Three months straight is a long time to do anything. Some days it seems like a lifetime ago that I left Melbourne Tullamarine, sometimes it seems like yesterday. But in that time, there are some serious lessons to be learned about travelling, especially travelling on a budget.
Always Read The Fine Print
When you’re booking your hostel, or hotel, or whatever, always check your inclusions. I cannot stress how important included breakfast is, or even if it’s a paid extra. A few dollars extra a day will save you a lot in the long run. Because if you’re going out for breakfast, it certainly starts to add up.
Alternatively, book into a place with a kitchen. Occasionally, you’ll find a place that classes having a kettle and microwave as a kitchen, but for the most part it’s solid. But you can’t just assume that every hostel has the same facilities.
It doesn’t just apply to food either. Free wifi, lockers, laundry facilities, 24 hour reception, credit card facilities. None of these things are a guarantee.
Keep track of your finances. Don’t just do a basic count in your head. You will screw it up. I thought I had a reasonable handle on it. I overspent in Paris and Amsterdam, but if I just spend so much per day from here on, I’ll be fine… It did not happen like that. I should have set a daily budget and tracked my spending. And, to be honest, I probably should have saved a little more money before I left.
Be Open Minded
Obviously, use your common sense when dealing with strangers. But especially if you’re travelling alone, you should be ready to do things with people you’ve never met, and are never going to meet again.
A night out in Paris with my hostel dormmates? An early highlight. A day at the beach in Palermo with a German girl I met at breakfast? Perfectly relaxing. Ending up on a Stag Do with a bunch of English blokes in Munich? Priceless.
Some of the best parts of my trip have been completely unplanned, and just going with the flow. Things I never would have done otherwise.
You know what’s the worst? Carrying about 20 kilos around on your back. Sure, the idea of backpacking is romantic. And ‘backpack’ is right there in the name. But if you’re carrying as much as I am, get proper luggage. A small backpack, with a few changes of clothes, basic toiletries. Sure. That makes sense. If I only had that much, I’d be fine. Which brings us to the final lesson…
You Can Always Pack Lighter
If you hesitate to put it in your bag, you probably don’t need it.
I carried a sleeping bag around Europe for three months. It’s still there. It has never been taken out of its bag. Because I was operating under the assumption that, like in Australia, hostels wouldn’t provide anything more than basic linens. I was wrong. That sleeping bag is huge, and is taking up about a quarter of my bag..
I packed a first aid kit, more for piece of mind than anything else. Not that it would have done me much good, since it just sat in my bag at the hostel whenever I went anywhere. I did open it however, to use the bandaids on my blisters in Paris.
I have multiple notebooks. Nice notebooks. Gifts from people that wanted to give me a travel-appropriate gift, back when I first started talking about making my trip. As you can probably guess, with me blogging weekly about my travels, they have seen exactly zero use.
I probably should have packed an extra pillow though
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