I’m quite lucky that a couple of years ago I acquired a very handsome young man who has changed my outlook on life completely. I’ve never felt truly fulfilled with my life, always seeking more freedom and adventure but not being enough of a risk taker to do it. Who knew that all it would take was another person to push me and take my crazy dreams and ideas so seriously that they would want to chase them with me. Encouragement is one of the best things a person can give to you, and my other half has certainly invigorated me to take more risks, push myself out of my comfort zone and do the things some people only dream about. That is why in November 2016 we are taking a one-way flight to Bangkok with only a backpack and each other to fulfill our dreams and make memories that will never be forgotten. I’m terrified, but more importantly, the most excited I’ve ever been in my life!
Stepping into unknown territory is crazy scary, especially for someone like myself who finds risk taking intensely intimidating. I’ve taken to the Internet to research everything there is to know about backpacking in Southeast Asia. I’ve found it particularly useful to read other bloggers perspectives on backpacking and their personal experiences of Southeast Asia. Its four months until me and my partner go on our way to adventure but I thought it would be useful to share my planning process so far. This might be helpful for anyone that is thinking of travelling or are in the early stages of planning for a backpacking trip.
Choosing your Destination
Isn't it soul destroying when your Facebook/Twitter feed is crammed with picturesque photographs of an old school friend or relative who is travelling the world? This happens to me on a regular basis and it has been the substance of my lust for travelling Southeast Asia. After speaking with numerous old friends, acquaintances from University, family and fellow bloggers, I’ve established that Southeast Asia will be a perfect destination for my partner and me. There are plenty of sightseeing opportunities, amazing beaches, a plethora of accommodation, accessible travel options and it seems a very friendly/supportive place for first time travellers. I’m not going to Southeast Asia because ‘everybody goes there’ and I’m certainly not interested in solely following the typical backpacker routes. However, I won’t deny that I’ve been stimulated by Southeast Asia’s hospitality towards backpackers and it’s attractive low budget possibilities. We have chosen a destination that is appropriate for our budget so that we can live quite comfortably without sacrificing adventure. In Southeast Asia you can live, eat and travel for a fraction of the price that it costs in the UK, leaving us with plenty of spending money to explore and make memories.
Booking a Flight
Now if you're lucky enough to live in America and can engage in Travel Hacking or you have the time to delve into ways of getting free air miles then you should go and read Nomadic Matt and his post on How to be a Travel Hacker. This could make your backpacking adventure a real possibility if you're low on money. If you're in the UK without access to Air miles credit cards etc then I do have a few tips for getting a good deal on your flight.
I have been using three different Apps on my iPhone 6s to compare prices of flights. Hopper is an absolutely amazing app if you're a busy bee and don't have time to be constantly checking flight prices and variations. It's so simple to use and you can save multiple flights so that Hopper keeps an eye on the price fluctuations and you don't need to do anything. It gives you advice on whether to book the flight now or to wait if they predict it will drop in price. Momondo also have an app and website that works similar to Hopper. It calculates a calendar of your chosen flight so that you can see which date offers the cheapest flight and you can easily search for the fastest, cheapest or best deals across numerous airlines. The final one that I use is Skyscanner which is another price comparison website and app that shows you the best deals from different airlines. To be honest if you have these three apps and compare them often enough, you really can't go wrong.
|Photo Courtesy of an old friend (the one with picturesque awe inspiring photos)|
Browsing the area
Pinterest has been an absolute god send for helping browse areas of Southeast Asia that I might like to visit on my travels. I simply typed Travel Southeast Asia into the Pinterest search box and found endless links to blog posts, bucket lists, top places to visit, things to do, travel guides and maps. You name it Pinterest has it. If you can't be bothered to do all the research, then lucky for you I've already done it all for you in terms of collating useful pins. Check out my Travel Asia board for over a hundred useful pins on where to go, what to do and much more. Another useful source has been the Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring (travel guide). This contains maps, highlights, insider tips, itineraries and much more to get you started and help you on your way to a successful backpacking trip.
Me and my partner have started to make a rough list of places we would like to visit whilst in Southeast Asia. Some have been from inspiring pins that we've read, some recommendations from friends and family, others from google search and I'm sure we're yet to find many more. Talk to people who have visited the place you are traveling to and read up on bloggers who have first hand experience of exploring your chosen country/countries. Like I say, we have a rough list but we completely expect for that to change, be amended and added to when we get there so it's not too important that we have a specific list.
Buying a backpack
My backpack was the first item that I bought for traveling and some would probably say it is the most important since it's all I'll have to carry my life around in for the months that I'm away. I did extensive research on the best type of Rucksack to buy for long term traveling. One thing I very quickly established was that I wanted a panel loading Rucksack. The reasons that I chose a panel loading bag were A. they are easier to access without having to take everything out to reach an item and B. they have two zips that interlink, meaning that you can padlock them together making it much more secure (a feature that top loading bags lack). The next thing I looked for when choosing the right rucksack was adjustable shoulder straps. This means you can adjust the straps up and down and fit the Rucksack personally to your frame.
I'm still toying with the options of taking my bag as a carry on, or checking the bag in. The beauty of the bag I purchased is that I have both options. The size of my Rucksack fits cabin luggage dimensions but it also features a flight cover on the back making both options accessible. Size was something I toyed with for a long time. Experienced backpackers will recommend going for a smaller bag e.g. 45 - 50l whether you're going for 3 weeks or 3 months, the size of your bag shouldn't need to alter. After speaking with friends and family who have been backpacking, they said that they took way too much stuff and ended up with a half empty Rucksack, meaning they'd probably spent more money on a bag that turned out to be too big.
The Rucksack I ended up going for was the Trespass Scope 65. You might be thinking WOAH 65l is too big, but this is a 55l Rucksack with a detachable 10l day sack making it very handy. The 55l bag itself is very compact compared to other bags of it's size so it's really not too excessive - plus I plan to have a binge shopping spree in Bangkok before I come home (if I come home). The Trespass Scope 65 is available on Amazon and also on Gap Year Travel Store. If you have a Trespass factory outlet close to you then I 100% recommend visiting. The Rucksacks were originally somewhere in the £90 region and we paid just £27.99 in the factory outlet - simply because they're 'last years model'.
When visiting other countries it's absolutely crucial that you check if you need any vaccinations or medication prior to traveling. Some vaccinations are needed weeks/months before you plan to travel so it's very important that you think about this early on. I actually have an appointment with my travel nurse next week. She has taken a list of all the countries that I am visiting so she knows exactly what I need prior to traveling. Unfortunately not all of the Vaccinations for traveling to Southeast Asia are are free on the NHS in the UK but needs must. I'd rather spend money on vaccinations that end up with a life threatening disease that could have been prevented. When budgeting for you trip, make sure you account for vaccinations and any other medication needed.
With still 4 months to go, planning is still at a minimum and I don't want to do my usual trick of over planning so I'm trying to be laid back about the whole thing.
I think at some point I'll do a more in depth post about How I chose my back pack. If there are any other things that you'd like me to cover then please let me know in the comments below or via social media. I always respond to my messages. I hope this post has been useful.
*photos from Pixabay