*The following was written with City and beach travel in mind, with walks and hikes of that calibre. So if you’re going jungle-trekking or mountaineering please seek out professional level clothing and equipment advice.
Top tips for a newbie explorer
Pack everything you think you need… then get rid of half of it. That cute sundress that you LOVE but only wear sometimes because it’s long and flowy and you trip over it a bit? Yeah, you’re not going to wear that.
My first ever backpack weighed something close to 20kg and then you end up wearing the same comfy t-shirt continuously whilst developing a weird deep unrequited love for your walking trainers and literally not wanting to take them off. In short, comfy light weight clothing is your new best friend. I also tend to take one dress that is multi-functional. Mine’s a loose cotton backless dress: worn at night for a super-fab feeling. If I’m feeling sluggish or the days and days of roaming have got the better of me, I throw this little wonder dress on. It’s not clingy or uncomfortable and also can be worn in the day time. My best kept secret.
Oh and leave the heels at home. I promise, just leave them.
The great thing about leaving all your nice things at home is that it’s actually a lovely feeling when you get back. It makes you super appreciative. Also, as someone who watched their favourite boots literally float away as my hostel room flooded with stinky sewage water. (Yes, that happened.) My advice is this, do not take anything you are remotely attached to or you would be upset to lose. I had to throw out half of my backpack that day. Not. Fun.
ESSENTIALS: A sturdy backpack with enough space for you, handy compartments and comfortable straps. You’ll love to hate it as you lug it around the world. You’ll hate it when it’s on your back and your climbing up hill to get to your hostel with that ‘great view,’ you’ll love it when you discover it doubles up as a weary traveller chair in crowded airports/train stations/anywhere you can sling it for a well needed sit down. And… you may just cry tears when you are re-united with it. I have lost mine countless times in transit. My backpack was Germany once whilst I was in Thailand and when it was finally returned to be I cried actual physical tears. It’s your life on your back and you’re a little traveling snail.
If you have a high factor sun cream, an SPF lip balm (trust me, burnt lips are the worst) a microfiber towel, a hat, a trusty pair of walking trainers, sunglasses, a day backpack and a bikini: you are good to go. Shoes wise you essentially need two pairs: lightweight trainers and flip-flops. I tend to also pack walking sandals and actually picked up a cute practical pair in Santorini. Also remember, somewhere along your trails there will be markets and shops. Especially if you find yourself in SE Asia, where less is definitely more on the packing front. You can pick up new shoes/clothes and essentials along your way, so save your back and pack as smartly as you can.
And finally, consider going it alone.
I have travelled with my long-life best friend, a stranger I met on the internet (gasp!) and by myself. Travelling alone pushes you. When you have someone there, there is comfort that you will have them by your side to eat with, explore and adventure with. You can switch onto auto-pilot and can become a little complacent (even if you’re having a lovely time.) When you’re on your own, you transform into this amazingly adaptable little creature, who opens their heart to new people and experiences. Some of the best travel memories I have are from saying “Yeah, ok then,” to people I’d just met. You also learn a lot about yourself. Sometimes the loneliness is deafening but sometimes you’ll cry laughing surrounded by your new best friends. Travelling alone is not all rainbows and butterflies, but your heart beats a little faster and you’re far more observant to the wonders around you. The World’s a little more vibrant and frightening and exciting. Whether you explore with a trusty companion or venture out on your own, there is one thing you have to be prepared for and that is to fall head over heels in love. Because you will discover, to travel is to live and your backpack is your soulmate you never expected to have.
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