Monthly Archives: July 2016

Know More About Backpacking Tips for Girls

tt1Before You Jet Off
They may say this is a man’s world, but there’s no reason why us ladies can’t conquer the globe. In fact, thousands of British women pack in the nine-to-five every year and hit the road in search of wild parties, emerald shores and enchanting cultures. But if all of this seems a bit scary, here are a few tips to get you started on the journey of a lifetime.

The choices you make before you even leave your front door can really determine the success of your trip. One of the most crucial pieces of kit to get right is your bag. Most serious travellers opt for a rucksack over conventional luggage, because dragging a suitcase across anything other than a shiny airport floor really isn’t fun. When it comes to choosing a rucksack, size definitely matters. Almost every traveller you will ever meet wishes they took a smaller bag. For most women, trying to carry anything larger than a 70-litre bag, when it’s full, will not only prove backbreaking, but may also impact your trip. Trying to squeeze your life into a 50 or 60-litre bag may seem a bit daunting, but you’ll be glad you did when you’re lugging it across a beach in 40-degree heat. Look for a rucksack that’s specifically designed for women, especially if you’ve got a smaller frame. A lot of rucksacks now come with a handy, removable daypack attached to the front; not only are these useful for daytrips, but also as somewhere to store things for easy access. Rucksacks with wheels, however, are not just impractical in most situations but also add to the weight of the bag.

Think carefully about what you take with you; are you really going to need your Ugg boots, your ski jacket and your dressing gown in Thailand? Remember, you can buy most essentials along the way if you’re short of something, but don’t forget the charger and an adapter plug if you’re taking a mobile phone or an mp3 player, and a spare memory card if you’re taking a digital camera just in case you can’t get to a computer. Packing your belongings in small bags can make things a lot easier to find and stop your toothpaste exploding all over your rucksack, but steer clear of noisy polythene if you don’t want to make enemies in hostel dorm rooms.

Of course, the most important thing to do before you go is to plan your trip. Some travellers like to go with the flow, whereas others like to book all their hostels and train journeys before they go. Whatever you fancy doing, make sure somebody at home knows a rough itinerary of which countries you plan to visit, and do a bit of research before you go so that you don’t spend your whole trip with your head in a guidebook.

Top Tip from the road – Remember that other travellers will probably have the same bag as you. Whether you tie some colourful ribbon to a strap, sew on some badges or use a luggage tag, you should make sure you can identify your rucksack.

Safety First
It can be pretty daunting to hop on a plane to the other side of the world, especially when our newspapers are full of horror stories from abroad. But remember, the vast majority of women come home completely unscathed, with no concerns other than how they’re going to afford their next trip. Some backpackers choose to enrol in a self-defence course to give them some extra confidence, but even if you don’t fancy that, there are some pretty straightforward things that you can do to make sure that your emails home recount tales of all-night parties and finding inner peace, not spending two days in the British Embassy and run-ins with the local police.

Flashing your cash is a sure-fire way to attracting unwanted attention abroad. Don’t be apathetic; muggings do happen, so keep your purse hidden. Money belts are an effortless way to conceal your valuables under your clothes or, if your budget won’t quite stretch to one, you can always hide some notes under tubeygrip bandages or even in your bra. Wearing loud jewellery won’t do you any favours, but a false wedding ring may prevent unwanted leering.

“If you think you’re at risk, set off a personal alarm, scream loudly or just convince the world that you’re utterly mad,” says Tom Griffiths, founder of Gapyear.com, “If you do find yourself in a mugging situation, having a dummy wallet, with a few old notes in it, will make your attacker think that you’re giving them everything you’ve got, and will save you the hassle of losing the important things like bankcards, photos and ID, let alone any money, that are in your real wallet.”

Mixing with new people, from all over the world, is part of the appeal of travelling but, however close you think you are to someone, keep it in perspective – you probably know very little about your new best friend, so keep your wits about you, especially if you’re drinking.

And don’t let your guard down in hostels, either, warns Tom. “You may have a key to your dorm, but assume that 50,000 others have had that key before you – there will inevitably be other copies. Tuck your valuables to the bottom of your sleeping bag, or stuff them into a pillow case and sleep on it.”

But don’t let a few safety checks put you off travelling. “The fact is, backpackers aren’t really at any more of a risk than other holidaymakers, as long as they prepare,” says Steve Jewitt-Fleet, Head of Consular Communications at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “The largest amount of crime and violence abroad is young British people against other Brits in resorts such as Falaraki.”

