My Top 5 Backpacking Mistakes

Due to a lack of travelling at this current moment in time, and not much new to write about, I thought I would just share some thoughts on things that I have been pondering. This post is about a few of the things I think could’ve and should’ve been done slightly differently in the build up and during my travels so far…

  1. Over-packing (let’s start easy…)

This right here is a standard mistake made by most. What madness goes through the minds of people, like me, who are packing their bags before heading out into the big wide world? Oh yes, I will definitely need an extra pair of jeans, right yeh, just in case I want to be a bit hotter and sweatier whilst I am wandering across the fucking equator!

Truth be told, you really don’t need much… a few t-shirts, some shorts, pair of shoes for hiking, flip flops, underwear and toiletries of course… nobody likes a smelly bugger now do they!

Now, after living in Melbourne for the past 8 months, I have accumulated an unholy amount of shit that will have to be either packed up and shipped home (hopefully faster than the parcel I sent back to the UK from Sri Lanka, which took a measly 4 months), either that or sold, given away, or taken with me in my already over-packed bag to my next destination!

Moral – Don’t pack anything you think you just might need. It will become a burden, and if you do end up needing anything, realistically you can just by it from a market for sod all whilst you’re away.

soph-travel-colombo-station
Packed up and ready to travel…
  1. The Haggler’s Failure

Now this is a mistake I have unfortunately made a couple of times during my travels so far. The haggler’s failure is basically not confirming a price before procuring some form of goods or service from a local seller. This sounds pretty obvious, right? Mostly, yes, it is a pretty obvious system… Only buy when you know how much it will cost.

Markets, especially food markets, can be pretty confusing and exciting places – even more so when you are hungry! Here is a top tip – do not, and I repeat that, DO NOT eat lots of delicious skewered fish from a stall in Zanzibar, trusting the local fisherman that it is “cheap, yes very cheap”, without actually finding out how cheap. Or in this case definitely not cheap – very fucking expensive!

Then after you have eaten said fish and have been charged an extortionate amount for your, albeit, very delicious meal, do not tell the man you do not have enough money on you to pay his inflated prices. The man, and his friends, WILL get very angry, and they WILL demand to walk you back to your guesthouse to retrieve the money that I had “cheated” them out of…. Hmmm, I feel like I actually may have been the one that was cheated here, not them! Haha. You live and you learn.

Moral – Haggle, agree a price, and then eat!

kk-waterfront-night-market-01-840
The epic KK harbour-side food market in full flow
  1. Becoming “Worldly” & preaching about it…

Well, this isn’t necessarily a reflection of myself – I hope – although this post may seem it a little…

Although not exactly one of my mistakes, there are a hell of a lot of those preachy fuckers out there. Were they born preachy? Or now they have been to a Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan and drunk a few mushroom shakes, this makes them the master of the universe? Who knows!

I just love the 19 year old clichés on their gap yaaar, telling you they totally loved India and it was like a spiritual journey – Oh really, where did you go? Goa… “but it was so hard to get anywhere so we hired a driver for the week we were there!” Oh right then… a 1 week spiritual journey in the back of a Maruti Suzuki. Nice.

Moral – Go “find yourself” somewhere else please!

hampi-ed-hindus-840

  1. Tanzanian Scotch Eggs

This may seem like a strange one, but maybe I shouldn’t be too specific. This applies to most service station food available in 3rd world nations, and to be honest, most 1st world nations too.

In general I have what could be referred to as an iron stomach – I eat anything with relatively no dramas. But this was not the case in Tanzania. Whilst travelling from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam on a “6 hour” bus ride (it was actually 12 hours, but let’s not quibble) Soph and I both somehow managed to get remarkably ill. The most ill I have personally ever been – it was impressive! The lovely Scotch Egg thing from the little service station in the middle of nowhere? Surely not!

After travelling to Zanzibar by ferry (what a very queasy experience that was) and after a few feverish nights sleeping in a guesthouse in a tiny fishing village called Jambiani, Soph and I were convinced I had contracted Malaria. A visit from the local doctor, who only worked in the village once a week (very lucky he was there that day), a quick blood test, and we established I was in fact Malaria-free, but… I had contracted some horrible parasite – no further details required. Back tracking through what had been eaten in the build-up to “The Great Sickness of 2015”, we determined it was that fucking service station Scotch Egg. Never again!

Moral – Fuck you Tanzania and your dodgy Scotch Eggs! Beware service station food…

jambiani-bungalow-view
Not a bad place to recover…
  1. Breathables

One thing that is almost certain when travelling in hot and sweaty countries is the need for light, airy, and breathable clothing! One thing you definitely don’t want to do is board another optimistically timed journey – this time a “2 hour” (*cough* 5 hour) train ride from Colombo to Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka – wearing too many layers. By too many layers I mean absolutely any clothing whatsoever! I think that standing naked on a train for 5 hours, in what is a relatively reserved country, may not have gone down too well, but you get what I mean.

Now, this train was hot, I mean unbelievably hot. Absolutely jam-packed full of tourists and locals alike – not only was it a commuter train, but also the main line to get to Hikkaduwa for New Year… Jesus it was a sweaty situation. Perched extremely uncomfortably on top of my over-packed bag, with the stench of the nearby toilet hot in my nostrils, my lack of breathable clothing meant I swiftly became a walking puddle of misery. Don’t come too close, you will get wet, and you will not like it.

It is not the sweatiness that I have an issue with here – this is part and parcel of travelling in Asia – it was the aftermath. Prickly Heat. After finally arriving at our guesthouse in Hikkaduwa, my whole back, sides and stomach started forming lots and lots of little red lumps. Diagnosis from the friendly / slightly amused pharmacy lady – Prickly Heat. The cure – stay inside in an air-conditioned room, take as many cold showers a day as possible, and apply lots of lovely cream to the afflicted areas… and absolutely no sun bathing. Well that sounds shit. It was!

Moral – Wear breathable clothing so you don’t become a prickly puddle.

ed-soph-galle-dutch-fort
Breathable clothing…

So there we have my 5 top mistakes so far. More to come I’m sure!

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