So you’re doing it. You’ve booked the ticket, the passport and visas are organised and it’s nearing time to get the hell outta here.
Everyone is asking if you’re excited and repeatedly saying how jealous they are of your imminent adventures and while you may answer in the way they expect, everyone kinda knows that your shitting yourself. And man, you fucking should be. With nothing but a backpack and a one-way ticket, that first flight was the most terrifying experience of my life. However, after two and a half years abroad, I can safely say that it was also among the best.
I’m going to try my absolute hardest to avoid pretentious travel bullshit by pretending that I’m any kind of expert. I promise you’ll meet enough of the “seasoned traveller” wankers in hostels on your journey. I can say, however, that I’ve learnt from experience; shit experiences. I’ve been stranded in Russia, hospitalised in Asia, phone-less in Europe and broke in the UK, so I can definitely give you a little insight into what not to do whilst you’re away.
I’m going to start with the important stuff but I have no doubt that you’ve heard this stuff ten times over from the oldies.
Buy travel insurance
Buy GOOD travel insurance, have an emergency keycard and photocopy EVERYTHING.You may not think it’s worth the money or effort now, but when you’re stranded somewhere without a cent to your name, no passport and no insurance you’ll hate yourself and hate having to call your mum and have the “I told you so” chat even more. And honestly, stranded can be a best case scenario when backpacking/travelling.
These babies have helped me out so many times now that I will be eternally grateful to Nivea*, and may need to consider buying shares in the company in the near future.
*Note to Nivea: feel free to sponsor me. I would love the extra cash.
Long haul flights and bus or train trips render you hot, sweaty and in desperate need of a shower. With no respite in sight, wet wipes will be your saviour until your next feasible shower opportunity arrives. Being able to wipe your face, hands, feet and any ‘other bits’ that may need a little… ah… refreshing.
Please do not go more than twenty-four hours without a shower and then sit on planes, trains or coaches and expect to make friends with me. You will smell and I will not be your friend. Wet wipes might just save the friendship though. These can also be handy for germ protection, wiping mud off boots, removing stains from clothes, a quick makeup removal and if you happen to be in Asia a great alternative to the ever-elusive toilet paper.
Whether it’s keeping your dirties separate from your cleans, your wet stuff from your dry (a big one if you’re travelling through the wet seasons, there is nothing worse than having no dry clothes after a long day!) or your valuables from getting wet. Bag everything!
Cheese and cracker tubs
You know the ones… with a few crackers and either sliced, or cream cheese in a little tub? It might seem a little weird, but having a little supply stash of these has been invaluable to me! Being a vegetarian is not usually a problem these days, however there have been times when there isn’t a vego option, I don’t like the one that’s offered, I have no money, everything’s too expensive or nothing is open and I’ve had one or ten more alcoholic beverages than necessary.
Whether its cheese and cracker tubs, muesli bars, an emergency apple, or something just as little, light and easily packable, it’s a great idea to have some form of emergency snack stash just in case!
Unless you’re going to Antarctica, you are nearly always better off swapping the bigger and bulkier items like scarves and jumpers for layers. Thinner, lighter clothes are not only easier to pack but also make it easy when you’re going in and out of heated buildings or walking long distances. I realised pretty quickly that my massive jumper and woolen dresses were great when outside but a pain in the ass when I started sweating my tits off indoors.
A pocket charger
Possibly the best investment I’ve ever made was my dear friend the portable charger. While getting lost in a new city can be the best way to explore (I wholeheartedly suggest playing the Left-Right Game), it really isn’t that fun if you’ve been travelling for hours, have had a few too many drinks or are about to miss a flight. Being able to plug in when between destinations or on long overnight buses has saved my ass on so many occasions I cannot count.
With these few lifesavers thrown into your luggage you’re ready to be on your way I have just one more little tip…
Don’t stress. Embrace whatever happens. For every stolen passport, there’s a funny (albeit temporarily infuriating) story, for every missed flight there’s a brilliant “night before” story, for every fuck up there’s a tale you’ll find yourself retelling at the pub when you’re home. Enjoy it!
Anna Wall is a self-confessed hedonist and self-appointed travel expert. She drinks coffee until its appropriate to move on to wine and believes that there is nothing more satisfying in life than good wine and a good book. She's scared of balloons, the dark and of growing up.