Space will be tight in your backpack, so you’ll want everything to be essential. If your clothes require ironing or will get destroyed easily, don’t pack them. I brought a fancy dress around the world with me and not only did I never wear it (because I was a backpacker and nobody was wearing stuff like that) but I felt guilty about throwing it out, so carried it around with me for an entire year! Don’t do this — bring clothes you don’t care about and replace them for cheap on the road.
The people I hate most when I travel are those who set their alarm for 4 a.m. and then proceed to spend the next hour packing their bags and rustling what sounds like forty thousand plastic bags. Don’t do this! Pack your bag the night before, so you can slip out without disturbing anyone’s sleep.
Imagine several dozen people standing in a shower every single day — keep your feet protected from nasty stuff and wear your flip-flops every time you shower.
Play a card game with someone in the hostel common room, read a book, lie on the beach, go for a walk, talk to a stranger, think about life. Some of my favourite travel memories are from times when I didn’t have an internet connection to suck me out of the moment.
That’s where you’ll get the worst exchange rates.
From a safety perspective, it’s good to have several people back home who know where you’ll be. I forward any flight or accommodation confirmations to my family and Skype with them several times a week to let them know what I’m up to. That way, if ever I disappear for a few days, my family will know immediately and will be able to know where I was staying at that time. It takes just a few minutes but really improves your safety.
It’ll likely be much heavier than you think. When I first went for a walk with mine, I went straight home and took out a third of the things I had in it. This will really help you narrow down what are essentials and what you don’t need. I even have a rule when I travel that I try to throw out three things from my backpack every time I travel to a new destination. It sounds like a lot, but I include things like the paracetamol tablets I haven’t taken in nine months or my spare pair of tweezers or the pile of receipts I’ve been lugging around.
Money belts are dumb. They’re uncomfortable to wear under your clothes, every time you need to pay for something, it looks like you’re rummaging around in your underwear, and thieves are well aware of their existence. When someone robbed a friend of mine in Brazil, the first thing they did was lift up their top to check for a money belt. Just do whatever you normally do with money at home: put it in your pocket or your purse/wallet.
I love travel towels so much that I even use mine when I have actual bath towels as an option! Travel towels are quick-drying, incredibly lightweight, and fold up so small! I never travel without mine.
I cite leaving my comfort zone as the number one way in which travel has helped me. It was leaving my comfort zone that gave me confidence in my abilities as a traveller. It helped me to overcome my anxiety disorder by showing me the things I was panicking about rarely happened — and if they did, they were never as bad as they thought they would be. And it introduced me to new experiences — most of which I unexpectedly loved!