Travelling is certainly not for everyone. Some people are raring to get out into the big wide world, others like the idea but are unsure it will be for them and there are others who will always stay in the comfort and safety of what they know. All of these are okay as long as you are happy.
I have had a very fortunate upbringing, having parents who both love to travel and explore new places, adventure has always held a place in my heart. I always knew that I wanted to take a gap year before going to university because I just could not face going straight back into education again. The issue was choosing where to go, now I’m not one of those people who just tend to do what everyone else does and there is so much choice out there, I mean it’s a big old world. Africa, South America, Asia…..where to go?
We settled on South, Central and North America…the ultimate America’s experience, initially wanting to go to every country we possibly could we soon realised that we were going to have to scale back our ambitious route significantly, which was possibly one of the hardest things about preparing the trip but I just kept saying to myself you’ll have to go back and do a second trip (which is currently under construction!) So our list of countries were as followed: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos (Ecuador), Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize (although we only ended up driving through it and not stopping), Mexico, California, Colorado and New York.
So countries decided the next thing that we needed to look into was budgeting, ensuring that we would have enough money to be able to make it all the way to New York. I spent a lot of time looking into transportation costs, accommodation etc whilst I was at home using the internet mainly, there is so many useful websites out there for planning trips. I came across this thing called Bamba Bus, a company who provides transport routes within and between countries in South America, North America and Asia. They had a number of different routes across South America and we decided on one which took us from Rio, Brazil to Lima, Peru. Bamba make it very easy for first time travellers such as myself and made me feel a lot less stressed about the situation. All you do is email them the time and day you want to leave your current destination to go to your next and they sort it all out with the travel company, and some stops even have tours included! I would really recommend doing something like this if you’re nervous about going, even just for the first bit until you get used to it because it makes everything so much easier and then once your more confident going it on your own. Then it just seems easy.
Anyway back to preparations, so having booked Bamba bus, our flights including a flexi pass which allowed us 3 flight changes for no extra cost (an absolute must if you have lots of flights), we were then able to look at tours. Our trip to Peru meant we had to do Machu Picchu, and we looked at a lot of different walking tours and decided on the Salkantay treck, instead of the famous Inca trail mostly because it was significantly cheaper. Also thinking we wanted to give something back, we decided to do some volunteering…and this is what led us to our time on the Galapagos. It was very worthwhile and by far the cheapest way to visit the islands so if your looking to go there, volunteer! Most likely you will have weekends free to do what you wish!
After all the exciting things to book and prepare there comes the boring tedious things which all travellers must do:
- Research the jabs that you will need before (this can make the difference in a life or death situation and is an absolute must) – you might need to pay for certain ones and they can be expensive so make sure you include these in your budget. Also some countries won’t let you in unless you have jabs….
- Check out the weather of your destinations – you might need different things and can you get them there or not e.g. cold weather gear if you head to the mountains. We didn’t take any waterproofs with us but managed to pick up some cracking fakes in the local markets.
- Make sure your bankcards will work – if necessary get travel cards and take more than one. Take a Visa and a MasterCard, and if you can a credit card. Keep them separately so if one bag gets stolen it’s not the end of the world and keep the bank numbers written somewhere in case of this.
- Get currency of your first visited country, and American dollars – you might find in the more touristy places you can pay using these.
- Make copies of all of your important documents – passports, driving licence, jab documents – have e-copies and hard ones with you and at home.
- Learn some of the language/ get a phrase book – this is essential so you can engage with the locals, you will have a better trip and learn more if you can do this
- Work out a rough daily budget – it will always vary a little, but there are lots of guides everywhere
- Pack – essentials and keep it light. Nowadays there are many ways to reduce your bag weight, take a trip to your local euro hike or millets (I had so much fun browsing the shelves). There is nothing worse than a heavy backpack
- Know what your getting your self into – are there any no go zones? Check out the government websites, learn a bit about any conflicts that might have taken place – they could be sensitive topics of conversation
- TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES – but try not to lose your stuff. Upload photos as often as you can and keep memory cards safe. Trust me there is nothing worse than losing all your photos.
- And finally have fun – this will most likely be one of the best times of your lives…live it to the full
Happy planning fellow travellers, hope you find this helpful 😀
Thank you to Kitty for this post, now you can get preparing for your travels – trust on the picture tip, you do not want to lose your pics!!