You’ve scrimped and saved for months, finally broken it to the parents and have your route all mapped out. You’re more or less ready for your first backpacking experience. If only those million and one thoughts would stop buzzing around!
You’ll have hundreds of questions, irrational fears, and some pretty rational ones too, but once you return they’ll all seem so trivial. In the meantime don’t be surprised if these pressing matters are the ones keeping you awake at night.
1. I’ll definitely be first of my friends to be kidnapped
Your dad is not Liam Neeson, I presume? Don’t worry, you will not be Taken. Unless he’s been living some MI5 style double life you know nothing about, your dad does not have a particular set of skills wanted by any government and I’d go so far as to guess he struggles to find the remote, let alone you. You’ll be fine.
2. Can I really cope without my straighteners/hairdryer/entire bathroom cabinet?
Yes, yes, you can. Messy buns, damp tresses and barefaced beauty are all part of the traveller chic. Don’t bother packing them, you won’t use them and that’s valuable flip-flop space you’re taking up.
3. Where am I going to do my washing?
A valid query and one you may revisit on day five of wearing the same underwear. A lot of homestays and hostels have washing facilities but, if not, a bar of soap and an empty sink work just as well.
Just be careful if you hang them to dry on the windowsill – mine blew away once. Had to chase them round the car park and everything.
4. Hostels sound the worst. Maybe I can afford a hotel…?
Granted, shared showers and squeaky bunk beds aren’t the best, but hostels can be incredibly cool places. You’ll find quirky ones, themed ones and ones you never want to leave. Staying in hostels is hands down the best way to meet people.
5. What if I get arrested?
Don’t do anything stupid, and you’ll be alright. If you are planning on doing something stupid then of course, it’s a legitimate concern…
6. Would I survive a Thai prison?
Stay safe, stay smart and hope you don’t ever find out. Stay away from anyone you think a little shifty, don’t have anything to do with drugs and don’t drink too much, three key pieces of advice that many backpackers seem to forget.
7. My Instagram is going to be en pointe
You’re right there. This is your big chance to really rub your mates’ noses in the fact that you’re travelling and having an awesome time and they’re not. #allthefilters.
8. I’ll check in with mum every day for sure
Mate, you’re seriously overestimating the strength of Wi-Fi connections around the world. You may have also forgotten the inevitable timetable problems with GMT vs. the rest of the world, and the fact that if you’re travelling right, you’re just not going to have time for that every day. Don’t make promises to dear old mother that you just can’t keep. She’ll only worry.
9. Definitely not buying any shit travel clothes and jewellery
C’mon! Wearing those baggy trousers in Asia is all part of the fun. You can’t go travelling for the first time and not invest in a tacky t-shirt and bangles and bracelets all the way up your arm.
10. Wonder if I’ll meet a fitty?
Getting to know yourself through the joy of getting to know other people is one of the best things about travelling. People are more open to new friendships and when you’re travelling, relationships can be whatever you want them to be.
Don’t pin all your hopes on it though, and to be honest, you may need to lower your standards.
11. Do I have enough money?
How long is a piece of string? If you use your initiative and follow all the money advice on gapyear.com, then your budget could last for months in South East Asia. Splash out on Australia and eat at all the fancy restaurants and you’ve got no chance.
12. Have I packed everything I need?
Packing is a learning curve. Guaranteed you won’t use everything you’re taking in your backpack, but you won’t know what you’re not going to use, until you don’t use it. Get me?
There’s a famous saying about packing for travel that says ‘take half as much stuff, and twice as much money’, which pretty much nails it. Look, you’re not trekking the Arctic, if you forget a toothbrush or a top, you can just buy another one when you get there. As long as you have your passport, bankcard, and some sort of phone, you’ll be fine.
13. Definitely going to get scammed
I’m not going to lie, yeah, you probably will, but it’s all part of the fun of travelling, right? Tourists have money, and they often arrive in a destination without a clue of what’s going on. This is what makes them targets. Do some research on your destination beforehand and know what to expect when you arrive. Then keep your wits about you at all times so you don’t get taken advantage of.
If something does happen, don’t beat yourself up about it and move on.
14. Could save a few quid by not buying travel insurance…
You’re an idiot. Rethink this immediately. Travel insurance is an absolute must. It doesn’t matter how careful you think you’re being, anything can happen at any time and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
15. Could save a few more by skipping the vaccinations…
Yep, another stupid thought I’ll forgive you for, seeing as it’s your first time backpacking. Quick game of Would You Rather, shall we? Would You Rather end up in hospital frothing at the mouth with your vital organs shutting down, in, let’s say, India, or pay £60 for a rabies injection in England never to be thought about again?
Go see your local nurse, and follow her instructions down to a tee.
16. I just need to get travel out of my system
Er, yeah, good luck with that. There are only a few people in this world – no one I know – who have managed to go travelling and think to themselves ‘well, that was fun, but never again’. The travel bug is a serious affliction, and you will no doubt be a casualty.
17. Not going. Too scary.
All the best things that anyone ever did in life were scary at first. Imagine if you’d given up that first step trying to walk, or eat, or go to school. Take some deep breaths, talk to someone who’s been there and done that, and reassure yourself that millions of people have done it before, and millions of people have since.
You’ll be fine.
18. If I don’t do it now I never will.
19. Don’t do it.
20. Do it.
21. Too excited!
Yeahhh! That’s the attitude. This is going to be one incredible, awesome and memorable experience. Enjoy the ride!