I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my bank blocked my card something like 30 times in the first three years of my trip. Practically every time I arrived in a new country, I had to call them up to get it unblocked. And then I discovered that I could fill in my travel plans in my online banking. They’ve rarely blocked my card since.
Checking out is when you’re most likely to lose something. Whenever I check out of a place, I check the bathroom, I check under the beds, I check the desks, and then I make sure I have my passport, laptop, camera, money, phone, and external hard drive. I’ll be fine if I leave anything else behind. Having a routine that you go through every single time will help you keep track of everything. I learned my lesson with this one when I left my passport behind in a guesthouse in Bagan, then left it in an apartment in London two months later.
The main tourist attractions are popular for a reason. While getting off the beaten track can be fun, the things you’ll see are rarely as impressive as the popular sights. Don’t be a travel snob — hit up the famous stops as well as the lesser-visited stuff. Going to random places normally just shows you that they aren’t well known for a reason. I’m thinking about my 10-day road trip around the Mekong Delta as I write this — we went to some obscure places where locals looked at me as though they hadn’t seen a white person before, and while that was pretty cool, there was also a reason why tourists hadn’t ventured to this tiny village before: there was nothing to do there.
Imagine how you’d feel if you lost every single photo from your trip. You really don’t want that to happen, so back everything up, in multiple places. My tech journalist boyfriend always reminds me that anything that’s stored in one place is something you don’t mind losing. I keep copies of my photos on my laptop, back all of my photos up to an external hard drive, and use Crashplan to backup the entire contents of my laptop to the cloud. I highly recommend using the latter!
So many people will tell you not to travel with jeans, but if you wear jeans all the time at home, you’ll want to wear them while travelling, too. I didn’t start travelling with jeans until my second year of travel, and man, I missed them so much! They’re not that bulky so you really don’t need to worry about the extra space and weight. And in many cities in Europe, you’ll want to wear jeans to fit in with the locals — you don’t want to look like a grubby backpacker in Paris!
What happens if you arrive in a city, go to grab your email confirmation for your accommodation, and your phone and laptop are out of battery? I always make sure I have a hard copy of my guesthouse name and their address, as well as directions if I won’t be taking a taxi. Once I arrive, I’ll grab one of the hotel’s business cards, so I’ll always know where I’m staying, and can show it to locals to ask for help with finding my way back.
It achieves absolutely nothing and makes you look like an asshole. Instead, calm down, put a smile on your face, think of how this will make a great story one day, and rationally figure out an alternative plan. This too shall pass.
I’m definitely testament to that! But expecting everything to go perfectly on your trip is only setting yourself up to fail. Nobody goes travelling and comes back without any stories of mishaps. No matter how prepared you are, at some point you’re going to get lost, get scammed, miss your bus, get food poisoning, injure yourself… the list is endless! Expect it to happen, and don’t beat yourself up when it does. In a month’s time, you’ll find it funny rather than frustrating.
When I decided to see if it was possible to visit the Maldives on a budget back in 2014, information was so sparse that I couldn’t even find a photo of the islands I’d decided to visit. Well, that trip was one of my highlights of the past eight years and I’m so glad I went, despite not being able to find any information online. And the advantage to that lack of information was getting to be the only tourist on an entire island — I had the whole beach to myself! If you know it’s safe to travel somewhere, but can’t find out much else, go for it. It’s probably far easier to get there than you think. And if not, it makes for a good story.
I carry a spare 300 USD that’s split up in various places in my backpack, daypack, and occasionally, my shoe when I’m nervous I’ll be robbed. It means that in a worse-case scenario, I can pay for some food, a dorm bed, and a Skype call to my family to get an emergency wire transfer until I can get back on my feet again. I went with U.S. dollars because it’s the most widely accepted currency around the world and easy to change.