By: James Asquith, CEO and founder of Holiday Swap.
Have you ever had the urge to wander around and explore new places? If you have, here I share some of the things I wish I’d known before traveling to every country in the world.
1) There will be lots of waiting, and loneliness. Bring something good to read or anything to keep your time occupied. Particularly when overlanding across countries there will be huge chunks of time you need to occupy.
2) You can never do enough research. There will always be cool things you won’t find or hear about from word of mouth, but trust that you have found activities, routes and accommodation that you’re satisfied with and then enjoy it! Holiday Swap is a platform that allows us all to save money on accommodation for example. There was nothing worse than arriving in a completely foreign place and not having a clue what to do or where to go, but there were occasions I made this mistake.
3) Only use your guidebook as just that, a guide. Be open minded and say yes to exciting sounding adventures. There were times where I followed the guidebook too closely when I first started traveling, but feel confident to listen to new ideas.
4) Always back up your photos. These were the most precious souvenirs I took from my travels. For me, a picture always allowed me to reconnect with my surroundings and brought back the memories from the places I have visited. I was only robbed of my camera once on my travels, but I wish I had backed up those photos!
5) Always travel with emergency money, whether that’s a wad of cash in a sock or an unused credit card. By emergency, this isn’t that kind of emergency where you need another round of 10 jaeger bombs (which obviously can be necessary in desperate times). There were occasions where I was in countries where international credit cards were not accepted and I was down to my very last dollar. Keep a stash for absolute emergencies. Also, call your bank before your trips so they don’t block your card at the most inconvenient of times in far reaching destinations.
6) Get a local SIM card. I was victim of some pretty hefty phone bills when I returned from my travels, which could have been easily avoided with a bit of common sense. If you’re staying in a country for more than a few days, and expect to be using your phone, this saves a lot of money. Also, it’s worth taking your old phone along if it’s still in working condition, and depending where you’re traveling to.
7) Always take your time before making judgement calls with people you don’t know. After a long flight when you come out of arrivals, don’t just jump in the first persons car in the middle of the night who offers the cheapest fare. It’s your safety. Take a moment, sit in the smoking area, grab a drink, whatever, but you have to take a breath and decide who you’re going to trust. Just relax and take your time. More often than not, you’ll find the good people in this world, but a little patience and a calculated decision won’t hurt you.
8) Take care of yourself when you reach your limits. Backpacker circuits are a melting pot of people passing through hostels, and more often than not you will have days or even weeks in a row where you will be out partying. But when you start to feel tired, exhausted or ill, take a day or two off. There’s no shame in it, but by pushing through it every time, you may find you miss a week or two of your adventure when your body just gives up on you.
9) In a world of rapidly improving technology, use it. Always load up google maps in your new destination on your phone so you can use it offline – very handy. Try and keep the tech you carry with you to a minimum though. Only take your laptop if you need it for work – it’s heavy and another important item that can go missing.
10) If you have a rough idea of what you want to see over a few weeks or a few months, and you don’t have all the time in the world, then book your ticket out of your destination as soon as you arrive. I did this particularly during bus travel around South America, and places that I fell in love with, and could have easily stayed weeks, I gave myself time; a week in Buenos Aires for example. You tend to find that people ask where you’ve come from, and where you’re going to next, so I found that people actually liked the decisiveness of where I was going to next, and very often travelled with me. Most importantly, this meant that, although difficult to leave some destinations, I managed to see everything that I ideally wanted to see from my research.
11) Although a very regular piece of advice, always check and recheck the climate when you are travelling. I made this mistake in South America, where high altitude does not complement occasional very hot days and freezing cold nights in some areas. You may have to pack for many different climates on one trip, but don’t cut corners. You won’t enjoy being in -10 degrees Celsius with nothing but a jumper like I found myself in.
12) Keep a travel journal, or have a lot of pictures at least. There are many stories that I only vaguely remember from the start of my travels, and I wish I had a detailed journal I could look back on to remember even the smallest of things that are now faint memories.
13) Don’t assume you are untouchable because you came away from your first backpacking trip unscathed, or from your 5th even. I didn’t get mugged until I had visited over 100 countries, and to be honest my guard was probably lowered. You don’t want to enjoy traveling by being constantly on edge, but just always be aware to potential dangers and practice common sense.
14) You will feel very empty every time you return home. There will be great feelings of initial home comforts and seeing your friends and family, but a very numb feeling will be present when you are alone. You will be used to being constantly around people, and even sleeping in your own room can be an incredibly lonely feeling. These emotions will subside and quickly you will have itchy feet again, but very few of us are lucky enough to travel all our lives. Appreciate the time you have at home with the people you care about and use it plan your next adventure!
15) Always remember when times get tough that you are incredibly lucky to be traveling and free to do whatever you want when you wake up tomorrow. There are many people back home that would be envious and switch with you in a heartbeat. We are all so lucky to be able to travel.
Follow more of my travels and adventures on @jamesasquithtravel on Instagram.