12 Must-know tips for your first time backpacking
Are you preparing for your first time backpacking?
If so you’ll be feeling happy, excited, pumped.
A smile shows up on your face every time you tell people about your travel plans.
It feels so unreal that you’ll be backpacking soon and if it were up to you, you would be on that plane today.
But at night, when you lay in bed… You’re wondering. Worrying. Full freaking panic mode.
What do I need to arrange? Will I meet fun people? What will I do when I’m all alone? Is my travel plan too ambitious? Is it even a good idea to go?
It’s completely normal to feel like someone is playing ping-pong with your emotions when you’re planning your first time backpacking. You simply don’t know what’s awaiting you.
But here is a secret that every backpacker knows:
Fears, doubts, excitement and anxiety… they’re all irrelevant in the light of the amazing memories and friendships you’ll make.
You’ll realize this as soon as you get off that plane but until then, we’ll help you on your way with these 12 Must-know tips for your first time backpacking:
1. It’s ok to be scared
Everyone is a little afraid to take the leap and venture into the unknown.
But that’s a good sign.
The feeling of fear is a sign that your dreams are big enough. There is no fear without ambition. Your first time backpacking is an amazing step, but also a daring adventure.
You’re not the only one who travels around the world alone. If others can do it, why couldn’t you?
2. You don’t need to know everything
You can’t know everything, especially if it’s your first time backpacking.
And that’s fine.
Because you don’t have to know everything.
When you’re at home you don’t check travel schedules for your appointment in three weeks either. You trust you’ll know how to get there when you need to get there.
Same goes for traveling. Australia is a western country and getting from A to B is as easy as ordering a meal at Mcdonald’s (or Maccas as they call it in OZ).
Seriously, don’t stress about the details.
3. Take it easy and don’t be afraid to miss out on things
We get it.
You want to see as much as possible during your first time backpacking.
Here’s the problem: you can’t.
Australia has 25.760 km of coastline and by their own definition of a beach, Australia has 10.685 beaches.
So let’s say you have the crazy plan of visiting each and every beach in Australia and you see 10 beaches a day. You’ll be driving from beach to beach for the next 3 years…
Here’s a better alternative:
Screw FOMO (fear of missing out) and enjoy the things you do see.
Decide what’s important to you. Think about the things that you want to experience. Don’t just blindly follow a travel guide, but make up your own mind.
Choose your own path and stick to what makes you happy.
4. Don’t let the photos be better than the experience
We all enjoy a little scroll through Instagram or Facebook from time to time.
You know that little online fantasy world we sometimes mistake for reality. A world we all too often try to make better than reality by posting photos with the hashtag #lovinglife.
And of course, there is nothing wrong with taking a ton of beautiful photos. It’s only logical to go Chinese when you get to the opera house. But the best moments can’t be captured on camera.
So don’t ever forget to feel the wind in your hair, the smell of the flowers and enjoy the laughs of the people you’re so desperately trying to capture on camera.
5. Stay flexible
Making travel plans is exciting and inspiring. The anticipation of adventure alone is good enough to elevate happiness about all areas in your life.
But as we know from some German commander: No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.
While it might go a bit too far to call Australia your enemy, the truth is that your plans will change. They need to change if you want to get the most out of your first time backpacking.
You’ll meet a cool person you want to travel with for a little bit.
You’ll find a spot you absolutely love, making you stay for a little longer than the two days you planned.
Or you find out that you don’t want to travel for three months, but that you want to travel forever.
Whatever it is, it’s important to stay flexible and live your adventure day by day. Grabbing opportunities as they come, even if it’s not the way you planned it.
6. Be (mini)adventurous
Your first time backpacking itself is a daring adventure. But all too often we find first-time backpackers a bit reluctant to try new things.
We’re not talking about bungee jumping, rafting or skydiving.
It’s the normal things. Things in everyday life. Like talking to locals, taking the local transport, joining a group from your hostel to the beach, going for dinner with a stranger.
In short, small things that make you feel uncomfortable. Or even better, it might scare the living crap out of you.
And that’s exactly why you should do it. Because at the end of the day, all the bucket list activities are amazing…
The true power of travel comes from the realization that you can enjoy any place in the world with nothing more than a backpack and some fun people.
