- Whether you’re gone for a week or two years, the cardinal rule of travel is this: no matter what, at one point or another, you will feel so outside of your comfort zone. Here’s a few mistakes I learnt the hard way (no, really, all of the below has happened.) Take it from me, save yourself from being in a foreign pickle!
- Do not bring a luggage lock with a key; instead, bring a combination lock.
You never know where you’ll lose your key, but you will lose your key… which means a local will have to spend hours sawing off your lock with a rusty saw and you’ll feel terrible. True story.
- Google how to use squatting toilets BEFORE using a squatting toilet.
Trust me on this one, unless you want your first confrontation with an Asian squat toilet to be on a shaky ferry on its way to an island in the middle of no-where… you won’t know what to do with yourself, and neither will the tourists on the ferry with you.
- Ask your local embassy for pencils, badges, or patches to take with you.
Most countries will be more than happy to provide you with some kind of patriotic gifts to bestow upon others. Think of the children.
- Bring one warm fleece no matter where you’re going.
You’ll regret not packing ANY warm clothes once you decide to wing it and hike up a mountain in the middle of Lombok… it gets chilly up there, and it’s not like the locals will provide you with your favourite fleece sweater.
- Bring the largest carry on you can possibly bring.
Lugging two bags is easiest; your backpack on your back, and your carry-on on your front. Anything more is a hassle, but you can always buy cheap touristic purses to carry your money in for the time-being.
- Don’t bring your phone with you; instead, buy a phone in your destination.
A phone in S.E Asia is 52$ including the SIM card. They don’t force you into contracts, plans, or pre-payments; everything is much less complicated and you won’t pay strange roaming charges.
- Bring a kobo or kindle instead of books.
Trust me: I’m the biggest “real-book-hippie” advocate. I like the “old book smell” and the “feel of paper in my hands”… but you know what I don’t like? Having all of your books waterlogged, dirty, and ruined, no matter how hard you try not to ruin them.
- Bring water purification tablets or iodine, instead of having to buy water.
*Don’t bother bringing a water bottle unless you bring water purification tablets, which will save you a few bucks. Otherwise you won’t need one and you’ll save valuable packing space without it.
- Iinstead of a sleeping bag, bring sheets and a travel blanket.
Most hostels will have a bed with sheets already on it; to save packing space, just bring your own sheets to lay down on top of questionably clean ones.
- Don’t assume there will be someone who understands English every where you go.
Bring a phrasebook or dictionary for whatever language you’ll need with you and keep it close at hand. The last thing you want is to be that one tourist who feels entitled to be somewhere and have their needs met without making an effort to understand the locals themselves.
*Bonus for those impulsive travellers:
- Remember: you have to explain everything you bring back to customs.
… So maybe think twice before buying the wooden penis bottle openers in Kuta.