Are you a victim of the “travel bug” pandemic that’s sweeping the nation? Like the explorers before our time, our generation has curiosity coursing through our veins, sparking a desire to discover faraway lands, interact with new people, and experience eye-opening cultures. Stepping out of your comfort zone and choosing to travel independently gives you different perspectives on every aspect of your life, ensuring that you will return home a stronger person. If you’re thinking about taking the intimidating leap of backpacking abroad this summer, then let me give you some useful tips to help turn your dream into a realistic adventure.
First, let’s talk about preparing for your trip. Keep in mind that you’re literally carrying your life on your back, and let me tell you: that can get really heavy, really fast. I made the mistake of bringing a large suitcase along with my crammed-full backpack. As soon as I set foot onto Dublin’s cobblestone streets, I realized how foolish this was. If you think you need to bring high-heeled shoes for a night on the town, trust me: you don’t. Part of your journey is learning that you can live without so many of the things we all take for granted. To help you remember the essentials, I’ve devised what I call “CHAMPS”: Camera, hiking shoes, an adaptor, money, your passport, and a sweater. Although Europe is subject to warm weather throughout the summer, it’s important to have a waterproof jacket that can easily fit into your pack. If you’re second guessing an item whilst packing, leave it behind.
Second, ensure that you have brought the best pair of earplugs you can find for the flight. Between the constant flow of air vents blowing on your face, the flight attendant informing you that your sodium-packed food is ready, and your unceasing excitement, your chances of falling asleep are slim to none. And despite what they tell you, Nillows suck. No one wants to sleep with a vice around their neck and you don’t want to be carrying it around during your trip. Leave that bad boy at home.
And finally, let’s talk about hostels. Ignore the horror stories you may have heard and book your first hostel with your flights, because in my experience, hostels are clean, safe, and very cheap for students. To make the experience even better, make sure you bring a pair of shorts to sleep in. Us Canadians are used to the cold, whereas other travellers are not. The result is all of the windows getting closed at night, and twenty pairs of lungs filling the room with sweltering air. Also, make sure you bring out those handy earplugs from the flight, because as soon as midnight hits, your room will turn into a symphony of snoring, no matter if you bought tickets to the show or not. As well, try to book a hostel that offers a free breakfast. This way, you can stuff your face with as much cereal as you can so you can skip lunch and use that extra time to explore. The best thing about hostels is that no one cares what you look like or when you go to sleep. Like you, everyone is just trying to adjust to the shift in time zone. Or maybe, they too, are nervous and even a little bit homesick. This is the best place to connect with new people and share your mutual love of exploring. If you stay in hostels, you will gain a new friend in the process, without a doubt.
Ultimately, make sure to enjoy every single moment. You will carry this journey around with you for the rest of your life. The most incredible feeling of travelling by yourself is finally becoming confident with being on your own. You become humbled by the experiences you endure and inspired by the kindness of the people you meet along the way. If you’ve always wanted to go on an adventure, let nothing hold you back.