Thursday, April 2, 2015

Of travels and adventures.

I've beat this topic into the ground, but you know what? I don't care.
You, yes, YOU, reading this can travel and backpack around the world. Really, once you nail the flight, it's all cake from there (that's a lie). If I get one person reading this to go out into the world, I'll feel good about myself. 

I've made a list, checkin' it twice, and here are some of the tips for anyone going to rough it out in the world or who is currently out there.

I'll update this as I can.

-Cancel your cell phone service.

I haven't had cell phone service for about fourish months and it's the best feeling in the world. Now, don't get me wrong, the minute I find a decent wifi spot, I dip into my phone like I was snorting lines of cocaine. But everything in between is in the moment. Do we really need to be reachable 24-7? After traveling, I've realized, that no, no we don't. It's freeing to be able to be unreachable sometimes. You are with who you are with and no one else. It's personal and intimate and something I think we're losing.

That said, and because I ADORE contradicting myself, buy a cheap SIM card in each country, that way you have a way to call people and have it there for emergencies. You'll save a whole lot of money. And don't buy the Virgin ones off the airplane, they suck and they're massively more expensive then a vendor off the street (Asia) or in store (Africa).

-Expect to lose everything.

Don't bring anything terribly expensive with you, because, trust me, things are going to get lost or stolen or worn out sooner or later. I have either lost or have stolen everything I have brought with me, save for some of my clothes (I can't count how many times I left clothes drying after checking out of a hostel). That doesn't mean you shouldn't bring a nice camera or a fancy laptop, just know that it's very easy to lose something, leave it behind, drop it, etc., etc., etc.

Oh. And if I had to do it over again, I would have traveled with zero clothes and personal items. If you're heading to anywhere in Southeast Asia, just buy your clothes and personal items there.

-Bring cards. And Uno.

Cards are great and they help on long journeys or to burn time waiting for the bus or train to come. Uno is even better. While Uno gets boring after a round or two, it's a blast when you can teach it to the locals of the country you're in. Super easy to teach. Trust me on this one.

-Pack smart and bring the following:

-small baggies: essentially these are amazing for EVERYTHING from laundry detergent (be warned, however, you may be stopped by customs thinking it's drugs) to muesli.

-smart phone: (I wrote about this before and listed a whole bunch of apps that have been essential for travel) I would never travel without the phone or the apps.

-A watch: yeah, this goes with the lose everything, break everything thing. Your cellphone will crack or break or get lost. If it doesn't, you're not having enough fun. A watch is a good backup, preferably with an alarm function to wake you up to catch those 2am flights.

-Don't buy tickets too far in advance (this includes airline tickets).

Ok, granted, with some things, like Indian trains, it's way better to buy in advance (don't do what we did and just go. Or, screw it, do just that because it's an adventure!), but for the most part, don't buy tickets weeks and months in advance. I really think the best travel is that which is fluid and open for change. In that week until your flight, you might meet that pretty girl or find out about a festival get the point, a million different things could happen and completely change your mind and your plans. Yes, you pay a bit more when you do it this way, but trust me, you'll lose a lot more for cancellations (I've racked them up in South Africa and India and Thailand, ughhh).

-Don't use a guidebook. Use other people.

This is a rough one, and certainly not a tip for everyone. But if you let go of the guidebooks and just go to a place, you'll meet people and go on an adventure that is unplanned and not full of preconceptions. I am a firm believer that you should throw out Lonely Planet. Get off the websites. Go to a country without any preconceived idea what it will be like. Don't let anyone paint a picture of a country before you craft your own. That goes for this blog too. Realize this, its only through the eyes of a poor backpacker who attends way too many bars. It's all an opinion and don't let it change you.

-On that note, stay at backpacker hostels

I've met everyone from 16 to 80-years-old in hostels. The problem with hotels is the minute you go to your room, the world is shut off and you along with it. You can go hide out in hotel room anywhere in the room. Most hotels have classy lobbys but not "chill-out" areas made for people to meet and share stories.

-Keep a copy of everything online.

That includes passport, driver's license, credit cards. Everything. You never know when you'll need a copy. Also, if you have a computer, keep these scans as files on your computer in case you need to apply for a visa (on that note, password protect everything). Keep 10 small passport photos on you as well.

-Use a credit card that rewards points.

Might as well make some money back when you spend money. Enough said.

-Learn to love bars.

I'm, as you probably well know, a huge fan of bars and pubs and anywhere people gather, get some drinks, and hang out. I'm writing this in a bar right now as a matter of fact (and I'm well aware that it's only 11:15am). This is how you meet people. Sometimes, depending on the season, the hostel might be dead and you're the only person there. So, find the nearby bar and you'll meet new friends in no time. It's also a great place to practice the local language.

Always keep emergency fund money. For power outages, lack of ATMS, and a host of other reasons.

This one doesn't need an explanation. Or maybe it does. I have a belt I got from Amazon (what a brilliant idea) that holds a 100 USD in case something happens. A lot of these countries have a ton of power outages (South Africa had about one a day with their load shedding, for example) and you never know when you'll get to a working ATM. Keep it in your shoe, your backpack, wherever, just have it!

-Go to see local movies and local movie houses.

This is by far my favorite activity in every country. I just went to a movie the other night, in a fancy French art house in Tanger, Morocco and watched The Elephant Man. And I felt cool. Movies bring people together and it's a wonderful place to gather yourself when you feel lost.

-Bring a good backpack.

In the coming weeks, expect at least an entry or two about this. But in short, your backpack is your home. When you're living day-to-day and your entire life is contained within a single bag, you want to make sure you get the best. I've been using this Tortuga bag, and I'm in love with it. It's a crowd-sourced bag and designed by backpackers for backpackers.

-Always choose the option that will hold the most adventure and always, always, ALWAYS take the longest route to get somewhere.

I have A LOT more, but I'm out of time on this public computer and I'm way too broke to buy more time.

See you next time.

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