The big wide world of the internet is filled with travel blog after travel blog. Every backpacker in this day and age seems to have their own personal blog, and with a click of a button every globe trotter has the ability to give their two cents. I'm not implying that this is a negative thing at all. In fact, the internet has allowed for a lot of diversity in the form of travel advice - some of which, to put it simply, is shit. Here at Base I get to meet international travellers on a daily basis (yep... I live the dream). At times, my ears are exposed to some of the most insanely stupid travel advice that I have ever heard. Here's a little snippet...
1. Switch off the smart phone
Yeah I get it... travel allows us to really LIVE in the moment. It opens us to new people, new experiences and of course, new lessons. But how can we REALLY live in the moment if we are glued to our phone screens? Well we say f*ck it! Embrace the smart phone!
The likes of Instagram, Facebook and social media allow us to recreate and capture any moment in our lives. It allows us to become 'Creative Directors' of our own experiences - reshaping, highlighting, cropping and enhancing any given moment. It allows us to INSTANTLY inspire our peers, friends and families with a click of a button. It provides us with an abundance of backpacking apps, maps, translations, conversions, tips and answers at our disposable. It helps us to approach any new culture or city with information - not ignorance. And most importantly - the smart phone provides us with a second layer of security - decreasing the likelihood of getting lost, being able to communicate instantly with anyone in times of struggle or danger and works as a personal GPS.
So embrace the smart phone. Embrace the technology and utilise your new found freedom and time to focus your energy on learning and experiencing the local culture.
2. Book the cheapest flight
It ALWAYS seems like the best idea at the time (trust me... I know)! BUT come to the day, you will be hating yourself for booking the longest flight possible with the most amount of changeovers and a 6 hour gap at KL Airport with a steaming hangover. Ask yourself... will your hangover be thankful that you decided not to pay the extra $30 for a sooner flight?
3. Don't travel solo
Ok this one is a croc of shit! The limitless and borderless world of technology has opened the doors to new countries and a never ending wealth of information. Instagram is swamped with solo travel bloggers that continue to defy the 'laws' of travel and expose us to new countries and possibilities. Whether you are planning on travelling New Zealand or backpacking Australia's east coast, embarking on a solo venture is both thrilling, educational and rewarding. It throws you outside of your comfort zone and envelops you with a new layer of fear - forcing you to REALLY research and plan your trip in an unknown land. It allows us to practice common sense, awareness and openness to new people. Convinced? Check out these 10 Tips every solo backpacker should know!
4. Avoid the tourist traps
"Yeah I went to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It's overrated." We've all heard it and we've all met a fellow backpacker at a hostel that can't help but boast about the off the beaten track and 'secret' locations they had visited. Yeah of course - travel is about discovering that little red 'X' on the map, making a risky decision here and there and stumbling upon your own hidden paradise. BUT ask yourself WHY a tourist trap is indeed a 'trap.' My thoughts? A tourist trap is indeed a tourist trap for a reason - because the destination / landmark / location is BLOODY AMAZING! My tip? Don't be afraid to 'tick off' the touristy hot spots and embrace the crowds.
5. Don't talk to strangers
This one is a little tricky and depends on how you define a stranger. The dude in the dirty jeans with no shoes that illogically defies God whilst in search for half smoked ciggie butts in St Kilda? Yeah... maybe give that one a miss. But the local sitting next to you on the train? Why not. It's always important to have your smarts about you. For example, try not to mention where you are staying or living, imply that you are meeting a group of friends at your destination and try not to come across as "too keen." But you never know what local tips you may find out from a "stranger" - not to mention the opportunity to learn a little bit about the local culture.
6. Don't pre book your accommodation
Personally I ALWAYS pre book the first two night's of accommodation when arriving into a new country or city. There's nothing worse than arriving into an unknown place with a heavy backpack and little knowledge of where to go and how to get there. TIP: do your research, find out where you want to stay, what kind of vibe you want at your hostel (party or chilled) and book your 'base' before you arrive. That way you can arrive, chill out and plan the next part of your trip. In countries like Australia and New Zealand - the major cities do not tend to have a "backpacker hub" like many of Asia's tourist hot spots. Hostels tend to be scattered throughout the city and require a different mode of transport to reach each one. Some popular locations are very busy and arriving without a booking could mean there are no beds available or only the most expensive room is left!
7. Just book your trip as you go - it's cheaper!
This tip is contextual - depending on your destination and timeline. Travelling South East Asia for 6 months? Then yeah - I'd recommend going with the flow. BUT no matter where you are going or how much time you have, that doesn't give you the freedom to not perform some level of planning before you arrive. Research, research research. The east coast of Australia for example is HUGE and to really experience the hot spots like the Whitsundays and Fraser Island and all the rest - you need at least 4 weeks or more. Hence, if you are planning to spend just a few weeks embarking on the coastal trail, you WILL need to pre book and plan your travels.
8. Try to see as much as possible
There's nothing worse than spending the majority of your holiday on the road: Bus, Sleep, Tour, Sleep. Repeat. A holiday is just as much a state of mind as it is a destination. Allow yourself a few extra days here and there to chill out, explore, sun bake, read a book, head to a local cafe or have a fat and lazy hangover day.
The conclusion? Although it's great to get tips from your mates first hand, everybody has a different experience when travelling abroad. Take in the travel advice, read blogs, jump on Instagram and most importantly - RESEARCH! How long does it ACTUALLY take to get to each destination? How quickly do the tours get booked out? Is it cheaper to book beforehand or on arrival? Where in the city would you prefer to stay and what kind of hostel vibe are you looking for? Formulate your own plan of attack and most importantly - be smart, be open, be free and ENJOY!
Looking for some non shit travel advice? You may like these 8 Tips to Mentally Prepare You for Travel.