The first trip is never forgotten and we have been living a nomadic life since 2013. Now everything seems easier to us, but taking a one-way ticket and leaving without looking back is not easy at all.
It scares everyone and scares us too of travel experience behind us we feel we can give some advice to new travelers who are thinking of leaving for a long first backpacking trip.
1 – Defeat fear
Fear is a big brake and a powerful deterrent. Jumping in the dark is scary, but the hardest part is finding the strength to push yourself and take flight. Having found that strength that you may not have thought you had will give you the motivation to overcome the next obstacles.
In any case, remember that you are not an explorer of the 1700s who leaves for unknown lands, there are a lot of people around the world who travel like you ready to help you and once on your way you will be surprised at the amount of knowledge and connections that Even if you leave alone, you will hardly be alone on the road. So go!
2 – Don’t rely on guides
I don’t use travel guides for a variety of reasons. Often they are badly written and full of misleading information, but most of all they take away some of the pleasure of discovery. Sure the guides can be useful for a general overview of the place you will visit, but otherwise try to get in touch with other travelers and with the locals. Build relationships and ask them directly what deserves to be seen.
3 – Buy a local calling card
When you travel outside the European Union area (with roaming now your Italian card works throughout the EU) invest some money to get a local phone card. It is an essential convenience and you will no longer have to stop outside bars or offices to steal the wi-fi. In this way you can communicate with friends you meet while traveling, use the internet and, in case of any need or urgency, you can make calls.
4 – Travel light
If this is your first time traveling then you will almost certainly have put too many things in your backpack. An advice? Fill your backpack with what you think is necessary, but when you’re done pull out half of those things and leave them at home. Despite this, you will most likely realize along the way that you still have too many things with you. Over the years, your backpack will become more and more empty until you really get to carry only the essentials.
5 – Learn at least a few phrases in the local language
Make the effort to learn a few phrases in the language of your host country, I can assure you it will make a big difference. Even just a “hello”, “thank you” or “what’s your name” in the local language changes the approach and the attitude of your interlocutor. It doesn’t matter if the pronunciation is unlistenable, you will still show an interest in your host country.
My efforts to learn a few phrases in a foreign language have always borne fruit, I have found several beers, I have been invited to dinner and even birthday parties. In some less touristy places, seeing a foreigner speaking the local language (even just a few words) often leaves people amazed and delighted.
6 – Don’t plan too much
Give yourself the space to take the opportunities that come your way and to follow “the wave”. A journey is long and unpredictable. Planning the stages too much keeps us tied to that illusory and familiar sense of security given by certainties. Remember that when you travel for real, you never drive, but the journey itself drives.
7 – Bring more than one card from which you can withdraw
Money isn’t everything in life, but being without it away from home is never a pleasant experience. For example, once we were in Cambodia and we had 3 cards in total. 2 Australian credit cards and an Italian ATM. We didn’t realize the first Australian card was expiring until the day it actually expired. Shortly after an ATM of the ANZ (Australian & New Zealand Bank) in Siem Reap ate us the Italian ATM that we do not know why the Cambodian cashier of the bank then cut us in front of our eyes after having recovered it from the damned infernal machine. At that point we only had one last Australian card which luckily always worked until we retrieved a new card which we sent to Saigon (where we still had to wait 2 weeks to receive it from Australia). In short, if we only had one card it would have been a big problem!
8 – Read a book about the country you will visit
Before entering a country you’ve never visited, or while you’re visiting it, read a good book about it. Don’t read yourself a guide, just a book. Do a little research, dig into the past and find some local author or traveler from the past. It is a good way to get to know a country through someone else’s eyes, get an idea of the culture and learn some details about the country you are about to visit.
9 – Bring some passport photos with you
Getting visas isn’t always easy. In fact, for some countries it can be a real ordeal, and in any case a passport-size photo is often required. Have you ever tried to take a passport photo in any remote border point between any country? Here … better to avoid.
10 – Always take out travel insurance
It is very easy to think “come on, what has to happen anyway? I am careful and I save these 200 euros! “. It is actually true that sometimes the insurance turns out to be an absolutely useless cost, and it is desirable that it is, in the sense that if you return without having used it it is much better for you!
When you go on a trip, nothing is really more important than travel insurance. This is not one of those old bogey phrases, but it is something I say from experience, especially addressing young travelers, because there are a lot of people who travel without any kind of insurance coverage, and we too, alas, have made this mistake in the past, but luckily it always worked out well.
Unfortunately, being careful is not always enough, and after some time spent around, we have heard a lot of bad stories of uninsured guys.
11 – Backup your photos
I remember that moment as if it were today. We were traveling to the north of Vietnam with a moped after about 8 months of wandering around South East Asia. We had an avalanche of photographs from that trip and also an ongoing video project.
Everything was “backed up” on a couple of hard drives that I stupidly kept in the same pocket of the same backpack that, at a certain point, decided to detach from the scooter staying somewhere along the way, never being found again.
A bad story that I learned a lot from. Always make at least a couple of backups if you care about your files and keep them in different places. And whenever the internet connection allows it, make an online backup!
12- Don’t get angry when you don’t speak English
English is now the universal language, it seems that if you speak English then you can be understood everywhere, but that’s not the case. Indeed, the more you get off the tourist track the more you will realize that few speak English.
In that case, don’t get angry and don’t raise your voice if nobody understands you. Remember that the problem is yours and not of the locals, because it is you who do not speak their language, so arm yourself with patience and remember that we Italians are the best at expressing ourselves with gestures. Use your hands, smile and your facial expressions! Alternatively you can also use google Translator!