Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to travel the World – adventure, self development, cultural understanding or like us, making life a more meaningful experience.
Our year of travelling started as we left England in May 2019 heading first to India then Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, North Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, South Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
As we are in our 40s, this backpacking year could be considered a late attempt for a gap year but we hope it proves that it can still be done.
We have benefitted from all the reading and research we did before setting off for a year together on the road. All the tips were immensely valuable, from how to manage being a couple together every second to how we can control our spending and best ways of making the most of our time out there.
Now we are back home and settling into our life without being on the go all the time, we felt it’s our duty to share what we’ve learnt.
Things you don’t need to worry about on your travels…
- You really don’t need to worry about how all your clothes will fit into your backpack – It does, easily! If you’re heading to Asia, then anything you need to replace can be done for peanuts over there anyway.
- Don’t worry about money too much when it comes to “bucket list” items. Just do them. You’ll regret it later if you were just trying to save some money.
- Of course you need to budget, so would advise checking your spending at regular intervals or after each country. You’ll see that you spend much less in Asian countries for example, compared to Australia etc.
- We found crime to be not really a worry as we travelled. Being sensible is all you need to keep your money safe. We have never been assaulted, robbed and nothing of ours was stolen.
Things we knew about money or had to learn…
- You may find that time spent researching pre-paid cards is time well spent
- It’s a good idea to have an additional card on your main account in case one gets damaged
- Choose credit cards which don’t charge or maybe consider loyalty programmes. We considered round the world tickets, looked into loyalty programmes and credit cards’ benefits. Not going with any of those worked well for us because we took many budget flights and these totalled out much cheaper for us. You may need to make a decision early on depending on your intended destinations.
- Having internet is a life saver in many situations. If you can, make it your priority to get a SIM card in each country and make things easier for yourself. Of course you’ll need your phone to be unlocked via a code from your network provider.
- Why gift your valuable cash in ATM fees! One of the many uses of the internet is to tell you where the ATMs are which don’t charge for international transactions.
- We did keep some USD cash with us as it is a widely accepted currency.
- Always negotiate. Just take your chances even if you think a discount is not possible. Worse case they say no, best case you saved a few quid! Especially in Asia.
- Who doesn’t love a coffee every now and then? In most countries you can get a proper freshly ground coffee at 7/11s stores or garages. Oh and we had to put our dislike of McDonald’s and Burger King aside for a nice ice cream treat. Seriously, when you see how cheap you won’t hesitate to leave your moral dilemma aside!
- A great way to save money is negotiate a lower price for longer stays, especially if you know you like and want to stay in a place for more than 3 days, you shouldn’t be paying the normal daily rate.
Thing you could do for a better Cultural Experience
- House sit
- Eating local
- Talking to people, other travellers, locals, shopkeepers, neighbours…
- Just remind yourself that you can’t see everything
- We found that especially in bigger cities there are free guided tours organised by volunteers. A great way to learn more about a city without spending a penny (well only you can decide if a backpacker should tip)
Thing that could make you feel a bit better…
- As strange as it sounds, there is a rumour that water bottles are refilled with tap water and resold. Apparently if you push the bottle cap back in the bottle, it costs more to get it out so not suitable for reselling. This may well be a funny game a backpacker invented for fun but you could do it to stop people being deceived and that could make you fell socially responsible and good.
- You may try and try to spend all your currency before leaving a country but if you find that a few annoying coins remain in your pockets as you arrive at an airport, just use the charity boxes provided. It doesn’t really matter what currency and what amount, just a nice win win.
Things that could make your life on-the-go a bit easier…
A piece of string – to use as washing line, to tie things together or play with a kitten!
Super glue – always useful
A small foldable knife – for cutting fruit etc
Note pen and paper
Your very own spork – spoon+fork, comes more handire than you’d think. It’s yours, always there and clean.
Have your own travel pillow – or never ever look at a hostel pillow inside the pillow case!
Tape – clear! (While thinking you are clever for having tape with you, you don’t want to leave brown parcel tape marks like me on white ceilings after sticking your mosquito net up there)
Hydrate often and avoid junk food – Why eat junk food in places like Asia when the local food is so good?!
Ladies (or sometimes gents too), have a couple of thin cycling shorts with you and thank me later. Chafing is never nice but simply unbearable in hot countries.
Sometimes the cheapest option is not always the best, you already know this but it gets a whole new meaning in Asia.
Flip Flops are great idea to have with you
Quick dry towels are worth every penny
Thank You cards/souvenirs come in handy for when you are overwhelmed with gratitude.
Small combination padlock, preferable one with a flexible wire is ideal.
Hair clippers. Andy took a very cheap rechargeable set that were awesome, reasonably light, compact and a very cheap solution.
Things we took with us and wish we didn’t bother
- Head torch – not needed if you carry your phone with you. Most have this option
- Hundreds of tablets and painkillers of all kinds. They are available everywhere so there’s no real need to carry loads with you. We brought so many of them back.
- Money belt – We never used it and just kept our valuables like passports in a zipped shorts pocket on us at all times.
- This one is for ladies and possibly for gents who need a root touch up. Seda took boxes of hair dye with her. Turns out even in the remotest mountain villages in India, you can find hair dye for the main hair colours.
Things we didn’t take and are glad we didn’t
- Thick jacket/waterproof – We travelled trough South East Asia in the notorious monsoon season and still managed fine. Well ok, there was a big element of luck there but unless you think you’ll spend hours outdoors unsheltered, we’d say keep it light.
Things we read beforehand which didn’t seem to be the case for us…
- Take decent shoes – You never know when you’ll need them. Trainers/sandals were perfectly adequate for us, even though we had to replace them once as daily wear only made them last 6 months.
- Expensive universal travel plugs. Our advice is don’t waste your money on these as you can get local adaptor plugs for a fraction of the price.
Things to keep you safe and sane…
- Have your wits about you. There are scammers around, especially in Asia. Question everything.
- A chain for your wallet (yes like the ones your grandad used to have but you have to decide if keeping your wallet safe is worth damaging your overall image).
- Stories are fun to tell and listen to but in the end, they are just stories. You can listen to scary snake stories and spend your entire time in Australia avoiding nature and wildlife due to your worries or could take a picture with them as you see one! Oh come on, there is an average of two deaths from poisonous snake bites in Australia each year. The overall population is 25 million, so one in 12.5 million risk. Is it worth spoiling your chance of enjoying some beautiful Australian bushwalks?!
This is our 100th post and the end of our journey. Thank you for reading our story and sharing the joy of travelling. We will be here for a chat now and in the future if you wish to contact us with any further questions.
Andy & Seda