1. Don’t use hand sanitizer. This could be a mere coincidence but I’ve noticed that the more you use the sicker you get.
2. Give hugs often. When you are on the road for a while you may find yourself floating from person to person. It can be a lonely life on the open road, so when you meet someone that you connect with let them know and don’t hesitate to give them a great big hug.
Even if it’s just a hand hug, embrace your fellow travellers!
3. Fill half of your bag with clothes and half with underwear. Doing laundry on the road can become a luxury, wearing clean underwear, however, should never feel like a privilege.
4. Buy more than you can even carry. Controversial I know, most backpackers like to travel light. I once met a woman on the road for a year that only had three quick dry t-shirts with her. It’s silly but us backpackers seem to be constantly trying to prove to fellow travellers how little we can survive with. I’m not saying that packing light isn’t a good thing, what I am saying is when travelling you should shop. When you see something you want, buy it, because those will become some of your most coveted, memory-soaked items once you are back home.
Do you need it? No, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.
5. Buy new deodorant before you leave home. Scent is our sense most tied to memory, so before you leave, buy something with a distinct new smell- lotion, deodorant, perfume. When you’re back in the land of comfort, one whiff will instantly transport you back to your blissful adventure days. Plus deodorant in South East Asia tends to be whitening and I personally have never been a fan of blinding white pits.
6. Splurge on a nice room every once and while. And, buy a chocolate croissant! It’s good for your sanity and the sanity of those around you. Trust me you’re not fun to be around when you’re cranky.
There are only so many nights where a bus will count as a decent night of sleep.
7. Bring origami paper, pens, and a blank journal. Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia; if you can speak all these languages well then my hats off to you. Chances are you can’t and therefor non-verbal communication will become your fall back plan. So bring a way to connect, why not sit down and teach someone how to make an origami box? Give a young kid the chance to draw a picture of his home? Trust me you’ll receive smiles instead of stares.
Shared experiences are the best ways to connect with the local culture.
8. Don’t rest in your room. We all need to decompress every once and awhile, but nothing will happen when you close that hotel room door and crack open a book. Instead read in a park, journal in a coffee shop, or simply sit and reflect inside the walls of a temple.
9. Don’t be the last person to board the bus. That 12-hour bus ride is long enough, don’t be the one who makes it even longer.
10. Don’t Facebook friend everyone you meet. You’ll learn to resent them as they incessantly pop up in your newsfeed. Be selective with who you let into your cyber life, you never know who will want to be your constant chat buddy.
11. Learn to drive a motorbike. It’s only scary for a day, but it will show you more of South East Asia than any travel blog ever could.
12. Look like a tourist once and awhile. Don’t be too proud. You will regret it later if you don’t jump on the beach at sunset or throw up a peace sign every once and awhile.
Go ahead jump, I won’t judge you.
13. Make plans! Take the time to learn about where you are going. I’m not talking about a binding hour by hour schedule but knowing what you want to see, what the culture is like, and what the recent political happenings are in the country you are visiting as it will make for a much richer trip.
14. Don’t ask too many logistical questions. It will only confuse you more, sit back and go with the flow, sometimes it will create more interesting outcomes than your micromanaging ever would have.
15. Always take the top bunk. It doesn’t rock as much if your bunkmate chooses to engage in a nightly foray (which by the way is never a good idea in a hostel).
16. Do some things alone.
Some places are best enjoyed completely and utterly on your own.
17. Hijack your tour. Your guide wants to see you have a good time, if you realize that you are being shuffled from one tourist gimmick to the next don’t be afraid to speak up and ask to see the things that you personally care about. My guess is that both you and your guide will end up having a more enjoyable day if you do.
18. Have a list of original questions stored up in the back of your mind. I mean the kind of questions where you really genuinely care about the answers. Avoid the travel banter.
19. Embrace the bum gun. When used right it will get you mighty clean.
20. Don’t risk saving a few bucks by not investing in proper travel insurance before you set off. You don’t even want to think about the cost of medical fees, evacuation and other emergencies that (fingers crossed) are unlikely to happen, but can happen. This is one piece of travel advice that isn’t so unusual, but that we just can’t argue with.