Eight things you learn when you first go backpacking
I could write a massive list of all the things I learnt when I first went backpacking. It is an amazing experience to have and you will never regret doing it. So here are some of the lessons you learn from your first backpacking trip!
1. TRAVELLING ALONE ISN'T SO BAD AFTER ALL
Days before I left for my overseas backpacking experience I thought to myself "what have I done?". Feeling unsure and scared is totally normal. As soon as you settle down into your backpackers you may feel an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. I assure you this passes in a day or two once you get comfortable talking to people and enjoying your own company. Chill out, take a deep breath and enjoy your own company. Being alone means you have no timeframe or have to stick to other peoples schedule, you can do what YOU want, when YOU want.
2. MAKING FRIENDS IS NOT DAUNTING LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL
You will soon find out that there are hundreds of backpackers around you that are in the same situation. They might be travelling alone too and wanting to connect with people. It isn't as hard as school,where you feel everyone is critical and doesn't want a bar of you. You will find everyone is friendly and easy going so take the first step and give a friendly hello to the person sitting next to you.
3. YOU PACKED WAY TOO MUCH UNNECESSARY CRAP
I brought way too much stuff with me on my first backpacking adventure. When I arrived into London I got rid of half my stuff. Remember, you can always buy something when you get to your destination so don't worry too much about taking stuff for those 'just in case' moments. Check out my post on "what to take in your hand luggage" to give you an idea of the bare minimum you need to take in your carry on bag.
Especially if you are backpacking the weight is so important. You don't want to be carrying a pack that is just on the 20kg weight limit for your airline. Only pack between 10-15kg worth of stuff because remember you have to carry that on your back at the end of the day! If you're heading somewhere with a lot of beaches like Thailand or Bali, remember you will be lifting your backpack on and off boats.
Pack as light as you can! Image: Anita Hendrieka
When I went to Bali I didn't want anyone touching my backpack which meant it had to be easy for me to pick up without being on my back. It was a pain in the backside and multiple times I needed help because it was too heavy for me.
4. YOU REALISE YOU NO LONGER CARE HOW YOU LOOK AND YOU JUST WANT TO BE COMFORTABLE
As a backpacker you will be forever walking so make sure you have packed comfortable and versatile clothes. You will soon find out playsuits are inconvenient and a simple tee, shorts and sneakers (or jandals if you're in hot weather) is the perfect outfit for exploring. I usually wear bare minimum makeup (if any). Simplicity and being practical are the two key words that will mean the most in your vocabulary.
5. MOST PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO HELP YOU
Need help? You will get nowhere if you don't ask people to help out. It is vital and everyone isn't as unhelpful as you first thought. I have had to try sign language to an old Spanish man with no knowledge of English so I could get directions. I've also had to knock on a car window to ask for help. Have no shame in asking people to lend you a hand!
Free walks are a must do for backpackers. Image: Anita Hendrieka
6. IT'S OKAY TO GET LOST!
I find when I'm totally lost and not worrying about maps or a general direction, I actually have the best time and find the most amazing spots. Keep the map tucked in your bag for emergencies only for one day and get lost. You will have the most fun, trust me!
7. YOU HAVE FINALLY GOT THE MEANING OF WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE FREEDOM
Giving up all responsibilities and just being you is the best feeling I have had in a long time. Having the freedom to do what you want, when you want is absolute bliss. Enjoy it while you can before you get too old and have restrictions!
8. IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS
If someone is offering something for free or for a very unrealistic price, then stop and think to yourself if it could be a fake or a scam. SO many tourists get sucked into something and then have no choice but to give them the money. Scams can lead to dangerous situations so just do what you feel is right and have a think for a minute whether it sounds too good to be true. Trust your gut feeling, it is your strongest protector.
Anita Hendrieka blogs at anitahendrieka.com