Travelling isn’t all that easy. The planning and effort that goes into a trip such as mine takes a lot of commitment. I spent three years slogging away for this trip. Here, my friend Ben shares a bit of wisdom on how you can make a trip like mine a reality.
With increasing cost of living and rising rental, mortgage & fuel prices all part of the real world today, travelling can sometimes feel like a step away from reality. These pressures can almost make travelling seem completely out of reach, especially if a you’re already on a tight budget for day-to-day expenses. However, with careful advance planning and organization I have found that there are ways in which you can still enjoy the excitement of travel while keeping your head above water financially. If you’re willing to sacrifice staying in an expensive hotel, the options for world travel are as good as ever.
Advance planning is the key to saving money ahead of travelling and while you’re out there on the road. The farther ahead you can plan – and sometimes buy – the more likely you are to find bargains. For example, cheap flights can be found up to 330 days (11 months) in advance of your departure, and this is often the best time to find reward tickets, especially for popular destinations.South East Asia and Europe. Once the bargain and reward bookings are snapped up, the airlines have discretion as to whether or not they offer more; these days the odds are against that scenario.
Once you have decided upon your destination think about how much you’ll need to spend altogether and then begin saving. Doing something as simple as setting up a savings account, solely for travel, will be the best thing you can ever do. Once you have begun to save, start scouring the Web for early-booking bargains so that you’ll use less of that money.
Look beyond hotels for significant savings on your lodging costs. Backpacking is the way forward and will bring you in touch with your surroundings, allow you to meet many people, and provide savings and lifelong experiences at the same time. When you backpack, hostels always cost much less than a hotel, they’re a great way to meet people too. Check websites that provide information and traveller ratings on hostels to see what’s available at your destination.
By planning ahead you’ll have a fabulous time without worrying about money, and return home with some fabulous experiences and great photographs to share. That long dreamed for trip will become a reality.
Those sexy folk over at Nomadik Nation let me write a guest post about all things beauty on the road.
When you’re lugging around a backpack that weighs as much as a baby elephant, less is most definately more. In this piece I talk about why I chose to keep things simple and why I’m happier for it.
Click here to read
Here’s the second journal of the day, our first Full Moon Party on the island.
What is it with me and footwear? The graveyard of my shoes would make quite an interesting picture. On day one of this trip, in Delhi, I managed to leave my very nice leather sandals underneath a trickling tap. I awoke in the morning to find them so swollen out of shape they looked like one of the creatures out of Star Wars.
You may remember that my foot and I made an unfortunate encounter with a steaming pile of cow dung in Udaipur, thus rather than vomit from the memory every time I put them on again, I swiftly discarded with flip flops number two.
Pair number three were a particular favourite as they were handmade replacements after the dung incident and were just beautiful. After precisely four days of use, I tripped and managed to completely rip off the sole of one of them. Roscoe then very sweetly, took them to be repaired only for me to pull off the bit between the toes during one particularly vigorous trot on our camel trek in Jaisalmer.
Pair number 4 were some striped jobbies I bought in one of the swanky malls in Mumbai. These did quite well – I think they lasted almost 3 weeks. They met their end when I was walking along in Goa with a hot bag of samosas. One minute all was well, the next minute the toe bit came loose, I tripped and nearly threw the samosas over my head. I was left with no choice but to run/hop all the way back to avoid third degree burns on the blistering Goan footpath.
Pair number 5 were the cheapest I could find as by this point I was worried I might need to buy shares in a flip flop company. The man in the shop in Calangute said they would last forever. I told him I would hold him to that. He said that I could come back for a full refund if they broke. And guess when they broke? The day after I left Calangute. I was playing pool in Palolem, possibly mildly drunk and slipped just when making my shot. I nearly tore a hole in the pool table and managed to break yet another pair. I’ve gotta say it’s quite handy breaking flip flops when you are living in a beach shack though. At least having sand everywhere meant I didn’t have to rush straight out and buy another pair…
So there we are, I am now on pair number 6 and am 3 months into a rather long trip. I wonder how high this number will go?
Tips to avoid flip flop fiasco’s:
- Try not to swing your feet when riding on the back of a motorcycle. I have seen about a thousand discarded pairs all over India from precisely this.
- Yes handmade leather sandals are gorgeous – just don’t let them near the slightest puddle, pebbly floor, or sand. They tend to have the lifecycle of a carton of milk.
- For god sake, shell out for a pair of indestructible Havaianas. They will never fail you. My last pair saw me through my whole time in Australia, Fiji and LA only to be eaten by my lovely but footwear crazy dog Sandy when I arrived back in the UK.
Backpacking can often be all about trying not to give yourself a hernia. If you insist on carrying around every book you’ve ever wanted to read and every item of clothing you’ve ever bought, before long you will be hauling yourself to hospital with a severe case of hernia or hunchback. If you are a book obsessive, it is wise to leave your bountiful library at home and choose your book carefully.
