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Planning for any trip is stressful, confusing but ultimately mega exciting. So exciting to the point where you think ‘sod it, I’m gonna go for it and just do it!’ Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this! There’s nothing quite like throwing yourself into the deep end and crossing those bridges when you come to them. But trust me, some things are best figuring out before you go! Many of these mistakes are ones that I made and probably read about before I left, but made anyway.
So make sure you don’t make the mistakes I did!
1) CRAMMING TOO MUCH IN
My round the world trip with my best friend was amazing. In 8 months I visited 51 places across 13 countries, making 16 flights and god knows how many over land (often overnight) bus/train rides. Sounds busy right? Well it was. I don’t regret anything about this trip as we did a tonne of things, but after a couple of months we crashed. Thinking about it now, we were probably on the move every 2-3 days so it was hardly surprising. The thing is, this kinda trip is quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime thing so why would you go all that way to not see absolutely everything you can? My advice here would be to research a place you want to go to and the stuff you want to do/see and add an extra day onto it. This will make you slow down and increase your opportunities!
2) SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF
From the moment we booked our flights, I think I always had something on my mind nagging away at me. There must have been some point where I worried about every factor and vague possible eventuality of the trip. To be honest it mostly came down to fear of the unknown. But let me tell you, EVERYTHING WILL BE OK! And what’s more, worrying will solve nothing and will just make your trip stressful and unenjoyable. Refer back to #1 to help with this too!
3) OVER-PLANNING AND UNDER-PLANNING
Funny story, when my friend at I booked our trip we chose to go to South America. I knew nothing about South America. Seriously, absolutely nothing. Apart from Rio was somewhere in that area of the world but you could put a blank map in front of me and I wouldn’t have been able to point its location out. And this didn’t change until about a week before we were flying there. However, our 3 months in Asia and 2 months in Australia and New Zealand we had nailed. Turns out, we had made the mistake of massively over-planning half our trip and pretty much ignoring the rest. It all worked out in the end but it was a pretty exhausting way to do it. So make sure you actually have a decent think about the whole of your route before you go. Or at least not just a week in advance anyway.
4) LISTENING TO HORROR STORIES
100% you will hear them. 100% just because something happened to someone else on one occasion doesn’t mean it will happen to you. I like to take these stories with a pinch of salt; not in a way that I think people are making them up but more in a way where I just think shit happens, and if it’s gonna happen I’ll deal with it then. It’s a big mistake to dwell on these and what you should be listening to are all the amazing stuff people have done instead!
5) CARRYING TOO MUCH STUFF IN YOUR DAY BAG
At the beginning I was worried about leaving too much stuff in the hostels and hotels I was staying in. My day bag would consist of my phone, camera, a fair amount of my money, my bank card and my driving licence. Ok, so at home this is pretty normal but when you are in a place where you are sooo obviously a tourist (I was a very pale ginger girl in Asia) this makes you an easy target for pickpockets, so is a big mistake. About 6 weeks in I was walking along in the evening and a motorbike came onto the pavement (normal practice in Vietnam), but then it came between us and a kid tried to snatch my bag off me. Luckily I held onto it and he just broke the strap, but if he had got it I would have been up shit creek. As I said in #4, don’t take this to mean that travelling is dangerous and everyone is out to get the tourists- they’re not. But just be careful about how much you have on you!
Ah yes, that old classic. I bet you’ll still do it even after reading this and all the other guides you can get your hands on. But your back will pay the price if you ignore this! I read on loads of blogs that you should get out what you want to take, then halve it. This is so true but I don’t think it goes far enough. I did this and still felt like I was carrying a house on my back. You need to be able to get over the fact that you will be wearing the same 5/6 outfits with the same 2/3 pairs of shoes over and over. You’ll soon realise that no other fellow traveller cares- they’re also doing it. If after a while you realise that you’ve been carrying around something that you haven’t used once then give it to someone else to get use out of. However, for some super handy bits to pack that might save your ass, check out my post here.
7) NEGLECTING THE SEASONS
Packing so all eventualities is important. There’s no quicker way to ruin you day than to find yourself freezing your arse off because you thought it was always hot in Australia, or sweating like a pig because you didn’t realise that tropical rain storms are ridiculously warm still. Make sure you have a gook look before you go then you can figure out what to pack and what is available to do at that particular time of year.
