister is studying fashion in New York at the moment. Others are taking a ‘Gap Yah’ and are taking the well trekked route across South East Asia – usually starting with Thailand and heading off to Oz and New Zealand for work. Many start off by going for a few months but eventually extend their trip to a year or more. But why do they do it?

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Put simply – the great unknown is incredibly enticing to those who have experienced the reality of cold, rainy England where jobs are few and far between and too many people are earning far less than they should be in jobs that they are overqualified for. I know this isn’t the reality for everyone – but for those who have been stuck in a job that is going nowhere, or for those endlessly applying to grad schemes or jobs and getting nowhere – escaping all this can look like a great option.

Why wouldn’t we all want to go to where the sun shines all year round, the people smile, there are jobs everywhere, the chance to earn twice as much as you do over here and you have what seems like endless freedom. It is complete uncertainty – which is really attractive to those who are certain of their immediate futures in the UK and don’t like the look of them. Essentially the question is – why work over here in the dreary UK when you can do the same job in Oz, in the sunshine, and earn more?

It seems like so many people are making this decision to just quit life for a while and fly to the opposite side of the world to experience what is out there, and I don’t blame them. They say travel is the one thing that makes you richer and I agree – the experiences you will have, the things you will see, and the people you will meet will shape your life and your future in ways you cannot even imagine before you set out on your journey. It’s just having the courage to take that first step and to make the decision to head off, whether alone or with a friend, or partner. Once you’ve made that decision, the rest is easy.

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That’s exactly how I have found it anyway. I’ve had a lot going on lately, but even before all of this I had made a decision. Travelling was something I had always wanted to do and I would have loved to do it straight after university but I was lucky enough to get an amazing job and couldn’t turn it down. Now I have reached a point where I’m not sure how much more I can get out of my job and my itchy feet have returned. I think that going off on my own and seeing the world is something I need to do before I look for my next dream job – I worry that otherwise I could find a job I love and end up never escaping by myself.

I had never planned to go by myself – a few friends and I had spoken about going several times, but it had never been the right time, with work and boyfriends etc. This is the same now, but this time I just felt I couldn’t put it off any longer for fear of missing my opportunity. So I am braving it by myself and I’m actually really looking forward to doing it on my own. My plan is to get saving for the next 12 months and then head off into the sunset – don’t worry, I plan to keep the blog going – it just might take a more travel-oriented focus. At the moment the vague plan is to head to Thailand, Australia and then New Zealand – hopefully with a few other stops in places like Cambodia along the way. I’ve got a lot of reading to do, but will keep you updated as my plan develops.

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If you have any suggestions for places to visit or advice for a solo backpacker – they would all be much appreciated – leave me a comment below!