It’s safe to say I learned many a lesson from my year of solo travel. Leaving everything behind and embarking on a grand adventure was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I often look back and think ‘I wish I’d done this’ or ‘why, oh why, did I do that?!’. So here is some advice from my experience. Some tips are pretty obvious, others are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, but hopefully they will give you a helping hand if you are planning something similar.
- Plan, plan, plan! This is an obvious one, but I could have put a lot more thought into planning than I did. I rushed into booking the first part of my trip without thinking about the looming expiry date on my passport. I ended up having to fly back to the UK after three months in Asia to get a new passport before setting off again! It wasn’t a huge disaster and going home for those three weeks made me realise how keen I was to get back out there and keep exploring. However, I could have saved a lot of money and time if I had just organised my passport before I left.
- Keep it flexible: Whether you set out on your travels with a highly-detailed itinerary or none whatsoever, I guarantee that at some point you’ll change your mind about what you want to do. You will make new friends who you want to tag along with for a while, or you’ll arrive somewhere you just don’t want to leave after two nights. This is why it is a very good idea to keep your options open. Shop around for flights that give a full refund if you cancel or allow you to switch to another day without a charge. If it saves you some pennies, it’s definitely worth it.
- Consider a work visa: This is something I did not do and one of my biggest regrets. My plan was to travel for one year and then come home to work. I wasn’t interested in working abroad in the slightest. But the thing is, you really can’t prepare for how different you are going to feel after spending some time away from home in different countries and cultures. I ended up dreading coming home and wishing I had given myself the option of working abroad. Work visas are particularly important for places like Australia and New Zealand, which are much more expensive than South-East Asia.
- Go with the flow: It seems contradictory compared to Tip 1, but I suppose that’s the nature of a trip like this. You need to be very organised, but you also want to enjoy the freedom that travel brings. I splashed out on a Kindle, thinking that it would save space for books in my bag. It turned out that there were books swaps in every hostel and I really wished I hadn’t wasted money on an e-reader and just picked up books as I went. This is a ‘small in the grand scheme of things’ tip, but I think about it all the time!
- Don’t always take the cheapest option: As I have mentioned before, Australia is expensive. I decided to use a hostel card scheme with a $3 discount per night at the affiliated hostels. It saved me some dollars and some of the hostels were awesome, but others were completely the wrong hostels for me. (People getting so drunk they threw up down the side of the bunk bed I was sleeping in, for example.) I stayed in a couple of places that I would have otherwise avoided like the plague. Staying somewhere more suited to me would have been worth losing the discount.
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