Where I Went: Backpacking Round The World! #1

This time last year, I was on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, en route to Rio for eight months of travelling with my fiance N. It was something I was hugely excited about but equally incredibly nervous - I'd never been backpacking before and was really worried that I wouldn't enjoy it, specifically because I wouldn't meet nice people (long story short, bad teenage experiences made me crippingly shy, and consequently I'm not always very chatty with people I don't know - although once I'm comfortable I don't shut up!). But equally I was looking forward to seeing all these amazing places that I'd longed to go to for years and to go on this huge adventure together before we settle down.

So, this is the first post in what I hope will be a regular series over the next few months about my travelling experiences and any tips I can share (ideally I'd like to do one post a month for each stage of my trip and then the beginning and end with what I did beforehand and what I'd do differently).

The first thing I would say is plan, plan, plan. When we went N and I sat down with a heap of travel brochures and listed the places we really wanted to go to, so it's definitely worth doing that if there's someone you're desperate to visit. Alternatively, you might want to volunteer whilst you're away, or learn a new skill, so think about that too - working or volunteering whilst travelling looks great on your CV. Tied in to that planning is saving. We were lucky as N had recently had an inheritance from a relative, which wasn't the ideal way to get the money but did help to pay for a big chunk of the trip, and then saved every penny for several months before we actually went. But depending on what you do and how long you're willing to spend planning, you can build up a good stack of cash. Also companies like STA Travel, who we did lots of our planning with, will let you reserve your flights for £49 so that could help with price planning.

Secondly, get good equipment, especially if you're going to be doing things like hiking. I paid £85 for my hiking boots, which seems like a lot but considering how much walking we did was definitely worth it! The other thing you need is a good backpack - you don't need a massive one though as you'll be lugging it round a lot and after a while it will become annoying. I took a 60 litre one and that was plenty, with enough space for all my things but equally some space for souvenirs too! Outdoor shops often have sales on so you can get some bargains there.

Also you won't need as much stuff as you think in terms of clothes. I took six vest tops, four T-shirts, four shirts (two long sleeved, two short sleeved), four pairs of convertible trousers, three skirts, a plain black dress, leggings, a scarf for my shoulders in the evenings/going to religious sites, flip flops, black ballet pumps and a microfleece, plus pants and socks as needed. For eight months, that was absolutely fine - I wasn't spending all my time doing washing but equally didn't have too much to carry with me. Ditto make-up as well; you can quite easily get away with tinted moisturiser, concealer, cream blusher, mascara, eyeliner and red lipstick, as well as your usual skincare and sunscreen.

Finally, don't forget your vaccines and malaria tablets. You may think it's an unnecessary expense but if you got ill whilst you're out in the big wide world you'd regret it (though you'll still need to take precautions like being very strict about hygiene). If you live in the UK, most vaccines are free - the only ones we paid for were our yellow fever vaccines and our rabies vaccines, which cost a total of £200 each. Not cheap, but I'd much rather spend £200 and be OK than have horrible tropical diseases. Oh, and get travel insurance - again it can be expensive but it's much, much cheaper than, say, having to be flown back home from Australia. Again we got ours from STA and it was around £1.50 a day, so pretty decent value.

Other things that may be useful to look into, especially if you plan to stay in a place for a long time:

- Working Holiday Visas for New Zealand and Australia. If you can spare the time, I would really, really encourage you to work in these countries. Mainly because they are expensive (particularly Australia) and stopping for a few months to work will help you to build up a cash reserve so you can afford a few treats like coffee or trips to the pub, or put it all in savings for the next leg of your trip. Even if you don't get paid work you may be able to get work in hostels, which will normally offer you free board in return, and considering hostels were our biggest expense in Australia this can give you quite big savings.
- Language courses. True, you may well be going to places where people speak English (especially those with booming tourist trades such as Southeast Asia) but it helps to know a few basic phrases. I picked up snippets from our tour guides and from subtitled US shows - I blame AXN entirely for my newfound Criminal Minds obsession but it also helped my Spanish immensely! However I wish I'd done a language course in Buenos Aires or somewhere, just to help me improve and communicate a bit better with the local people.

So, those are my tips for preparing to go away on a long backpacking trip. Next time, I'll post about my favourite experiences from the South American leg of my journey. That was one of my favourite continents that I visited on the trip, so I'm really looking forward to sharing that with you!

What did you think of my first post about my trip round the world? Would you like to see more of these posts? And have you ever been backpacking yourself? If you have, I'd love to hear about your experiences! Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

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