There’s no shame in making mistakes while on a backpacking trip. To quote American author John W. Holt Jr:
“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking risks, and that means you’re not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more chances to learn and win.”
Learning the hard way means backpackers have the opportunity to learn from their errors and make smarter decisions in the future. Here’s a handful of some of the biggest errors young travellers can learn from.
Not enough research
Backpacking 101: always research your destination. Not making yourself aware of the dangers of your chosen locale can be dangerous in the short and long term. Are there any areas you should be avoiding? Will wild animals pose a threat if you’re hiking across mountains or forest? Are you aware of any political or social unrest in the region? Will you be travelling during the rainy season or in periods of extreme heat?
Knowing the terrain is one thing but are you aware of your destination’s culture, language or people? Ensure you know basic greetings, questions and answers; the more you research, the more you’re likely to enjoy your trip…
Too much research
…On the other hand, experiencing a destination for yourself is one of the best parts of backpacking. Sticking to a strict itinerary gives you no room for manoeuvre during your trip, meaning you may not see any hidden gems you might have encountered had freedom allowed you to wander off the beaten track.
Research the important parts of your destination that will keep you safe but give yourself enough wiggle-room to fully experience your location without having to constantly rely on a travel guide.
Travelling without insurance
If you’ve spent thousands of pounds on flights and hostels for the next year, you may not be excited to pay yet more cash for additions to your trip. However travel insurance is something that is just as important as flights, hostels and spending money. It is not a money drain; the right travel insurance can certainly give peace of mind. For example, it is highly likely medical treatment will cost travellers money should they suffer an injury that requires a stay in hospital. Backpacker insurance should include Emergency Medical Expenses to cover the cost of emergency medical treatment abroad.
Backpacker cover insures you for a whole host of countries on an extended trip, meaning travellers don’t have to organise insurance for each country separately. Sit down with an expert and work out what is the most suitable type of policy for your trip. Will you be taking part in sports or hazardous activities? Will you be visiting more than one country? Discuss your options first to find the right cover.
The old backpacker adage, “Take half the stuff you need and twice the money” is famous for a reason; you will need money when backpacking. And lots of it.
This doesn’t mean you should be carrying thousands in cash every day. The fact is that if you’re from the Western world, the chances are you’re already richer than 90 per cent of the people elsewhere. Flaunting your wealth is a sure fire way to get robbed; it’s an unfortunate fact and many backpackers learn this the hard way. Only carry as much cash as you need and store the rest on debit cards and traveller’s cheques. This way, if the worst does occur, you can quickly cancel any cards to prevent cash from being withdrawn from your account.
Excess and sin
Backpacking is all about having a good time. Alcohol can be an effective way of socialising with other backpackers or guests at a hostel but it’s important to make a conscious effort to stay of sound mind. Inebriation in a foreign country may seem like a great idea but it’s a quick way to spend all your money and energy as well as increase your chances of getting robbed or injured. Furthermore, any injury sustained while under the influence may not be covered under your travel insurance and you could be left severely out of pocket.
Enjoy your backpacking trip and be sure to use your common sense before, during and after your trip.