The first trip is never forgotten and we have been living a nomadic life since 2013.
Now it seems easier, but taking a one-way ticket and leaving without looking back is not at all easy. It scares everyone and it scares us too (HERE you can read about our first departure). Now, however, with 6 years of travel experience behind us we feel we can give some advice to new travelers who are thinking of leaving for a long first trip backpacker.
1 – Defeat the fear
Fear is a big break and a powerful deterrent. Jumping into the dark is scary, but the hardest part is finding the strength to push yourself and take flight. Finding that strength that you may not have thought you had will give you the motivation to overcome the next obstacle. In any case, remember that you are not an explorer of the 1700s leaving for unknown lands, there are a lot of people around the world traveling like you ready to help you and once on the way you will be surprised at the amount of knowledge and connections that you will create. Even if you leave alone you will hardly be alone on the road. So go! (HERE you can read about our first fears and difficulties)
2 – Do not rely on guides
I don’t use travel guides for a variety of reasons. They are often misspelled and full of misleading information, but above all they take away part of the pleasure of discovery. Of course, the guides can be useful for a general overview of the place you will visit, but otherwise try to get in touch with other travelers and with the locals. Make connections and ask them directly what deserves to be seen.
3 – Buy a local phone card
When you travel outside the European Union invest some money to get a local phone card. It’s a must-have convenience and you won’t have to stop outside bars or offices to steal your wi-fi anymore. In this way you can communicate with friends you meet while traveling, use the Internet and, in the case of any eventuality or urgency, you can make calls.
4 – Travel light
If this is your first time leaving, then you’ve almost certainly put too much in your backpack. Any advice? Fill your backpack with what you think is necessary, but when you’re done take out half of those things and leave them at home. Most likely, despite this, you will realize along the way that you still have too many things with you. Over the years, your backpack will become increasingly empty until you really get to the essentials.
5 – Learn at least a few sentences in the local language
Make the effort to learn a few phrases in the language of your host country, I can assure you that it will make a big difference. Even just a “hello”, “thank you” or “what’s your name” in the local language will change the approach and attitude of your interlocutor. It doesn’t matter if the pronunciation is unlistenable, you will still show an interest in the country that hosts you. My efforts to learn a few phrases in a foreign language have always borne fruit, I’ve made up for a lot of beers, I’ve been invited to dinner and even birthday parties. In some places not very touristy to see a foreigner who speaks the language of the place (even a few words) often leaves people stunned and happy.
6 – Don’t plan too much
Don’t plan too much. Leave the space to take the opportunities that happen to you and to follow the “wave”. A journey is long and unpredictable. Planning the stages too much keeps us tied to that illusory and familiar sense of security given by certainties. Remember that when you really travel it is never you who drive, but it is the journey itself that drives. Let him drive!
7 – Carry more than one card from which you can withdraw
Money isn’t everything in life, but being away from home is never a pleasant experience. Once, for example, we were in Cambodia and had 3 cards in total. Two Australian credit cards and an Italian ATM. The first Australian card didn’t know it was expiring until the day it actually expired. Shortly after an ATM of the ANZ (Australian & New Zealand Bank) of Siem Reap ate the Italian ATM that we do not know why the Cambodian cashier of the bank then cut us in front of the eyes after recovering it from the damn hellish machine. At that point we only had one last Australian card that luckily always worked until we recovered a new card that we had sent to Saigon (where we still had to wait 2 weeks to receive it from Australia). To make it short if we only had one card it would have been a big problem!
8 – Read a book about the country you will visit
Before entering a country you have never visited, or while you are visiting it, read a good book about it. Don’t read a guide but a book. Do some research, dig into the past and find some local author or traveller from the past. It’s a good way to get to know a country through someone else’s eyes, get an idea of the culture and get to know some details about the country you’re going to visit.
9 – Take some passport photos with you
Getting visas isn’t always easy. For some countries it can even be a real ordeal, and in any case often a passport photo is required. Have you ever tried to take a passport photo at any remote border point between some countries? Here…better to avoid.
10 – Always take out travel insurance
It’s very easy to think, “massì, tanto cosa deve accadedere? I’m paying attention and saving these 200 euros!”. It is indeed true that sometimes insurance is a completely useless cost, and it is to be hoped that it will be, in the sense that if you come back without having used it is much better for you! When you leave for a trip nothing is really more important than travel insurance. This is not one of those old-school phrases, but it is something I say from experience, especially for young travelers, because there are a lot of people who travel without any kind of insurance coverage, and we too, alas, we made this mistake in the past, but luckily everything always went well. Unfortunately not always being careful is enough, and after a while ‘of time spent around, bad stories of boys without insurance we have heard many. We have always traveled with the World Nomads
11 – Backup your photos
I remember that moment as if it were today. We were travelling to the north of Vietnam on our moped after about 8 months of wandering around Southeast Asia. We had an avalanche of photographs of that trip and also an ongoing video project. Everything was “backupped” to a pair of hard drives that I stupidly kept in the same pocket as the same backpack that, at a certain point, decided to detach itself from the scooter and stay somewhere along the road, never being found again. A bad story from which I drew a big lesson. Always make at least a couple of backups if you care about your files and keep them in different places. And whenever your internet connection allows you to do so, make an online backup! (HERE you will find my Travel Photo Kit)
12- Don’t get angry when you don’t speak English
English is now the universal language, it seems that if you speak English then you can be understood everywhere, but it is not so. In fact, the more you leave the tourist routes, the more you will realize that few people speak English. In that case, don’t get angry and don’t raise your voice if no one understands you. Remember that the problem is yours and not the locals’, because you don’t speak their language. So, armed with patience and remember that we Italians are the best at expressing ourselves with gestures. Use your hands, smile and your facial expressions! Alternatively you can also use Google Translator!