I am book bonkers. I have an extensive book collection which I have taken much love and care to accumulate. I’m the kind of girl that doesn’t dream about her dream house, I dream about the perfect private library with four walls of book shelves and a big cosy chair to devour them in. Setting me loose in a bookshop is like a kid discovering Toys r us. So it was, of course, extremely tempting to abandon bringing any clothes whatsoever and simply fill my backpack with my precious books.
Realising this would be a mistake, my two friends and I picked a book each of which we all wanted to read. That way we need only carry one, swap and give our books some considerable mileage. Book swapping is one of the great ways to meet and chat to fellow travellers. One of the first things I tend to gravitate towards is the communal book shelves in hotels/hostels…you never know what wonders you might find.
Of course, there’s also the obligatory travel guide. If travelling in a group, it definitely makes sense to share one guide but make sure one person doesn’t dominate the choices and the guide is shared around and all and the choices made are joint ones. Lonely Planet is a traveller’s staple and ideal for finding the right place to rest your head but personally I find I learn much more about a place from travel writers such as Bill Bryson and AA Gill.
There are two novels I would recommend as the perfect travelling companion: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and Papillion by Henri Charrière. These are my two favourite books of all time, both featuring wrongful imprisonment and the quest for freedom. Undoubtedly these incredible books strike something in me that fears being trapped and my strong desire to be free and see the world. Having the time to read is a blessing and it’s yet one more reason why I am so addicted to travelling.
There are a few basic rules to backpacking safely. I would say it is advisable not to leave your Fendi purse sticking out of an open zip or your thousand pound laptop poking out for all to see. In fact, for all you flashpackers out there take note. Backpacking is all about simplicity. The more you travel, the more you realise how little you need. In saying this, we do all need a bag for the essentials and there are ways you can keep your stuff safe.
I tried on dozens of backpacks sizing them up for comfort and space and eventually settled on the Berghaus Jalan 60 +15. I realised this would work perfectly for me as having a separate day pack means you can always keep your valuables with you. Rather than worry about leaving your bag unattended, if you have a smaller detachable bag – this can come with you anywhere without you having to lug the entire load.
The most obvious things causing infinite amount of drama if lost are your passport, wallet and camera. Although it can be a bit of a bother having to remember the codes for numeric locks, having one for the zip of your backpack and also for your day pack, is an obvious first deterrent against someone with sneaky fingers. I’m sure you’ve heard the tales of a flexible Thai person being installed in the luggage lock under every coach? Apparently these cheeky souls pass the time before running out of oxygen by sifting through any unlocked bags and maybe even taking a souvenir or two. Personally, I never encountered this but that’s not to say I left my bag unlocked just in case.
I also became quite adept at using my day sack as a pillow on any means of transport. This serves two purposes, first it’s handy to have something to use as a pillow and second, if your head is resting on your valuables, you would feel it someone tried to nab it and you could then chase them off with a stick.
Whilst shopping in Bangkok, I did look into buying a wire mesh backpack protector but for the price I didn’t see the point. If you can afford parting with around £50 then go for it but otherwise I could just imagine getting intensely frustrated unfurling the wires each time. On nights like the full moon party, you might want to up your security as lots of empty bungalows could be more vulnerable. Most decent resorts offer the use of a safe in reception. I always used this and it never cost more than a few pounds. There have been stories of things still going missing in this case but again, I never encountered this and people tend to forget that tourism is what keep these places going and they don’t want their reputation damaged by bad reviews.
The best piece of advice I can give is to simply try and not leave anything in your backpack that is obviously valuable. Make good use of your daypack, take your valuables with you and have an iron cast insurance package and then stop worrying so much and get out there and explore.
Understandably, the first item my Mum insisted I take travelling was the First Aid Kit. We were both slightly bowled over by the choices on offer and short of her insisting I took the entire aisle in Boots, we chose the Travel Kit with Sterile Medical Pack. It was about £30 and for the first month of my trip, I was convinced it was a waste of money and backpack space. I mean you can buy plasters absolutely anywhere, creams and mozzy sprays are sold in almost every shop so why on earth was I carrying around a lifetime supply?
My stance on this changed the morning after I ended up with one side of my face, shoulder and knee cut up after probably the stupidest fall of all time. Having been advised to share my first Thai bucket with my two friends, I of course, decided this was for wimps and devoured a whole one to myself in about 45 seconds. So inevitably this masterfully disguised entire bottle of whisky had me rather wobbly on my feet. My friend was so inebriated that I found her leaning over a balcony, kindly spewing her guts out on to the beach below. Her boyfriend sensibly decided to take her home so she could spew in the privacy of their bungalow instead. I insisted I wanted to stay and ensured them that yes, I would be absolutely fine without them and no, they did not need to worry. No sooner had their taxi turned the corner, I was so busy ogling a wall of an amazing Thai Tattoo artist, that I didn’t spot, well the floor, right there in front of me. I fell hard onto my face and shoulder and was so drunk that I had no idea I was even bleeding until the tattoo artist scuttled over and sat me down.
