It takes quite a bit of preparation and a handful of tricks to be a true backpacker. I learned that it is not enough to just carry a backpack when travelling the world. So here are my backpacking tips – with them, nothing can possibly go wrong!
If you are planning to travel the world for a couple of months and really want to get into backpacking then read on!
A – A lot of patience
The first backpacking tip: You need to learn that sometimes you will have no choice but to wait at various terminals for your ride to leave – sometimes not until the next day. That’s just how it is. Simply bring along more books.
B – Backpack
One of the most important backpacking tips: You cannot backpack with a suitcase. Sorry, but that is how it is. So your choice of backpack is absolutely essential. Take your time when choosing one because it’ll be your best friend over the next weeks, months and years.
C – Couchsurfing
No money for a hostel? Then try out couch surfing! If you pick the right host I can guarantee an incredible but first and foremost local experience! This should be part of every backpacking experience.
D – Deodorant
I keep asking myself: What makes travellers think you need to be smelly and dirty just because there isn’t always a shower nearby? You can buy deodorant in every country! Hence my backpacking tip that benefits us all: please, please shower once in a while.
E – Extreme loneliness
You will experience days on your trip when you sit in your hostel or a café, look around and think: How great would it be to have someone to talk to? That happens. It is important not to become depressed and fall into a hole. Instead, enjoy the moment. Be honest: How often are you alone when you are at home? So this is my anti-loneliness-backpacking tip: Loneliness is sometimes nice and creates the most beautiful pages in your journal.
F – Far away from home
Oh yes, a lot of people wish to be far from home. But sometimes you will realise how far away from home you actually are. The feeling of distance can be both alluring and shocking at the same time. But when you get back home you’ll be happy you saw the world and came back with a head full of impressions and images.
G – Good company
Aside from a few lonely moments you cannot avoid being sociable when backpacking. Hostels are filled with people. The fight for a pot in the hostel kitchen will become part of daily life. And if a bar is offering cheap beer you can be sure that backpackers will be around. You are constantly surrounded by people and it feels like you have to tell your life story 3 million times. But that is how it is!
H – Health
As soon as you set off to foreign lands with your backpack you leave behind your daily routine. New food, new hygienic standards, new daily routines, and first and foremost: a new country. Different countries have different rules… and different diseases. Pack some painkillers and antibiotics for immediate treatment. Should your symptoms not improve after a few days make sure to go see a doctor. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
I – Insurance
insurance is at least as important as getting vaccinated. As a backpacker you need travel insurance that covers everything that you might end up having to spend on your health during your travels. You might also want to insure your luggage…
J – Journal
New impressions, new people, new languages everyday. Sometimes that can be too much. It is therefore important to keep track of your experience. You (and your children) will thank me later for this tip: Write a journal and note down everything new. Others at home will then also be able to enjoy your adventures.
K – Knowing the unknown
Getting completely lost – that’s part of every backpacking experience. Why not take a different route than the other backpackers? Believe me. You will see things that are in no Lonely Planet.
L – Lonely Planet
This backpackers’ bible is on every list of backpacker tips. Even though collecting a stack of these books will exceed your baggage allowance – some countries cannot be travelled without. However, you’ll often come across other backpackers who are willing to swap books with you.
M – Mobile phone
It is important to keep in touch with your loved ones at home, but most countries you’ll travel to don’t have a good internet connection. My tip: buy SIM cards in countries you plan to spend a lot of time in. SIM cards are a lot cheaper than back home and offer good tariffs for texting Mum.
N – NOW!
This is less of a backpacking tip and more of a call to bravery and a sense of adventure: You always wanted to travel? Backpacking is on your to do list? You’ve been planning for years but have an endless list of excuses? Why? Let’s go! A little bit of planning, book your tickets, buy your backpack and off you go! Adventure beckons.
O – Ocean
Oh yes…what would travelling be without the ocean? Home to most backpackers and a place where everyone meets up, either during the day for surfing or lazing around, for a sunset beer and an early morning dip in the ocean to cool off after a hot night at the club.
P – Photos
The most important part of backpacking! Photographs! Make sure your camera doesn’t get stolen, lost, left behind or broken. That moment in the distant future when you look at pictures of yourself with sun bleached hair, tanned skin and a neon t-shirt on a beach in Thailand is priceless. Even though it is hard to carry the camera along with everything else when climbing a mountain or taking a boat ride – you simply can’t go without!
Q – Quintessential information
I’m not a fan of too much organising and planning. But a little bit is necessary. Draw out your route and research at the basic and essential information for each of the countries you’ll visit on your journey. What are the most common diseases? Do you need vaccines? What is the level of security? How will you get from point A to point B?
R – Round The World
The safest and most organised version of travelling. One ticket to take you around the world. It is possible. Here is a list of travel organisations. Pick the one that suits you best.
S – Safety
Also an important point on the list. Even if the people in your dorm are lovely and fun, watch your belongings. Another rule: Don’t walk with strangers. No matter how nice they are. Thinking twice every once in a while helps a lot when travelling. That’s why you should pack a padlock and a pocket knife. Just in case…
T – Transport
The list of transportation you’ll be able to use is endless. Tuk Tuk, bus, car, horse carriage, bicycle…Sometimes you will need 12 hours for a distance that would usually take 5 hours. Sometimes you will find yourself on a bus sitting next to a chicken. And sometimes your taxi won’t leave until there are eight instead of five people in the car. Oh well!
U – Unbelievably sad
At some point your travels have to end. Either because you ran out of money or you reached the end of your travel route. Be aware that in the beginning nobody will understand why you are so sad about your trip. Nobody can possibly comprehend what you experienced at the other end of the world. So it’ll be even harder to get used to being home again. But believe me, it gets better. And it helps to book a ticket or plan a trip to escape that feeling from time to time.
V – Vaccinations
This is the most important tip and an absolute must. Never travel to Asia, Africa or Latin America without checking which vaccines you will. Many German cities have tropical institutes or travel shops such as Globetrotter that offer vaccines. Health insurance reimburses most vaccines. A little bit of effort and pain at home can avoid a trip to a foreign hospital that will rarely meet German standards.
W – Worldly friendships
You will make friends from all over the world on your trip. And that’s good. Your next trip to stay on your friend’s couch in Timbuktu is already sorted.
X – X-treme
Backpacking shouldn’t be underestimated. You will test your limits. You will drag yourself from point A to point B. You won’t eat healthily and you’ll drink too much. And you will be overwhelmed by all the new impressions. It’s a good idea to take a break every now and then.
Y – YOLO
After every break it’s time to get going again and be a bit adventurous. If you decide to go backpacking then please bring along as much money as you can afford in order to make the most of your trip. I still regret not going skydiving in New Zealand…
Z – Zzzzzz…
You’ll learn soon enough that sleeping in a room with 20 others isn’t that bad. You’ll also learn that it’s sometimes a good idea to get up an hour early just to nab one of the last clean plates. Hostels – no backpacker can go without. Part of every good story. By the way, it usually is enough to book your room a day in advance.