Monday, February 1, 2010

Start Your Own Adventure! Part II

Alright, so now you've had the time to check out the previous sites I recently posted. Have I gotten you excited yet? Doesn't it seem possible that you too could travel and trek the world for an entire month or more on as little as $1500 (this includes your souvenir splurging)? Note that most of the cost - for those living in the U.S. - is spent on the airfare. Anticipate anywhere between $400 - $900 for one way to round trip tickets.

I found that the hardest part in all of this was getting the information about all the ways one could travel and how to do it on a budget. I could've watched the Travel Channel all day or surfed the web for ages, filling myself with too much information and still not have gotten everything I am now aware of. All I wanted was to have my options laid out for me as clearly and simply as I had done in my previous blog. I know I would've done things differently had I known as much as I do now, especially after talking with lots of other travelers during my journey. My goal is to share what I know with you so that you too can find the chance of a lifetime to travel. Stop letting the worries of affordability and the terrifying thoughts of the unknown prevent you from going where you've always dreamed of.

Please feel free to share with me anything you may have heard about that I haven't included in the previous blog.

One thing that I hadn't considered until another traveler in San Sebastian told me about, was the services of Bus About (see previous comment in Start Your Own Adventure Part I) and the option of continuing your education abroad. You can spend a semester abroad or get your Masters in as little as a year. You'll need to spend the time to look around and find the program right for you. Something that I considered, was learning an entirely new skill and gaining experience in the area of publication in Barcelona around 3 - 6 months with a cost of $2500 to $3000 that included boarding and visa requirements.

Anyway, in this blog let's talk about what you'll need to keep in mind now that you have a budget in mind and the length of time you've reserved for your adventure.

Let's delve deeper into the option of Backpacking abroad.

Some people prefer having a detailed map of all the places/cities they want to visit and some would like to see where the thrill and the fun take them with no more information than what city they'd like to start at. No matter which adventure you choose you'll never forget your experience, the various cultures you'll be immersed in or the amazing people you'll cross paths with.

First things first. What is Backpacking exactly?

Well, there's not much too it...it's the type of travel where you pack super light, you're very mobile, and you've packed your stuff in a Backpack...pretty self explanatory.
For this blog, I'll be focusing on Europe - a top destination with the best value for your buck. Here are some of the primary topics I'll be covering in this blog:

1. Packing - choosing a backpack, packing tips, travel clothing, travel necessities and more
2. Hostels - more about hostels, camping vs. bed & breakfasts vs. hostels, other places to stay
3. Transportation - lots of ways to get around by air, car, bus, bikes, trains, ferries, subways/metros, motorcycles, walking, and tours

So let's get started.

1. Packing

  • Choosing the right backpack for you: You've only got one backpack...what the hell should you pack? Well first you've got to pick your backpack and understand your weight limitations. Visit stores like REI (www.rei.com) to test out backpacks that suit your body height & weight. The sales person can assist you in adding weights to give you the most realistic view of what you'll be lugging around and exactly how much you'll need to restrict in your packing. Expect to carry somewhere around 20 - 30 lbs. You want to be comfortable walking around with this amount weight without exhausting yourself too quickly. Also, consider getting a backpack that you won't have to check in at the airport. Check out http://www.backpackeurope.com/packing/choosebackpack.html for more information
  • I actually did not - in the traditional sense - walk around with a backpack in my month long trip abroad. My luggage was able to convert into a backpack but I couldn't go far with the kind of weight I'd managed to pack :/ Lesson learned...pack light.
  • Packing Tips: Take it from me, Pack light! I know how hard this is, especially for women. But trust me in this. You will have a much more pleasurable experience without all the extra crap you would probably only be tempted to throw away because of all the extra weight and space it takes up. Consider the season for which you will be traveling. Pack the most comforatable and versatile clothes that can be paired with anything and everything. Expect to bring no more than 2 pairs of pants, a couple shorts, a few shirts, and underwear. "Wait, I'm going to be gone for a month...what do you mean I should only bring a couple pairs of underwear?" Want to know the solution? Bring some laundry detergent and hand wash your tighty-whitey's. Plus, most hostels offer laundry services for pennies on the dollar.
  • Travel Necissities: toiletries (for those not checking in their bags at the airport- remember the 3 oz. restriction!), small towel (you can also rent from the hostels - but I prefer bringing my own), small first aid kit, camera and film, netbook (most computers can weigh a lot. Netbooks are a great alternative at around $200 to staying in touch with your family and friends, checking your FB or posting up blogs...sound like someone you know? ;), sewing kit, money belt, daypack (so that you can take your essentials and leave your backpack at the hostel), pins and clothes line, travel alarm clock or phone (that works abroad), and guidebooks and maps (most places have tourist maps so make sure to grab one at the hostel or the train station and several tourist info booths). There's always other stuff you could bring...but remember the mantra is, Pack Light!
2. Hostels
  • So you know your options when it comes to where you can hit the sack after a long day of exploring. There are hotels, hostels, bed & breakfasts, and the option of going native and spending the night outside in a tent. Just remember, if you decide to go native...someone's going to have to carry the tent. You're looking at lugging around 20 - 30 lbs just with the camping gear itself - so this option is best for those who are traveling with friends who can share the load.
  • For the cheapest options - make some friends who live abroad and reaquaint yourself...if you don't have any friends (abroad, that is) the next budget friendly option is of course a Hostel. Some are as cheap as $10 - $25 per night, with the option to stay in female only rooms, or a two or more person room if you're traveling with friends. For some hostels, the price you pay includes WiFi and breakfast!
  • Hostels provide the chance to speak to other travelers, learn about the destinations they've visited, hostels they recommend for the best experience and the best prices, as well as companions to venture the city with.
  • Look around Hostelworld.com to get an idea for what kinds of hostels are out there in the destination you want to visit most. When booking at Hostelworld they'll send you a detailed guide to how to get to the hostel via bus/walking/and other alternatives. Definitely a mental reassurance that you'll know how to get to where you need to go. You can also view pictures, traveler ratings, and the list of their amenities and costs.
3. Transportation
  • Want to know how you can get around? Check out http://www.backpackeurope.com/trans/index.html with an amazing amount of information on how to get around without breaking your budget.
  • When I traveled abroad, I utilized the Metro systems, trains, ferries, and buses for the best value. Most cities have transportation programs you can participate to get the best value for your money. For example: city cards that can give you 14 rides for a low cost. I would spend a minimum of 3 nights in one location and go on day trips to other cities using their local transportation. This saves time and money and allows me to be mobile while being able to visit nearby, must-see cities without having to pack up all of my things.
  • You can even go on Backpacking Tours. This includes bus tours like Bus About (Europe), Ze Bus (France), Check out http://www.backpackeurope.com/trans/tours/ for more information. It includes specific tours around Scotland and England.
That's it for now. Hope you've gotten an even broader sense of what you can expect as you prepare (mentally and physically) for your adventure abroad.

Thanks for reading!

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