5 Tips Every New Backpacker Should Know

Written by: Chloe Deeprose

It’s easy to find advice for those setting out on their first big trip, and a lot of it will advise you on how to stay safe, to save money or how  to find yourself while you’re on the other side of the planet. You know, the big stuff.

But what about the small stuff? The trivial things that nobody remembers to tell you? Well, I’m here to help you learn from my many travel mistakes.

How to climb onto a rickety top bunk without a ladder

Bunk beds in a hostel

At some point on your travels a super friendly hostel worker will show you to your room and point at an impossibly high bed, with no ladder, and no obvious route to the top.

If you’re anything like me your heart will sink as you imagine having to return to reception to demand a different bed on the grounds that you are physically incapable of getting up there. Believe me, if the girl who resorted to hitchhiking half of the Inca Trail can do it, then so can you. Even after one too many Pisco Sours. The key is commitment, a lack of shame and total faith in your upper body strength.

Take full advantage of a good shower

There seems to be no rhyme or reason when it comes to the logic of hostel showers; you can be in the most developed city in the world only to find yourself covered in soap and shivering under a freezing cold dribble.

When you find a hot shower with good enough water pressure to actually rinse the shampoo out of your hair, you need to take it and run with it. You never know when your next decent shower will be.

It’s perfectly ok to want to do nothing for a day or two

Relaxed backpacker

There can be a lot of pressure when you are travelling to ‘make the most’ of every second. But doing something new every day, combined with being constantly confronted with diverse cultures, new people and different languages can be exhausting – you need to give yourself some down time!

I think I’d been travelling for around 3 or 4 months when I found myself having the insatiable urge to do absolutely sod all. Friends and family would always sound shocked when we skyped and I told them I was just hanging around the hostel that day, but giving yourself a day off from adventuring will help you to enjoy your trip so much more. It also gives you a great opportunity to get to know other backpackers, and to finally get your laundry done.

Become an expert free shelf chef

Most decent hostels will have a communal shelf of herbs, spices and food left behind by people who can’t be bothered to carry it in their backpacks. Trust me when I say that when used correctly (and if you’re not a fussy eater), you can live off these edible treasure troves and a bag of pasta, as I proved when I accidentally blocked my bank card in rural Chile.

Be creative, and don’t be afraid of unusual combinations. Just think of yourself as a kind of nomadic Heston Blumenthal and it all becomes a lot tastier.

Don’t feel obliged to follow the guide books

Don't always follow guide books

I spent a lot of time when I was younger traipsing round the world ticking places of interest off an imaginary bucket list that someone else had written for me, thinking I was achieving some sort of travel expert status. But did all of the places I visited actually interest me? No. Did I miss some really great things because there was somewhere else I just had to visit? Definitely!

I am really not a person who enjoys hiking, I hate the cold, don’t really like tents and I get very sick at altitude. Despite all of this I paid a fortune to do a 5 day Salkantay hike to Machu Picchu (hence the aforementioned hitchhiking). All because it’s one of those things that everybody ‘should’ do. With hindsight I’d have been a lot happier (and financially better off) getting the train and spending an extra few days exploring Cusco.

So there you have it, my top tips to make your gap year easier, and hopefully a lot more enjoyable. Remember, it’s your trip – spend it doing whatever it is YOU want to do! Unless the hostel has great showers, in which case just spend it showering.

Check out these top gap year travel experiences

Search

Totally Trans-Mongolian

from £1879

19 days

China, Mongolia, Russia

Welcome aboard our Trans-Mongolian Railway complete gap year comrades! Full steam ahead for the Chinese city of Beijing, across Russian...

Search

Eastern Link

from £1784

Join us as we travel from Ancient Greece, where the Olympics were first held, to modern-day London, host to one...

Laos on a Shoestring

from £441

Start this nine-day tour in laid-back Vientiane and head south to Chiang Mai, experiencing some of the best of Southeast...

Highlights of Calabria & Sicily

from £2155

From the pristine waters of Palinuro to the stalwart fortifications of Tropea, all the way to the smoke gently floating...

Uncover Northern Poland and the Baltics

from £1483

Uncover the cultural riches and historical intrigues of four fascinating countries on a journey across northern Poland and the Baltic...

Cuba Trekking and Beaches

from £1483

Cuba might be known for its classic cars, tumbledown streets and intoxicating Afro-Cuban nightlife, but leave the cities behind and...

Mediterranean Paradiso

from £1049

Get ready for an amazing Euro summer fellow Topdeckers. With a hit of Spanish culture and an exclusive stay in...

Western Australia Adventure

When it comes to Australia, find out why the west is best on this 18-day adventure from Perth to Exmouth....

Amazon to the Andes – Teenage Adventure

from £1599

This adventure offers up an intriguing combination of beauty and contrasts in scenery, wildlife and cultures, whether you’re scanning the...

Highlights of Patagonia

from £2095

From the jagged, snow-capped glory of peaks like Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre to the gigantic and still-advancing icescape that...

Sabah Discovery

from £1202

Plunge into a realm full of verdant forests, rambling rivers and endangered wildlife on a trip through Sabah, Borneo’s jungle...

Check out more inspiring travel articles

Search
[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]