6 Essential tips for your first backpack trip

After months of saving money, making plans, making an itinerary and preparing your luggage, it is finally time to put your backpack on and head out into the open world. You are slightly scared, but more so excited to finally get on your way and explore new countries and cultures. I have been where you are, and quite frankly, I caught the cliche travel bug like so many of us. I also made quite some mistakes on my first backpack trip, however. Making mistakes is good, you learn from them. However, it is even better to not make the mistakes in the first place and do it the right way immediately. The following 6 tips will help you have an unforgettable backpack trip without making the mistakes I made.

1. Prepare, but not too much

Obviously you are excited to see the country (or countries) and you want to know everything about it. Reading in on the country beforehand is good, but always leave room for plans you make on the spot. I highly suggest you do not create a fixed list of things you want to see, but basically just wing it in stead. It is good to have an idea of sights you can go to, but trying to follow a fixed itinerary will just result in dissapointment. I haven’t made one trip where I did not change plans for the better at some point.

For example, when I was travelling Eastern Europe I had planned on going to Serbia, Macedonia and Greece after having visited Hungary. However, a friend I met on the way convinced me to go to Ukraine instead. I do not regret the decision one bit. Ukraine was something different, and there is still plenty of time to see Serbia, Macedonia and Greece at a later point.

2. Only book your first two or three nights

Adding to the first point, it’s wise not too book more than two or three nights in advance. Staying at hostels makes it extremely easy to meet people. In fact, I’ll give you 10 bucks if you do not meet anyone in a normal-sized hostel. I’d actually be impressed!

More often than not you will meet people you get along with well, and you might even decide to travel together for a bit. If not, you will certainly get lots of tips on places to go to, which might make you change your mind on what your next stop should be. Either way, you’re going to want to have the freedom to decide where you go up to the last moment. Only during high season it might be difficult to just show up somewhere or book a hostel just a day before. Otherwise, you should be fine and you’ll enjoy your backpack trip more when booking late.

”If you want to take something with you just in case, don’t take it,,

3. pack light, seriously

As much as this is a tip to you, it is also a note to myself. After a few trips now, I still pack way too much and always end up tossing things out on the way. At home, everything is going to seem handy or good to take with you *just in case*. A good way to decide whether you should take something, is by analyzing whether the item is a “just-in-case” item or something you actually really like wearing/having with you. If it’s a just-in-case, you guessed it, don’t take it with you.

One thing I especially suggest you don’t take too many of, are towels. I suggest you only take two normal-sized towels or one big one. It’s going to seem like it’s not enough, but it actually is. You can use one towel multiple days and usually you will stop caring whether you used it three or ten times anyway. And let’s face it, if you have showered and have not rolled in mud afterwards, it should just be clean water in the towel, right?

4. Find grocery stores

When you’re backpacking – especially when you go from city to city – it is very tempting to buy food and drinks at stations and touristy spots. Food and drinks are usually a lot more expensive here compared to grocery stores. You’re better off trying to find a grocery store and stocking up on some snacks and water here. Saving a euro/dollar/pound difference might not seem like a lot of money, but it does add up real quick.

”Try speaking to a local at least once a day to find out about special places,,

5. trust on locals

Fellow travellers and guide books usually have a lot of good tips on places and sights to go to. However, locals definitely trump the advice you get from other travellers. The locals know the places tourists generally don’t know about and more often than not these places are amazing. These are the people that actually live there and enjoy going there themselves, so they know, right?

Try speaking to a local at least once a day to find out about special places. Whether it’s the guy or girl working at the hostel or the waiter/waitress, most locals will be happy to help you out, as they are proud of their city and country.

6. no expectations make unforgettable trips

Whatever you do and wherever you go, never have (high) expectations. Easier said than done of course, but try not to visualize a place over and over before you actually go there. It’s always going to be different, and if you have all sorts of lively fantasies about what it’s going to be like, chances are you will be dissapointed. That is not to say the place is boring or bad, it is just different.

Having no expectations will help you appreciate places. In stead of comparing a place to what you thought it would be like, you actually see things with an open mind. You will be pleasantly surprised more often and enjoy your trip far more.

Do you have any good tips yourself? Let me and the readers know in the comments below, or tweet met @oneminutetrips!


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