Many backpackers setting out on their first trip tend to have questions that revolve around the same few concerns, many of which end up in my inbox. Traveling for the first time can bring up all kinds of anxieties about handing the basics abroad that you’ve comfortably gotten down pat at home.
As with many travel questions it’s good to get down to specifics and while these answers are certainly not comprehensive, they should help you get off to a good start.
1. What Is It Like Traveling Solo?
Traveling for the first time alone can seem like taking a trip into disaster before you ever hit the road. There are many advantages to traveling solo, ways to ease into it, and the advice of experienced travelers from all walks of life to alleviate some of your anxiety.
The truth is that when traveling, you’re often not alone and being without others eventually becomes a great motivator for getting social.
2. How Will I Overcome Language Barriers?
Much of that depends on your mother-tongue but assuming you know enough basic English to read this post you’re off to a good start. Although the notion is controversial, English is the universal language and widely spoken in enough key places where (relatively) clear communication is necessary. Airports, hotels, and ordering food from most menus will be straightforward.
To help yourself out with or without English though, you can learn these 4 word combinations for free using these resources, language social networks, or get digital with one of several nifty mobile phone apps like Word Lens.
3. How Can I Save Money And Travel Longer?
Most backpackers and budget travelers have at least heard of hostels (in case you haven’t) but there are many more ways to save before and during your trip. Although it seems counter-intuitive, flying more, on multi-city flights can often be less expensive than booking a simple round-trip fare. Where you go makes a big difference too so figure out the cheapest places to travel with your currency before you lose them.
Finally, if you’ve got the time, travel slower to see more and use a simple travel budget to track your spending.
4. Where Should I Go?
I’ve gone into resolving not knowing where you want to go before at length but the gist is to go where you want based on why you travel.
Don’t limit yourself initially, life is short so go visit the places you’ve always wanted to.
5. Should I Get Travel Insurance?
The answer depends on where you’re going and what you want to insure. Medical insurance and coverage for your valuables (including cash and passports) are the main two reasons people consider travel insurance.
(I’ll be covering this topic in a more detail post in a few weeks.) There are several big caveats to coverage so be sure to read any policy carefully and check if emergency health care is covered by the government of the countries you’ll be visiting.
Answering The Next Big Question And Realizing It Doesn’t End There
Almost always entwined in backpacking questions are how to choose the right backpack, pack light, and cope with being far away from home. The fortunate thing is that you’ll find plenty of opinions online about all of your first-timer questions that manifest themselves in various ways after your first jaunt. That’s one of the beauties of travel, that these questions have endless answers and discovering what works in each place keep the journey interesting.