Making the walk of shame back to my friends in the morning was not without a tear or two and suddenly they both turned into nurse and doctor extraordinaire and the First Aid Kit was put to good use. Antiseptic wipes were applied to my face, shoulder and knee but I had so much gravel in my wounds that they decided to take me for a dip in the sea to wash it all out. I can tell you that sea water in fresh wounds is exactly as painful as you can imagine.
Days later when I was bandaged up, limping around and wearing Jackie O sunglasses to hide my face, I walked past a little Thai clinic and decided to have them check me over. I seemed to be healing up well but was told to stay out of sunlight for 4 months if I wanted the cut on my face not to leave a scar. Well thank you doctor, I’m only on a 4 month trip in some of the hottest sunniest places on earth…
Thankfully, I didn’t need to use any of the needles and transfusion kit but I have been told by one friend that she encountered wild cats running around a Thai hospital. On this occasion, provided I was conscious and had my backpack with me, I would be more than delighted to hand over my own personal sterilised needle to the nurse.
Why is it that girls go through flip flops like boys go through socks? I have had more pairs of flip flops than I would care to remember. Maybe it’s because I have a penchant for the wicker kind which inevitably fall to pieces the moment they get wet. Maybe it’s because I have a habit of swinging my feet over the edge of moving boats or maybe it’s just because flip flops are probably the easiest things to lose. Well, for me anyway.
Within the first month, I had gone through 4 pairs. Mainly through the reasons above but one time I did nothing more than leave them outside my hut and someone had taken one. Not both. One. Why one? Is there a one legged flip flop thief on the loose? One time I left mine with all the others on entering a beach hut party only for someone to take my gorgeous bejewelled footwear and swap them for some crusty old jobbies in a size 22. The only way to get around me not losing my flip flops was to buy the Velcro, waterproof ones which are certainly not as fashionable and marginally more sensible. They’re great for wading in shallow water and avoiding sharp coral nicks and I suppose if you sleep in them then there really is no chance they can be nabbed.
As well as flip flops, having a pair of walking boots is a must. Even though I only used them a handful of times, I bought and loved a pair of Berghaus Women’s Explorer V GTX. These were £85 and worth every penny. On the few treks I made through the jungle in Thailand, these came in mighty handy. They feel incredibly secure and are infinitely more comfortable than the ache that often comes with wearing flip flops on long walks. They’re not the lightest or smallest of things but if you remember to always pack them in the bottom of your backpack (to distribute the weight where your back is strongest) you won’t be sorry you took them. They also double up as great beer bottle holders when you’re travelling on bumpy trains and buses…
Before I set off on my first trip around the world, I met up with my Dad for his last minute words of wisdom. It was the usual stuff, ‘always carry a copy of your passport with you’, ‘swot away lecherous men with a swift kick to gonads’ and ‘try not to go swimming and then have your backpack stolen and end up a young girl alone in a foreign country with nothing to her name bar her bikini’. All these things had happened to my older sister when she had embarked on her travels years before. I understood his concern.
He regaled his stories of living in exotic lands and I listened intently to these last snippets of advice. But it didn’t stop there. He had a gift for me. A gift that would prove to be my most precious, valued item should all else be lost: a wind-up torch. This torch saved the day on numerous occasions and it will forever be the first thing on my packing list from now on.
To start with, on my fabulous Qantas flight from London to Bangkok, the lights went down for the overnight snooze and of course I was far too excited to consider sleep. My overhead light was broken and I am far too nice to complain to exasperated hostesses, so what did I do? Whip out Dad’s torch and wake up half the flight whizzing the thing into action. About a week later on my first trip to a Thai island we happened upon Koh Samet, which was still so small and un-touristy that electricity to the whole island ceased at 10pm every evening. How smug I was having never-ending light whilst my friends were busy attempting to devise a medieval twig torch.
Travelling with a couple that often went to bed before me, meant that I had to make my own way back to my beach hut and I tell you this is when my sincere love for my torch grew. I have never been very fond of woods at night. In fact, no that may be an understatement, I am blood curdlingly terrified of woods at night. Thinking back now, this may be why my Dad got me the torch in the first place. I’m sure he has very fond memories of our camping trips when I was a little person. I adore camping right up until sun down. Then I become an annoying little monster as I simply point blank refuse to go anywhere without a torch. The one time the batteries ran out when I was on the way to the toilet, rather than attempt to go back, I stopped in my tracks and screamed as loudly as my lungs would let me for my Dad to come and get me (waking up the entire campsite in the process).
Similarly in Thailand, the cheaper single person huts tend to be the furthest away from civilisation and the lighting is often completely non-existent. Yes relying on the moon can be nice but not when you have a phobia of woods and come to think of it, werewolves. Having my little wind-up friend meant that I always felt safe and should it start to dim, I was a mere wind away from security once more. It also came in mighty handy for checking whether there were any snakes down the loo too…