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Planning your first backpacking trip is exciting, but if you are not careful the apparently endless possibilities can overwhelm you. Where should you go? What should you take with you? Will you cope in a strange country? Will you meet people and make friends on the road?
After the initial euphoria of your decision to see the world, the reality can actually be quite daunting. The more you travel though, the more you will realise that it is a lot easier to plan a backpacking trip than you first thought. Take note of these basic backpacking tips and you’ll soon wonder why you were ever worried in the first place.
Don’t plan too much
Many first time backpackers make the mistake of planning too much before they set off. There is a temptation to decide exactly where to travel to, how long to spend in each place, and which attractions to visit. One of the joys of being a backpacker, however, is the flexibility you have to make these choices while you’re on the road. If you are enjoying the place you are visiting, you can decide to stay longer. If, on the other hand, you hear about a festival or attraction in another part of the country, then you can up sticks and leave. It is a freedom not to be squandered.
Some planning is essential however. If you want to go on a round the world trip for example, then you need to buy a round the world ticket to match. It is worth checking out visa conditions and application processes too (though in most cases they can be arranged while you are away). But on the whole, the less you do the better. Limiting you planning to little more than international flight tickets will give you the freedom you need to have the most rewarding of backpacker trips.
Don’t put pressure on yourself
A common concern for new backpackers is the fear that they will somehow fail. They feel that everyone who has been before them has had a wonderful life-changing experience, and that theirs will not live up to that expectation. They fear making no friends and returning home as a backpacking failure.
If that sounds like you, then the key is to remember that this is your trip and nobody else’s. You can do what you want, when you want, and for as long as you want. With that in mind, it is impossible to fail. Stop thinking of the many months you will be away from home or all the unfamiliar places to be conquered. Instead, see it as free time to do with whatever you want. And remind yourself, that if you decide that backpacking isn’t for you then you can always change your flight and head back home. It’s your choice. Once you have that in mind, you will feel less pressure to perform to anyone else’s expectation and the chances are that any flight amendments you make will be to extend rather than curtail your trip.
Everybody knows that it is good to travel light, but how many of us actually heed this advice? It is never more important though, than when you are deciding what to take backpacking. Over the course of your travels you will spend a lot of time lugging your backpack around, hoiking it on and off public transport. You will soon regret every unnecessary bit of weight you carry. So avoid the temptation of buying every backpacker gadget available, remember that a basic medical kit is all you need, and be aware that unless you are going into remote uninhabited areas you will be able to buy anything you need on the road.
Feel free to stay on the beaten track
Once you have set off on your travels, you will doubtless feel the pressure to “get off the beaten track”. To discover a new beach or visit a village that is not yet known to western tourists is the backpacker holy grail. Finding somewhere untouched in this way is no doubt a rewarding experience, but it is worth remembering that popular places became popular for a reason.
Besides, this trip is all about you; what other travellers have seen and done is neither here nor there. Your experiences will be quite different because you are quite different yourself. So don’t worry too much about breaking new ground and leave games of backpacker one-upmanship to others. As long as your trip is opening your eyes and fulfilling your expectations, then it is more than doing its job.