7. Don’t be shy
No, you don’t have to talk to everyone in the hostel.
And there will be times where you don’t feel like talking to anyone at all. You know, just some peace and quiet. Reading a book, checking Facebook, just a bit of me-time.
But having an introvert episode is not the same thing as being shy.
Being introverted means you enjoy spending time with yourself. Being shy means you think you’re not good enough for someone’s attention.
We call bullshit.
You’re always good enough for a bit of small talk. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but there is absolutely NO excuse not to say hello to your dorm mates (not even if it’s your first time backpacking).
So go on, ditch those headphones. Say hello to your roommates and ask them how their day was. You’ll be amazed how many friendships start out like this.
8. Bring more than enough money
You know Australia is expensive.
It doesn’t have to be, by the way. If you want to learn how to save more money, sign up for our free backpack bootcamp.
But you won’t be the first to leave Australia with a lot of unfulfilled dreams and a bank account that causes instant depression.
The trick is keeping it real.
Yes, you can go skydiving, bungee jumping, shark diving, road tripping and drinking…
But if you do, budget some extra money. Or arrange that someone will lend you some in case you really run out.
Either way, work a bit more before you leave or try finding a job in Australia to save up some extra money.
9. Being alone is not the same as being lonely
The first time backpacking is scary, especially if you’re alone.
The thought alone is enough to cause a full-blown panic attack.
So here’s your relief: you’ll survive.
Honestly, we’re not going to tell you that you’ll never be alone. There will be moments that you are alone, and there will be moments that you feel lonely. Just not always at the same time.
There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely.
Being alone means that there are simply no people around you. For instance, when you go for a walk on the beach by yourself, read a book in the park or sit down for that well-deserved cup of coffee.
Being alone can be a very liberating feeling.
And then there is loneliness, which stems from the feeling of isolation.
It stems from not feeling a connection with the people around you or your own thoughts. It’s often this unfulfilled desire of wanting that connection that makes you feel a bit shitty.
So here’s what to do.
Do Something. Anything.
Go out for a walk. Start running. Go to a museum. Talk to people. Read a book. Embrace the loneliness, it’s ok that life sucks at times.
You’ll have to learn you don’t need other people to be happy. Trust yourself and the fact that there is always a new adventure or an amazing person around the corner.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask
Nowadays you can find everything on the internet. Travel tips, the best hostels, time schedules for buses and the best bars to get drunk.
But do you know where you get the best recommendations? Exactly, from locals and other travelers.
So talk to them, ask for tips and you’ll be amazed how many spots are still undiscovered by the internet.
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11. Keep a journal
During your travel you’ll meet so many cool people, you’ll do so many amazing things and you’ll have so many interesting thoughts.
Don’t lose them.
Writing in a diary is the perfect way to keep track of your adventure and relive them years later.
However, you don’t have to write a freakin’ novel unless you want to write for three hours a day.
Instead, stick to the following rules.
- Make writing a habit
- Don’t write everything down. Oh, you started your day with breakfast? (Oh shit, isn’t that amazing…)
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just write
- Write what you’ve done (duh) but also write down particular smells, sights, feelings, taste, interesting conversations, your thoughts and wicked theories for world peace.
- Write short words if you don’t have time. It can take less than five minutes to get your thoughts onto paper. You can always turn it into a story later.
12. You can’t fail (unless you do this)
Before you start, your travels can feel like a mission.
You’ve told your friends and family that you’ll be gone for a while, but in the back of your mind there’s always that little voice:
- What if I can’t manage it?
- What if I don’t like it?
- What if I feel homesick?
- What if I run out of money?
Understandable, but completely irrelevant.
Your backpacking adventure can never fail.
Your plans change. Your situation changes. Reality turns out to be different than you anticipated. And so on.
But you’re going to experience amazing things. YOU are the one living the adventure. And that means that during your travels YOU get to decide what to do next.
Whether that means extending your trip, or cutting it short… The only real way to fail during your travels is to stick to a plan that doesn’t work.
It’s your adventure. Let’s keep it that way.
Happy travels 🙂
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