4 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were To To Do My Backpacking Trip Again
I wouldn't take a backpack, for starters.
On my first big overseas trip, I shunned a perfectly good wheelie suitcase in favour of a 25-litre Kathmandu monstrosity. It was cumbersome, smelled like old undies and I think it’s the reason why my knees now buckle under excessive weight.
As you can tell, I took the concept of backpacking very literally. And seriously. I didn’t want to look like a tourist. I wanted to look like I was doing it properly. But if I had my time again, I’d do a lot different.
#1 I’d Use Proper Luggage
If I had a dollar for every time I dragged my backpack along the footpath instead of actually carrying it on my back, I may have enough money for a brand new backpack. Which I now need, because my excessive dragging created a gaping hole down the bottom.
There’s nothing cool about struggling to hoist an excessively large nugget of clothes on your back. In fact, it makes you look like a downright try hard. People kept saying things like, “It’s bigger than you!”, “Sure you have that?” and “Oh god, why didn’t you just bring a suitcase?”. Having to continually justify my luggage-based self-torture was torture in itself. Avoid this if you can.
#2 I Wouldn’t Obsess Over The “Authentic” Experience
Here’s the thing about being a foreigner who is travelling to another country: you’re a tourist. No matter if you’re snapping pics outside the colosseum or sipping wine in a hidden bar only the locals know about, you’re still a tourist.
I tried too hard to avoid the “touristy” stuff, but in the process, I missed out on a whole bunch of cool shit I would have liked to have seen. Tourist sites are famous for a reason – they’re fucking cool. So pull out your selfie stick, buy a fake “University of Paris” jumper and get your passport stolen* like any self-respecting tourist would. (*Kidding. Please be careful.)
#3 I’d Take A Friend
I think going on a trip by yourself is a great way to get to know yourself and build some confidence. It’ll seriously test your limits in the most cheesy, Pinterest-quote-worthy way. But all of that self-discovery can be done in two weeks. I was gone for three months and boy, I was sick of myself by the end of it.
No one tells you how lonely you’ll get when you travel on your own. Not only do you not have anyone to share your stories with, you get serious FOMO from your friends and family having fun back home. Like, you’re in freaking Iceland but all you want is to be back in your mate’s backyard singing the Round The Twist theme song way too loud. It’s craziness. But that’s what solo travel can do.
#4 I’d Bring More Money
I’m what you’d call an optimist when it comes to my finances. I have no realistic understanding of how long money will last and how to make it stretch further.
As a result, the last two weeks of my three month trip consisted of me eating nothing but Rice-A-Roni and staring longingly outside ticketed attractions. I also had to walk everywhere because I couldn’t afford a transit pass, as well as re-wear clothes well past a socially acceptable standard lest I wasted a dollar on laundry.
I may have been in California, but that shit ain’t fun anywhere.