7 Backpacking Tips You Haven't Heard One Million Times

Backpacking around the world is one of the most freeing things you can do.  While "winging-it" always works here's some backpacking tips we learned on the road on a year abroad.

1. Backpacking Tip: WEAR REAL SHOES

You were going to have an easy night of riding the ferry to Athens. Sorry bud-you're showing up at a filthy Athens seaport at 5:30 AM. Its slammed with Syrian refugees and now you're flopping around like a bro at the SigPi Spring Luai while trying to find your Airbnb.  Who knew Athens was going to be so dirty?When in doubt, skip the flippy floppies and put on your beat to hell, smelling-like-hot-garbage travel shoes. You know the shoes- the Goretex, heavy duty, waterproof, snake bite proof, guaranteed to last through a trek to Mordor shoes you just knew you needed? You were right.  Now wear them.Whether trekking through filthy streets of Saigon or stumbling home from the bar in Makarska, your shoes are going to save your butt when your flip flops could give a toss about you. Wearing shoes in unfamiliar territory will save you smashed toes, split toenails, and probably an infection.Hopping on a plane?  The crew is doing their best to lose your luggage for you, so make sure you aren’t stuck in flip flops.If you’re flip flopping (HA!) between sandals and shoes before you go visit a waterfall, temple, or a local market,  I promise you that you’ll never be upset that you wore shoes.

2. Backpacking Tip: Don’t worry about getting the absolute best deal on everything.

$22,500 Dong! Enough for a sammy and a coke.  Barely.Traveling costs money.  It can cost A LOT of money.  However, just by being in the subset of people who might be reading a budget travel tip list like this, you likely are already educated on many of the best practices for getting low pricing on airfare, accommodations, food, tours, etc.Just know ahead of time that you won’t always get the very best deal on everything and that you should be completely okay with that. You should be less focused on the dollar price of something and more focused on the value.It doesn’t make sense to book a $12 bed/person at a hostel in Europe if you’re traveling with a companion and can get an entire Airbnb for $30.   For a few more dollars more, you have an entire apartment with an area to cook, guaranteed good night's sleep, and a secure location for your belongings.Transportation isn’t something to cheap out on all the time either.  For example, few extra dollars to the right transportation company is the difference between spending a day relaxing on an air conditioned coach bus with free wifi or being packed into a sweltering cargo van, shoulder to shoulder with 12 other hungover, sweaty backpackers.--Want to see what a $12/night hotel looks like in Thailand?

3. Backpacking Tip: Don't take yourself too seriously

You are traveling to experience new things, seek adventure (possibly romance) and to learn about cultures other than your own. Without a doubt, you will screw up. In fact, tick off this list as you do them on your trip:
  • Pronounce new words wrong.
  • Get lost so bad it ruins the rest of the day.
  • Order an entree that you hate after the first bite.
  • Insult your host by accident.
  • Pay WAY too much for something.
  • Get taken in by a basic scam.
  • Lose something/Have something stolen.
Travel by its very nature means that you’re getting out of your comfort zone.  Be willing to keep putting yourself out there. Learn from your mistake, regroup mentally, and move on.

4. Backpacking Tip: Err on the side of kindness

When you leave your home turf, rules governing how to interact with strangers, personal space, and even how to form a line change drastically. Somewhere along the line you are going to deal with a rude person or two.Breathe deep, show some patience, and most importantly, don’t let one or two people affect your perspective of those people or that place.The world over, at least 98% of people are awesome. Regardless of country, this leaves 2% of people as a vocal minority of raging douche bags.This ratio does not apply to Chinese tourists of course, who make it an effort to be outright dicks to as many people as possible, including other Chinese people. Be prepared to post up and defend your spot in line with your life. You haven't known fear until an 80 year old Chinese grandma starts throwing elbows.

5. Backpacking Tip: Plan to spend some time on the potty

"Sir, our specials tonight are guaranteed to make you curse the day you were born while you lay in a fetal position on cold bathroom tile."Just simply make peace with the fact, that somewhere in your extended travel, you will spend 48 hours of your life in which you can not be further than 10 ft from a potty. You will eat/drink the wrong thing at some point and the gods will demand penance.Know you will owe these 48 hours as tribute to the Travel Gods and for the sake of your soul, don't try to man up and go out. Disaster will strike when you are furthest from a safe place.Get to that novel you've been wanting to read. Binge watch some Netflix. Or perhaps watch a funny video.
Bonus Bathroom Tip- If you see a good bathroom on your travels, use it! You will never be sorry you did.

6. Backpacking Tip: Assume something will be stolen from you

Nothing screams "rob me" like two westerners taking pictures of fruit in a busy market.Buy travel insurance-  Don't make yourself an easy target to pickpockets. Keep tabs on your bags. Don't smash 8 shots of Jaeger in a row trying to impress that Aussie chick, then stumble home through a dark alley so that you can get mugged while drunk.If you’re going to have something stolen, most likely, it's going to be a result of a pickpocket. Since this is the most likely scenario, why don’t we plan on it?Easy ways the thwart a pickpocket:
  •     Keep your wallet in a front pocket.
  •     Buy travel pants/shorts that have zippered pocket. (They should not have zipper off legs because you shouldn't be a complete slob.)
  •     Be extra aware in crowds, markets, and tourist locations.
  •     Minimize the damage-Know numbers to cancel your cards, keep a minimum of cash

7. Backpacking Tip: Its alright to indulge in comforts from home.

Pizza- When its good, its great, and even when its bad, its still pretty good.Whether you’ve been on the road a few days or few months, it's okay to take a mini trip back home.  You’ve likely been doing as the locals do 99% of the time.  Don’t beat yourself up if you’re craving a Big Mac or a Budweiser. When you’re traveling, those tastes sate something aside from hunger- they can let some part of your brain breathe a sigh of relief while it tricks itself into thinking it's back home.You will hit a day when you need to get take out pizza, throw on a hoodie, and binge watch some reruns of The Office.  If you're reading this and not American, that probably sounds like a terrible time to you. That's fine-make a little bubble of [INSERT YOUR COUNTRY HERE] when you need to and then come out of it the next day feeling refreshed and ready to explore again.