8) HAVING TOO HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Have you seen those videos online that are so action packed, full of people having an amazing time doing amazing things with a wicked sound track playing in the back ground? Well, travelling can be like this! There are definitely days where you will think ‘this is fucking amazing’. But there are also days where you can’t be bothered, you feel like you’re not seeing anything and you don’t know why you bothered to visit there. Truth is, if you’re travelling for an extended period, not everyday will be like something from a film. Chill out, don’t worry about it!
9) UNDERESTIMATING THE SIZE OF PLACES
I’ve fallen for this more than once. To be honest, I don’t think I will ever learn. I am stubborn and don’t like to pay for transport if there’s a chance I can walk it. But in reality this just wastes time. Paying for public transport to get somewhere is usually cheap and a far better way to make most of your time. This mistake also extends to underestimating the size of a country. I kept hearing that Australia was huge and getting around South America would mean 20 hour buses. I was adamant it would be fine, and it was, but it did involve A LOT of travelling. Make sure you factor this in! Man on Seat 61 is an amazing source for train and bus journeys between places, how long it takes and how much it costs. Make sure you use and abuse this resource!
10) PRACTICALLY WALKING AROUND WITH AN ‘I’M A TOURIST’ SIGN ON YOUR HEAD
Yeah ok, so this is hard. If you’re travelling in a country with a completely different phenotype then chances are there’s not a lot you can do. But walking around with backpacks, shorts, trainers and a cap on your head isn’t going to help your case. Try and research what people wear – increasingly it’s just jeans, a t-shirt and a normal everyday bag. Pinterest is a dead useful tool for this. Also, don’t forget to dress modestly if appropriate as a way to be respectful. You don’t have to go all out but locals appreciate not having to see your bum hanging out your hot pants.
11) NOT MAKING COPIES OF YOUR DOCUMENTS
This could seriously save your bacon if your originals get nicked or damaged. I would recommend having a copy printed out and a copy saved in an email or on DropBox so it can always be accessed if needed. If then something does go missing, like your passport, it can definitely help the process of getting things sorted.
12) NEGLECTING YOUR PAPERWORK
For god sake, don’t try and get into a country without a visa if you need one. The officers there are probably not going to care when you say you didn’t know and it was an honest mistake, even if this is the case. There are rules for entering and leaving a country and you don’t have a choice but to go along with it. Make sure there’s plenty of time left on your passport and all your visas are valid and in date. Your passport will dictate a lot of the visa stuff but countries themselves have rules about how long you can stay somewhere without a visa so make sure you have a look on your government website. Also, be aware that some countries do not like you entering without proof of an ongoing ticket (i.e. a return ticket or a ticket somewhere else).I almost wasn’t allowed to leave Australia to go to New Zealand as I hadn’t got an updated copy of my e-ticket showing proof of exit to hand. Luckily they accepted looking at my e-ticket I had in my emails (see, #11 is way too handy)!
13) JUDGING ACCOMMODATION BY PRICE ALONE
I’m going to be blunt here- I have stayed in hostels for £2 a night and had the best time, and stayed in places for £100 a night and been mega disappointed. For me, reading reviews and compromising on location and distance is the key way to find perfect accommodation and also stops you making the mistake of blowing all your money. Price is only one indicator, and many people will pay through the nose to be as close to stuff as possible, despite the experience.
14) ONLY EATING NEAR THE MAIN TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
I’m not going to say don’t ever eat near the main tourist attractions- I feel that this is part of the experience of visiting somewhere. Where else are you going to be able to have a meal with the view of the Colosseum in Rome nearby? Or the Sydney Opera House? But these areas are always going to be the pricer places. To get more bang for your bucks find somewhere further out and that’s full of locals. This is usually a good indicator of excellent food and far better price.
15) BEING TOO SCARED TO EAT THE STREET FOOD
Rule of thumb is that if the locals are eating it, it’s fine to eat. Think about it, would they be there if they had got food poisoning for eating there last week? Probably not. It’s honestly some of the best, most weird and unique food I have tasted. And to be honest, I miss that kind of lifestyle. Grey England just isn’t cut out for it. So get stuck in and enjoy!