Top tip from the road – Don’t advertise the fact that you’re a female backpacker; when you check into hostels and hotels, don’t write ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’ on the form, and write your initial rather than your first name.

Think Beautiful
Ok, so travelling isn’t always a glamorous business; we can’t all look like the girls out of ‘Shipwrecked’ when we’re slumming it in the Aussie heat or dragging our rucksacks through the jungle. But there are a few simple tips that can make you look, and more importantly feel, a bit more like a lovely lady.

Let’s face it; a bad-hair day can make you feel minging, but what can you do to tame your tresses in the middle of nowhere? Taking your hairdryer and straighteners isn’t advisable – not only is it a hassle to find somewhere to plug them in, but they’ll also take up too much space in your rucksack and your hard work will be undone in minutes in humid weather. You’re better off encouraging your hair to dry naturally, using a serum or a salt spray to keep the frizz at bay. Take plenty of hair bands and kirby grips – they have a habit of going on travels of their own – to tie your hair up in really hot weather or pin it into a quiff to keep loose strands off your face.

But the hair on your head may be the least of your worries. Stray body hair is never a good look, and it may prove more difficult than you first thought to keep up your normal de-fuzzing routine. If shaving’s your bag, you might want to invest in a small bottle of shave oil to take with you, which cuts out the need for lots of water and shaving foam. Those of you that swear by waxing may have a bit more of a problem – although there are plenty of places around the world that will happily rip out your stray hairs, you might not be so happy handing over a chunk of your travelling fund every few weeks. Home waxing kits are a cheaper option – but of course they’re not as effective as salon results – or consider taking an epilator with you if you’re feeling brave.

Trying to keep your face in place in mascara melting heat is a tricky business. Don’t plaster your skin in foundation; opt for a healthy natural glow instead. If you really can’t stand the bare-naked look, take a mascara, an eyeliner and some bronzer with you for a bit of instant glamour, or get you eyelashes tinted before you go. If all else fails, there’s nothing like a pair of big sunnies to hide tired eyes.

The idea of living in the same clothes for the whole of your trip may seem a bit scary, but pack carefully and you can reinvent the same outfit again and again. Invest in a multi-purpose dress, for example: one that can be slipped on over a bikini to go to the beach, that is comfortable enough to be worn on day trips, and that can be dressed up a bit to go out at night. Remember, in some countries you’ll have to cover up a bit so make sure you’ve got a long skirt or some linen trousers too.

Top tip from the road – Take a big, pretty scarf or a sarong – it can be used for a blanket for sunbathing or sleeping, a scarf when it’s cold, as a head scarf on a bad-hair day, as a pillow on long journeys or over a bikini in places where you have to cover up.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
You may pick up some souvenirs along the way, but make sure you don’t pick up any unwanted ones; the travel bug is the only bug you should bring home. Protect yourself before you go by checking out what jabs you’ll need and whether you’ll need a course of malaria tablets for the countries you’re visiting. Having a check-up with your GP before you go is a good idea, especially if you need to discuss contraception options. The pill is the most popular form of birth control amongst women, but it may be unreliable when you’re backpacking, especially if you get a stomach upset, and your doctor is only likely to prescribe you up to year’s worth of pills – no good if you’re away for longer. A good alternative for some women is the contraceptive implant, a small hairgrip-sized tube that’s put just under the skin in your upper-arm, which gives you protection for three years. But remember, neither of these methods will stop you getting STIs while you’re away, so don’t rely on men, make sure you take some condoms with you too.

As far as periods go, take as many tampons as you can fit into your rucksack – they’re not widely available in a lot of countries – and pack a small bottle of hand sanitizer for those times when there’s nowhere to wash your hands.

Put together a small first aid kit, but don’t go mad – you’ve got access to emergency medicine in most countries. Some painkillers, antiseptic cream, diarrhea relief and re-hydration salts are useful staples to include, and don’t forget to take sun cream and insect repellent with deet.

Investing in a good travel insurance policy may seem like a waste of money, but it will be your only lifeline if your bag gets nicked or you get badly hurt. Some companies offer insurance that’s specifically for backpackers, but check the small print and make sure it covers any sports you might have a go at while you’re away, like surfing, scuba diving, snowboarding or… eek… bungee jumping.

