What I’ve learned from my First solo backpacking trip
I had this idea in my head for a long time. And I mean a long time. Few years or more. But there always was something more important: job, relationship, car payments. All these adult life responsibilities in charge of our own lives. Until the perfect moment came up. You know that PERFECT MOMENT when you just say F#ck it and go?! Lol so that’s how I decided that now is the time and booked my one-way ticket to South East Asia.
Along the way, I met wonderful people and connected with the strangers instantly. I have noticed this earlier that during traveling you keep your soul open for adventures. It is easier to share some secrets with the people you will never see after, than to your own friends back home. I call it the traveling phenomenon.
One thing you need to splurge on is your backpacking gear. The backpack will become your shadow for the entire trip. You will depend on it and live out of it for a while. Oh, not to mention that you will sit or sleep on it sometimes too! Do some research and find the one which fits your needs. I don’t want to promote any brand so I won’t mention the names, but if you are interested feel free to ask me in the comment section.
I listened to my common sense and bought a travel insurance. Knowing that I’m covered if an emergency situation occurs gave me the peace of mind. Just remember, you will be on the boats, airplanes, cars, bikes, horse carriages or whatever else transportation you can imagine. Also, being exposed to all sort of animals could be a risk too. I witnessed a person being bitten by monkeys, hope he had an insurance. Not to mention the motorbike accidents I’ve seen left and right on the islands.
A backup plan
As the saying goes: hope for the best, prepare for the worse. I was not prepared for having issues with the credit card as I notified my bank of my traveling. However, my card was declined for some unknown reasons when I tried to book a flight. I was traveling in Vietnam and had to leave the country (only allowed to stay up to 14 days without the visa for Russian citizens). I was on my day 13 desperately trying to leave the country. Not only my card was declined, I run out of cash but all train and bus tickets were sold out due to Chinese New Year celebration. That’s when I needed a backup plan. Luckily for me, my friend was able to book a flight (last seats !!) the same day to Cambodia even though my plan was to go to Laos. That’s when you go with the flow.
The first wave of panic hit me when I start packing. I lied out everything I wanted to take with me and realized it was too much. My plans were to go totally minimalistic and under pack rather than overpack. Have to admit, on my first airport layover when my lower back was crying for help under all that weight I took my luggage to the restroom and tossed few things. For some reason, we always pack as we wouldn’t be able to buy stuff at the new destination. And this is not true. Even in the country as poor as Cambodia, I was able to find simple travel outfits like t-shirts, pants, toiletries, etc.
As you travel you will be tempted to buy things. A lot of things. While I am normally not a shopaholic I do get this rush while traveling. In order to control the situation, I strictly follow the rule: buy one, get rid of one. It’s tough. But it is the only way to keep your luggage to the carry-on size. After all, remember, it is a backpacking trip! 🙂
Also, save yourself from the hassle and embarrassment of meltdowns at the airports when they tell you that your luggage is too heavy and you have to pay for it extra. My goal for this trip was to be a true backpacker and only travel with the carry-on sized bag. However, few times I had to throw away some stuff right in front of the airport’s check-in kiosk. The other time I became more sneaky and simply hid my clothes, weighted the backpack and put all the stuff back :))) My self-discovered life hack you can now use too.
Shopping in one of the local villages near Chiang Mai, North Thailand
Meeting new people
I’m usually a social person but also enjoy my time alone. During the traveling, you will run into all kind of strangers. Friendly ones, chatty ones and the ones you wish you didn’t meet. Remember, you don’t have to be social. But if you do you might make some wonderful friends. If you travel solo it doesn’t mean that you have to be alone all the time. It’s my favorite part of solo traveling. You choose the people you truly want to share these precious moments of travel time. Get ready for a countless question such as: are you single? Why do you travel alone? Aren’t you feel scared? And etc. At first, I was answering but later I released it feels like I’m defending myself. And that’s wrong. There is nothing too crazy in traveling solo. In fact, I think its new normal and more and more people choose this way of traveling.
Don’t expect your trip to go perfectly. It’s an adventure after all! You never know where each bump on the road will lead you to. Accept little problems as a part of your backpacking package. Mine went great with the few hiccups here and there. Coming back home with luggage full of new travel clothes and mind filled with the memories! I wish you the same!
Haalong Bay, Vietnam