Tip 1 – Tear up the plan: Having a plan is certainly a good idea, particularly if there are certain places or things you are keen to see. But don’t be too inflexible, or unwilling to throw your plans out of the window and head off in a new direction. You never know who you might meet, or what you might learn on your trip that could cause your travels to go in a new direction. Often it is the unplanned things that we cherish the most from a trip.
Tip 2 – Try new things: Your travels are an adventure, so trying new things should almost be a given. This could be as easy as trying the local delicacy, or as exhilarating as throwing yourself from an aeroplane. New experiences are the goal here, so try and get as many of them as possible, you might be surprised with what you learn about yourself.
Tip 3 – Meet new people: Often it is the people you meet that make the trip. Travelling is a tremendous opportunity to meet folk from all kinds of backgrounds and places, with stories to tell and information to swap. But don’t expect people to come flocking to you, it may be that you have to make a bit of effort, or leave your comfort zone a little in order to make first contact. I found this particularly true when travelling as a couple. The rewards are worth it though. And don’t forget to exchange details when you part, something as simple as exchanging Facebook details will let you keep in touch with your new friends even as your travels draw you apart physically.
Tip 4 – Stay a while: If you are on a long term trip, don’t be afraid to put down roots for a while in an area. Often as travellers we find ourselves rushing from destination to destination, skimming the surface and “checking off” a place before heading on. Slowing the pace down and absorbing an area more fully can be highly rewarding as you get to know the people, culture and place more fully.
Tip 5 – Keep a record: Take a lot of photos, keep a journal, write a blog. However you want to capture the experience you are having, just do your best to capture it. Once your trip is over you’ll want to look back it, and if your memories fade, you’ll be able to remember the experience in much greater detail with some aids.
Tip 6 – Travelling companions: If you are going to be travelling with one or more people, make sure you are likely to be a compatible travelling group. If you plan to spend your whole trip hiking up giant mountains, whilst your companions are more of the beach dwelling type, then you could have a problem. There is no right or wrong way to experience a trip, but ensuring you are all looking for something similar before you set off, or at the least, planning to satisfy everyone’s needs, is a better way to start. And don’t be afraid to part ways if a trip isn’t working out as you had hoped, often this can be better for everyone involved rather than trying to keep something going that clearly isn’t working for everyone.
Tip 7 – Pack appropriately: I have a more detailed post on packing tips here, but essentially, do some research into where you are heading and try to avoid taking anything unnecessary. The world isn’t quite as remote a place as we like to think, and often if you are short on something you will be able to find it where you are going just as easily. One more thing – don’t take anything that is irreplaceable, you never know what might happen.
Tip 8 – Get insurance: Ok, there had to be one sensible tip that sounded like your mother. But seriously, you have no idea what could happen to you when you are on your trip, so insurance, and in particular medical insurance, is a must for any trip. Long term travel insurances are available, and could save you an awful lot of money if you end up in trouble.
Tip 9 – Budget: Lordy, these are getting a bit serious. But money makes the world go round, and running out of it at an inappropriate moment could really mess up your trip. Keeping a track of your money, maybe setting yourself a daily or weekly amount you are happy to spend, could help you avoid issues. But don’t skimp out on a possible great once in a lifetime experience for financial reasons. More money can always be worked for. And it’s amazing how easy it is to save money. From shopping in second hand shops to couchsurfing, there are a myriad of opportunities to save money. And remember the old adage: the best things in life are free.
Tip 10 – Planning: Finally in the list, having advocated a willingness to throw plans out of the window, I will now recommend that you do a certain amount of planning before you set off. It could be that the country you are visiting needs specific vaccinations, or carrying nuts into the country is going to result in you losing all your gear. Other pre-trip things you may consider doing are making electronic copies of all your important documents, in case you should lose these. Consider having a credit card or other emergency money supply located somewhere that won’t be lost if your primary gear is gone. Basic planning such as this won’t enhance the majority of your trip, but it could stop a bad situation becoming worse.
Finally, the best advice I can give you is to enjoy yourself. Soak up the new experiences, revel in the adventure. We only get, as far as I can tell, one go at this whole thing, so we may as well do our best to have fun on the way. If you’ve got any tips to add to this, feel free to share in the comments below!