Top tip from the road – Eat locally made yoghurt when you arrive in a new destination to build up immunity to the region’s bacteria and help prevent nasty stomach upsets.

Should You Know About 5 Tips For Every New Backpacker

Things Nobody Will Tell You
It’s easy to find advice for those setting out on their first big trip, and a lot of it will advise you on how to stay safe, to save money or how to find yourself while you’re on the other side of the planet. You know, the big stuff.

But what about the small stuff? The trivial things that nobody remembers to tell you? Well, I’m here to help you learn from my many travel mistakes.

How to climb onto a rickety top bunk without a ladder

At some point on your travels a super friendly hostel worker will show you to your room and point at an impossibly high bed, with no ladder, and no obvious route to the top.

If you’re anything like me your heart will sink as you imagine having to return to reception to demand a different bed on the grounds that you are physically incapable of getting up there. Believe me, if the girl who resorted to hitchhiking half of the Inca Trail can do it, then so can you. Even after one too many Pisco Sours. The key is commitment, a lack of shame and total faith in your upper body strength.

Take full advantage of a good shower
There seems to be no rhyme or reason when it comes to the logic of hostel showers; you can be in the most developed city in the world only to find yourself covered in soap and shivering under a freezing cold dribble.

When you find a hot shower with good enough water pressure to actually rinse the shampoo out of your hair, you need to take it and run with it. You never know when your next decent shower will be.

It’s perfectly ok to want to do nothing for a day or two

There can be a lot of pressure when you are travelling to ‘make the most’ of every second. But doing something new every day, combined with being constantly confronted with diverse cultures, new people and different languages can be exhausting – you need to give yourself some down time!

I think I’d been travelling for around 3 or 4 months when I found myself having the insatiable urge to do absolutely sod all. Friends and family would always sound shocked when we skyped and I told them I was just hanging around the hostel that day, but giving yourself a day off from adventuring will help you to enjoy your trip so much more. It also gives you a great opportunity to get to know other backpackers, and to finally get your laundry done.

Become an expert free shelf chef
Most decent hostels will have a communal shelf of herbs, spices and food left behind by people who can’t be bothered to carry it in their backpacks. Trust me when I say that when used correctly (and if you’re not a fussy eater), you can live off these edible treasure troves and a bag of pasta, as I proved when I accidentally blocked my bank card in rural Chile.

Be creative, and don’t be afraid of unusual combinations. Just think of yourself as a kind of nomadic Heston Blumenthal and it all becomes a lot tastier.

Don’t feel obliged to follow the guide books

I spent a lot of time when I was younger traipsing round the world ticking places of interest off an imaginary bucket list that someone else had written for me, thinking I was achieving some sort of travel expert status. But did all of the places I visited actually interest me? No. Did I miss some really great things because there was somewhere else I just had to visit? Definitely!

I am really not a person who enjoys hiking, I hate the cold, don’t really like tents and I get very sick at altitude. Despite all of this I paid a fortune to do a 5 day Salkantay hike to Machu Picchu (hence the aforementioned hitchhiking). All because it’s one of those things that everybody ‘should’ do. With hindsight I’d have been a lot happier (and financially better off) getting the train and spending an extra few days exploring Cusco.

So there you have it, my top tips to make your gap year easier, and hopefully a lot more enjoyable. Remember, it’s your trip – spend it doing whatever it is YOU want to do! Unless the hostel has great showers, in which case just spend it showering.

More Information About Childhood Insecurities that Will Resurface as a Backpacker

When you’re a kid, everything is new. You don’t know what the grown ups are on about, you don’t know what’s edible and what’s not, what’s ok to touch and what will burn five layers of skin off. Who’s who, what’s what and why’s why?

Being a backpacker in a different country is kind of the same. Except this time you don’t have anyone to show you the ropes.

Facing the not knowing, again, can bring up all kinds of insecurities you don’t know what to do with…

1. “Will people like me?”

Not with that drippy attitude. Most backpackers who go travelling are after the times of their life, the stories and experiences that will keep them going for the next 40 years of office life. No good story started with the time they met this really boring person in a hostel who was totally insecure all the time. No. You’ve got to be interesting and fun, or at least, not boring. For the first few days anyway.

Look, there’s someone out there for everyone; you’ll find a friend. If you’ve managed to make a mate or two in England, you’re sure to make at least one travelling.

