In the weeks and months leading up to my greatest adventure so far the excitement was sky high and I felt like I was planning something new every day – what I didn’t anticipate was just how much I’d learn along the way. Looking back now, it all seems obvious, but amongst the excitement and ensuring I had all the ‘essentials’ in my suitcase, I was completely oblivious to an element of common sense planning.
Create a Trip Specific Bucket List
Everybody has a bucket list and certain things they want to achieve in life; get married, start a family, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, to name a few. One of the best things I did before I went away was make a list of all the different things I wanted to do, see and experience in this trip alone. By approaching every country with a ‘I’ll never come back’ attitude I was able to fit so much into what was, in reality, quite a small amount of time (10 countries in 4 months is more exhausting than it looks)!
Be Careful Not To Live Through a Lens
With so many bucket list moments comes a lifetime supply of memories, but be careful not to live all these incredible moments through your camera lens or phone screen. Of course take pictures to show off to your friends and family, make the world jealous on Instagram, and simply cherish forever, but live for the moment! As cliche as it sounds, some moments during my trip just couldn’t be truly captured in a photo.
Getting up at 3.30am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat was absolutely breathtaking – it only took me a couple snaps to realise that actually this wasn’t a moment for happy snapping, this was a moment for living. Travelling through darkness on Tuk Tuks, sitting in the early morning heat and listening to monkeys chatting in the trees as the sun revealed the incredible temple is a scene I will never forget, but a moment that is for me, not my family.
Expect The Unexpected
I love being organised and the idea of spontaneity isn’t something that sat well with me before such a big adventure but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Less than 48 hours before we were due to fly from Fiji to New Zealand’s South Island, (natural) disaster struck as a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. 2 hours later and our flights were changed to fly straight to LA with a 14 hour layover in Auckland; at least I can say I’ve set foot in New Zealand!
A week before we were due to head to New York, our Airbnb host had a family emergency and had to cancel our booking. After an initial five minutes of absolute panic I realised that panicking wasn’t going to solve anything, and with the beauty of the internet, I had found alternative accommodation within an hour.
Moral of the story: stay calm, you can deal with anything that’s thrown your way! Sometimes a concrete plan isn’t always the smoothest plan.
As you accept that anything can change and throw your plans completely off balance, having the option to be flexible is so important.
- check refund and booking policies before you secure bookings – booking.com have a lot of hotels with no cancellation fees, on Airbnb different hosts have different policies eg. cancel more than a week before and you get a full refund. Be smart.
- flight changes – we bought an STA multi flex pass which in the shop with a smiling sales assistant who knew all the right things to say, seemed amazing. £100 for unlimited flight changes?! Brilliant! What they don’t advertise so well is that you still have to pay flight tax and a few other hidden costs (to change 3 flights it cost us well over £500 and took over a week). Weigh up your different options!
You Won’t Use Half Your Suitcase
Pretty much. I lived in the same six outfits and one pair of trainers for four months, and they all involved gym leggings or patterned trousers. You learn to live without the expensive trainers and ripped skinny jeans and chose comfort over fashion, and I slowly chose souvenirs over clothes when it came to luggage allowance!
Take Your Home Comforts
Even the most confident person will miss home and at some point while they’re away, even if they’re having the time of their life. I took my childhood teddy (yes I know I’m 21), but sometimes I just needed to give it a squeeze. Feeling homesick struck me on tw contrasting occasions – 1) I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours, had flown 7 hours over night, and really all I wanted was bed and my Mum. 2) I’d had the most amazing day snorkelling in Fiji and really all I wanted to do was share my enjoyment with my family but no wifi meant I couldn’t. Having teddy helped me get a full night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and full of beans, ready to go again!
Happy wandering x