I went on my first official backpacking trip to South East Asia just before I turned 18 with my mum. Having just finished sixth form college I knew I was destined for a life of travel so I decided to go on a backpacking trip with my mum so she could ‘teach me how to backpack’. These are 4 things I learnt on my first backpacking trip and 1 thing I got right first time…
1. Unless you choose a tour that specifically states that its for young people and has an age limit on it chances are you are going to end up with mostly old couples on your tour
Yes, I learnt this one the hard way, having been promised faithfully by the well known young persons travel company(that will remain nameless) we booked our tour with that there would be loads of young people on the tour. Imagine my shock when we walk in to the welcome meeting to find the youngest person aside from me and the tour guide was my mum?! 17 year old me gasped in horror. Luckily a 20 year old German guy walked in just after us, phew I was saved. Tobias went on to become my travel brother.
I’ve done a number of tours since then and I have found this rule to be true every time. Luckily the few people under the age of 40 on the tour tend to stick together and have the best time so don’t be deterred from booking on a tour just because it’s not specifically for young people. Oh and guess what?! Older people can be fun too!
2. If you leave your tour group or hotel alone you won’t die
Right, I’m going to be honest with you all now, me and my mum originally planned to do a 2 week tour of South East Asia then have a week at the end to do our own thing together. The reality was, we got so wound up by each other that after the first week on the tour my mum left the group. I continued the tour then ended up doing another week long tour for the last remaining week.
This left me in the ‘holy shit I’m completely on my own in a country far away from home with no adult to protect me!’ zone. This is not exactly comforting when you have a whole day of free time in Hanoi which is a very crazy, loud, hectic city. I think if I went back now I’d love it but back then 17 year old me was utterly terrified. I ventured within a mile radius of my hotel that day. When I met my tour group for dinner that night I was very jealous of the stories they had to tell me. I really wish 17 year old me hadn’t been such a travel wimp.
3. If you want to pack a normal size comfy towel instead of a small travel towel do it
My mum insisted on us packing small travel towels. Now I understand that travel towels have their place in certain adventures. I mean if you’re doing a long distance endurance challenge I fully appreciate that having a small, light, quick drying towel must be an absolute god send. Me personally, I just didn’t get on with them at all. I found that they didn’t dry my body properly, they felt weird on my skin and I’d rather have the extra weight and bulkiness of a normal towel instead.
4. Don’t go on a little rickety boat if you either can’t swim or suffer from sea sickness, it’s just not worth it
On the tour of Thailand’s southern islands we had 2 daytrips to smaller islands planned. I managed 1 out of 2 of those daytrips. I tick both the boxes for not being able to swim and suffering from sea sickness. The horror and despair I felt that day on that tiny little boat in really choppy waters will stay with me for life. To this day I can’t remember anything about the island we went to visit in light of this experience. Needless to say I firmly opted out of the second boat trip.
And the one thing I got right on my first backpacking trip:
I ate all the food. Everything that was put in front of me I ate, grasshoppers you name it. I discovered the pure joy of Thai street food and the succulent sweet delight of pineapple in Laos. In my eyes you should never be fussy when it comes to food and always give it a try. I mean don’t get me wrong, if the chicken looks pink don’t eat it but that’s just common sense. Looking back I think this showed that I was an open minded teenager who was willing to try new things, something that I have continued to do throughout my adult life. I believe that if you’re open minded and willing to try things you are going to get the most out of life and when you’re old you’ll never feel like you ever missed out on anything.
What did you learn on your first travel adventure? Leave me a comment.