2. “Will I be able to sleep?”
Remember when you smelt nice, were bathed by mum, towelled off by dad and laid in your super clean bed? (Yeah I don’t either, but that ruins what I’m getting at). Well, there’ll be none of that when you’re travelling.

You’re going to have to get used to squeaky bunk beds, dodgy looking mattresses, and showers that a thousand people have showered in before, and perhaps, maybe, done other things too.

If you were one of those awkward kids who didn’t want to sleepover at Fred or Chloe’s house for fear of the unknown, you need to forget all that.

Sure, you’ll sleep, at some point. Probably on a beach, or a bus.

3. “Will there be anything I can eat?”

If you were a picky eater as a child you’re going to have to stop that. And I mean stop that now.

One of the best and most culturally immersive things you can do while travelling is to eat everything that’s put in front of you – whether you feel like it or not. There’s no one to bring the choo choo train to your mouth in your high chair now, you’re going to have to put your big kid pants on and grow up. Eat it!

If not, Pringles are universal.

4. “Will I be safe?”
No one to look after you now but yourself, is there? Mum and / or dad won’t be there to check you’re in at night, to check the windows and doors or under your bed for monsters.

There are lots of things you can do to be safe – don’t be an idiot, keep your wits about you, have a buddy, learn Muay Thai, be kind to locals, just to name a few.

If you’re going down the well trodden backpacker route round South East Asia you’ll only ever be as at risk as you are in the UK. If you’re going to the likes of Libya, good luck.

5. “I’m scared of all the new things – what can I do?”

When you’re confused as a kid you can just cry and the offending item will be taken away, or at least explained. And then someone will give you a hug and you know life is ok. When you’re travelling you’ve got to work out that kind of thing for yourself. There will be a lot of new things – that’s the beauty of travel.

If you really feel overwhelmed, take some time out to be by yourself. Book yourself into a cheap hotel and have some time to gather your thoughts and get some perspective. Go to McDonalds, stay in and watch Netflix, revitalise yourself, and you’ll be ready to hit the street markets, hostels and local bars in no time.

Just take it slow; only you know how much you can take.

6. “Where’s my muuuum?”
I really hope you don’t get ill when you’re travelling, especially if you’re by yourself. It’s so lonely. If you were five you’d cry and shout for your mum, but your mum is a thousand miles away. You need to stay strong and fend for yourself.

I was really sick for about three days in Guatemala, as in couldn’t get out of bed. Not one person asked me if I was ok. Get over it. (I never will).

It’s times like these that you’ll really get to know about yourself. If you can get through uncomfortable circumstances like this, knowing that it will end at some point, then you can bring that confidence to other parts of your life in the future.

7. “Nobody loves me.”

Feeling homesick can be hard. Log on to Facebook and you’ll see all your friends at that wedding you’ve missed or Pete’s 21st, and oh, they didn’t tell you? Sucks to be you right now.

Step away from the computer. Step away from the portal of doom and depression we know as social media. They would’ve loved you to be there too, but they have a whole lifetime of you ahead of them. This is your time to explore the world and if that means missing a party or two, so be it.

Take the initiative and phone them. It’s important to let the people you love know how much you miss them. They’re probably avoiding calling you because they don’t want to intrude. Communication is key to feeling loved.

8. “What did I do wrong?”
Confusion. I remember eating a sandwich on the Metro in Tokyo, BIG no-no. I also sneezed on the tube and a local handed me one of those masks. When you enter a new culture it’s so difficult to know what the new standard of right and wrong is. You need to learn all over again.

Also, someone might just ditch you. The world of travel is fickle. You could be best friends with Babs from Blackpool one day, and the next she’s off with Horace from Hull. It happens. When you’re travelling most people are just out for the most fun they can get for an airfare. Don’t take it personally.

9. “Where’d my family go?”
Eugh, getting left with a boring babysitter while your mum and dad went out all fragrant and merry to some party you didn’t even get invited to was the worst.

If you feel like they’re not talking to you enough, don’t be annoyed, just take initiative and get in touch with them.

With Facebook, Snapchat and all that lot these days it’s so much easier to talk to your family. Schedule a time every week and stay in touch. The more you talk to them, the more they’ll be able to talk to you. They might be feeling a little distant what with you having all these crazy adventures. Include them in your day to day.

Don’t forget to tell your family how much you love them either. You’re not a child anymore.

You can do this, backpackers. Time to see the world on your own terms.