Despite how many books you read, how many people you talk to, and how prepared you think you are, you are bound to make some of these mistakes along the way. The trick is to learn from your mistakes, and the sooner, the better. It’s a common occurrence to see or hear of people having to go home, particularly because they’re broke. So strap on your thinkin’ cap and listen up.
When I first arrived in New Zealand, I had been saving for so long, and avoiding eating out at all costs, that when it came time to eat while travelling, trying exotic foods like Fish n Chips (shutup…I’m from Saskatchewan) seemed like the logical thing to do. Every night. Every meal. After a month of that, I realized that at 10-15 bucks a day on food, spread out during a month, was roughly 300-400 dollars. Which was enough to keep a roof over my head for a few weeks. I’m not saying eating out is a bad thing, just be smart. Try the local delicacy, then suffer through the two minute noodles, rice, or pasta for a while. All of this extra money can go towards activities or accommodation.
Most countries have the resources to clothe their people. It’s a blessing. Utilize it. Hauling around your old winter jacket all summer long because you might need it in 6 months is like wearing a condom all night, at a party without girls. There’s being prepared…then there’s being stupid. Clothes, gadgets, toiletries, can all be bought while travelling. No need for a 2L jug of shampoo, or 15 of your favourite shirts, or 4 different pairs of shoes. Be smart. Take what you need for where, and when you are.
Those who plan every hostel, every activity, every stop and every meal along the way rarely seem happy. If you’ve ever run into one of these people, you know how stressed out they seem. It’s like being around a leper. You know you’re probably safe around them, it’s just sometimes uncomfortable. Backpacking is supposed to be an escape from routines. Planning ahead is smart. Over planning is stupid. If you don’t believe me, take a week off you’re over planning lifestyle and just wing it. If you find yourself on the phone with a travel agent, or online booking more than one or two activities at a time, take a few deep breathes, and stop what you’re doing. Let things fall into place. Expect the unexpected. Its not only more fun, but more mysterious as well.
about Time and Money Ease up there Tonto. Enjoy the ride. If you’re rushing through country after country, city after city, catching only glimpses of each place, by the time you find your way back home, you’ll have trouble remembering what you did where, and when you done it. Get a feel for each city, if you enjoy it, chill out for a while, if you know it just isn’t your cup of tea, give it an extra day or two, some places grow on you. Travelling isn’t a race. Same goes for money, over budget everything and you’re more likely to make it last. Squeezing in an extra couple cities with only a hundred dollars is a recipe for disaster.
Spending too much time on computers
You probably spent several months saving up for your trip, reading up on it, now that you’re out there, what are you doing still on the computer? If you’re checking your email, updating your blog, Tweeting, or updating your Facebook status more than once a week, you’re in trouble. People rarely want to hear what type of computers or internet connections you ran into while travelling. Make some memories worth bragging about. Backpacking is all about losing touch with reality, however brief that may be. The more often your on a computer, the more attached you still are. If you’re reading this at an internet cafe, grab whoever’s sitting to your left, and ask if they want to go for a beer. If they say no, try your right.
Staying on the Tourist Trail
Lonely planet and Rough Guides are great tools for providing insight into somewhere you’ve never been. However, they should not be relied upon. Some of the best places you’ll find won’t be mentioned. Getting off the beaten path can be a great way to meet new people, and experience the “real” side of the place you’re in. When they zig, you zag. Capiche?
Not being social
Readings great, but don’t be a shut-in. Open up. It can be as simple as asking “You done with that fork?” It doesn’t take much to start a conversation. And while backpacking there is always lots to talk about. The common ground is usually travel. “Where are you from?” “Where have you been” “Where are you going?” “Who are you with?” – It doesn’t take much to get started. You never know when you’re going to meet your next travel com padre.
Comparing one country to another
When I was young my parents took me to Scotland. We were on a guided tour of the Edinburgh Castle. (I know, hypocrite) We had an old Scottish tour guide, he was explaining how this castle had never been overtaken, and was the closest thing to impenetrable around. Upon saying this an American spoke up from the back. “One nuke would take care of it” The tour guide, being old, Scottish, and witty, chimed back some derogatory spot that seemed to have put him in his place. He didn’t speak up for the rest of the tour. Don’t be that guy. Take each culture and each country, as it’s own. Reserve your bias and judgments to yourself.
Not Realizing the Glory of Pasta
If you haven’t caught on, pasta is cheap! Not only is it cheap, it goes a long way. It doesn’t take much to make pasta less boring. Try different shapes. Penne, Rigatoni, Spaghetti, Shells, Spirals. Or add some spices. Toss in some diced onions. If you’re sick of Bolognese, try something more creamy in nature. Or buy a small brick of cheese, cheese makes everything alright. At under $2.00 for over 500g of Pasta, you’d be stupid not to recognize it’s glory.
Buying Every Girl Drinks
Believe it or not, some girls go to the bar expecting drinks to be bought. I know, it’s hard to believe. But in retrospect, if I had the goods, I’d do the same. The trick is to not be an idiot. If you’re too much of a gentleman, just limit that gentlemanliness. Limit your generosity to one drink for the entire night. Not only will it save you money, you’ll be that much more conscious as to who deserves it. FYI: That blonde thing surrounded by guys, doesn’t.
Locals not only give you a unique look into life through their eyes. They can be hospitable, friendly, caring, and fill that void for your family that you haven’t seen in months. Don’t be a freeloader. If they’re offering you a place to stay, some food to eat, help out. Whether its some chores, or just doing the dishes. Every bit counts. You’re in a unique spot where you can tell them about a land far away that they can only dream of. Introduce yourself. Locals love to hear your stories. Many people dream of travelling, few get to experience life on the road.
Drink what’s Cheap
Why would I want a burger when I have steak at home? Well you’re not at home! Take the burger. Or in this case, the cheapest booze you can find. You may be used to a higher quality of alcohol at home, but while traveling, anything goes. If you’re going for a night on the town, and know you’ll be spending a handful dollars on a pint or two, get some drinking in ahead of time. Another thing worth considering is investing in a flask. ($15-20) Every bar will give you free ice water, some will even give you free coke if you’re the “Designated Driver” – If you’re real cheap and have low morals, feel free to spike your own free drink. Just be advised you will usually get kicked out if they catch you with your own alcohol.