Travel tips

Learn new languages

Try to learn at least a handful of words of the language spoken in the country you are traveling in. Locals really appreciate you making an effort to learn their language. Knowing the local languages has huge advantages for you as well. If you can count in the local language, you are less likely to get ripped off. And it’s much easier to haggle in the local language too. Even learning how to say “Thank you,” and “How are you?” and being able to count to ten will take you far. That said, I’m sure you will take your learning far beyond that!

Bring along a stash of coffee and/or tea

Are you addicted to coffee like me? I tend to always travel with either a personal stash of coffee or a handful of my favorite tea bags. Often the coffee served at hostels is shit. Going to a cafe every morning to get your fix gets expensive quick. Even if you are just carting around a plastic bag full of instant coffee, you are doing well. If you are not a coffee drinker, pack some of your favorite tea. This strategy provides both convenience and a way to cut costs down every single day.

Don’t try to do too much

We all have one – an epic bucket list of places to go and things to do that we will stop at nothing to complete. We’ll ride buses for 30+ hours just to get to the mountains. Some will pay hand over fist to travel into the wilderness, all to see an oversized cat. Others will take four connections and a fuckin ferry to reach some abandoned island in the middle of the East Indies. As much as love seeing that lost civilization or unnamed peak, seeing everything is exhausting. By the end of some journeys, you look and feel more like a refugee than an adventurer. Do yourself a favor and take a break every once in a while. Trying to knock out every single point of interest in a given place is going to wear you out. Then, you probably won’t enjoy them much either. That’s a top international travel tip from your humble Broke Backpacker. Don’t burn out.

Listen to podcasts

Long bus rides, rainy afternoons, flights, train journeys, beach loafing—at each instance you have downtime on your hands. Podcasts are awesome for keeping yourself informed, engaged, and entertained on any long journey. You can find a podcast on just about every subject these days. Whether it is staying up with world politics, listening to a comedy show, or going deep within a series of TED Talks, podcasts are great for killing time. Be sure to download podcasts over wifi before traveling so you can access them offline later. And take a good pair of headphones!

Read up on the country you are visiting

Gaining a basic understanding of the history and culture of where you plan to go backpacking is important. An important tip is to always prepare for your backpacking trip. The more you know about a place, the more you can appreciate and enjoy it. Having knowledge about your destination can also help you break down barriers with locals. If you show a genuine interest in their country, they are more likely to open up to you. Becoming familiar with places and the history of those places offers up the chance to connect with the country even before you set foot there. Plus, reading up on a place is a sure way to get yourself amped to go backpacking.

Keep in touch with people that you meet

I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of relationships that you form on the road are pretty vapid. Most people are just blips on the radar; acquaintances that may be good for a wild night out or for visiting a temple or two. In these cases, I don’t blame people for not following up. But there are some people that you have a genuinely awesome time with – people that you vibe with, share the same interests, maybe even have amorous possibilities. In these situations, my traveling advice is to pursue these rad folks. Try to travel with them some more! Organize a meetup in a different country! Host them in your own home if they ever pass through! I have lots of travel buddies. Maybe 1 in 10 of them are people that I call friends. For me, that’s a pretty good ratio. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle.

Get off the beaten path

Getting off of the main backpacker trail is crucial to finding unique life experiences and really getting to know a country well. Some of the most rewarding parts of any journey are discovering places you’ve never heard of, or where few foreigners go.

  • Get to know a country’s national parks and reserves.
  • Spend time in small villages and communities.
  • Volunteer abroad. Get lost in cities (within reason).
  • Camp out under the stars. However you want to get off the beaten path, there are countless opportunities to discover new places, people, and things…it’s all up to you.

Travel with a sleeping bag liner

Sleeping bag liners are basically soft bed-sheet like cocoons that add a few degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag and crucially keep you from touching anywhere not-so-clean you may have to sleep. When times get tough, they are also totally necessary when sleeping at un-hygienic hostels. If you arrive at a hostel/guesthouse/hut and the sleeping conditions are not the cleanest, you simply whip out your liner (which the French call a ” meat bag”) and avoid coming in direct contact with the mattress or unclean sheets below. You can pretty much sleep anywhere and be sure that you’ll have some sort of a barrier between you and whatever you have to sleep on. Here’s our review of the best sleeping bag liners.

DON’T Assume All Roads Will Be Open

Yeah, revolutionary information, right? Luckily the USA is pretty good at announcing when a road will be closed. There will likely be signs and even info on a state’s website. This happened to Jess and I and it threw a wrench in our plan…for a whole two seconds. Since we were loose with plans (hello, #12!) it wasn’t the end of the world but it did cause us to end up in a place we didn’t expect. It wasn’t a big deal but just something to keep an eye out for, particularly if you’re taking the smaller roads like we did or are driving during fall and winter when road closures are more common.

DON’T Choose the Wrong Person to Go With

Seriously though, don’t underestimate the amount of time and closeness with the other person. Make sure they are cool and make sure you’re cool too… This trip will be a disaster if you both don’t jive with each other and work as a team. Jess and I were #TeamWinning every day and didn’t have any issues.