You’ve bought your plane tickets, you’ve chosen a route, you’ve booked your accommodation and you’ve announced your plans. You’ve even bought your backpack and decided what to fill it with.
How do you know if you’re really ready to leave?
If you’ve never been traveling before, it can be tough to know what to expect. Traveling will be unlike anything you’ve ever done before. Here’s what I recommend doing in order in the six months before your departure date in order to put your mind at rest.
1. Join a Gym
It seems counter-intuitive, because aren’t you supposed to be saving every spare cent you make in the run-up to leaving? While that’s true, I believe that joining a gym is a splurge that’s worth paying for in order to prepare for your big trip.
Backpacking is hard work. Carrying 10 or 20 kilograms on your back for an hour as you desperately try to find your hostel gets old quickly, and you don’t want your lack of fitness to hold you back. It’s not just carrying the bag that will tire you out, either. Traveling involves long hours of exploring as you try to visit as many tourist sites as possible. You’ll be doing lots of walking, as well as hiking and trekking, that your body may not be used to.
Joining a gym will increase your fitness levels and strengthen your muscles so that backpacking doesn’t wear you out as much.
2. Have a Trial Packing Session
You may have bought everything you want to take traveling with you, but do you know if it actually fits in your backpack? There’s nothing worse than packing your bags the night before and realizing you have too many things and have to leave half of it behind.
Have a trial packing session several months before your departure date as if you were going to be leaving the following day. Place the heavier items at the bottom of your bag, use packing cubes to keep everything organized, and decide what you’re going to put in your daypack.
3. Check You Can Carry Your Backpack
After you’ve gone through your trial pack, it’s time to wear the clothes you plan on wearing to the airport and lift the backpack onto your back. It’s important to do this, not just so that you know everything will fit, but so that you also know if you can carry it.
After you’ve put it on, see how it feels, and go for a walk. You’ll want to make sure that you can comfortably carry it for at least half an hour. Feels too heavy? Leave some things behind or join the gym.
4. Sort Out Your Money
There are a few things you need to do money-wise before you set off to travel. You’ll want to charge $100 or so to the local money in advance so that you have enough to get you to your accommodation, and can pay for visas or entry fees to the country if there are any.
Call your bank before you leave to let them know that you’ll be traveling — this way it’ll be less likely that you’ll have your card blocked overseas.
Keep a spare $200 separated into two $100 sums and hidden in your backpack as an emergency supply. If you’re robbed and end up without any way of getting hold of money, this will get you a few nights’ accommodations, some meals, and a way of contacting your family.
5. Research What to Do Once You Land in Your First Destination
Make your first stop as uncomplicated as possible by planning everything out. Research the airport you’ll be landing in and what the immigration process is like. Take a look at the onward transport options and figure out the best way to get to your accommodation for the night. Take into account flight duration and arrival times — you may be feeling too jetlagged to want to navigate the public transport system of an unfamiliar city.
Make sure to write down the address of your accommodation and some brief directions. This will help if your phone runs out of battery and you can’t remember the name of where you’re staying. Write it down in the local script, too, so that you can give it to taxi drivers or other locals when you’re trying to find it. I also take a photo of the accommodation’s location on my camera so I have a map if I need it.