1. I try to always stay away from the main touristy roads.
When anyone asks me advice on traveling, these are always the first words out of my mouth. I discovered the advantages to staying away from the main tourist areas by pure accident. My first week in Bangkok I stayed at a hostel, Siam Journey Guesthouse , and I loved Bangkok. There were so many cool markets to see, and I really felt like I experienced the heart of the city. Not only did I have a great cultural experience, I also felt so much safer. Throughout my trip in South East Asia I stayed in many different areas. However, with almost no exception I enjoyed my stay immensely more when I stayed out of the touristy area. I theorize that touristy roads are more likely to draw in people who are looking to take advantage of tourists, something I was especially aware of as a solo, female traveller. (I often would stay one or two roads away from the “main strip” found in most cities. This would allow me to experience the advantages listed above, and still meet people).
2. Reduce, reduce, reduce the stuff you bring.
I know that this is advice found on all travel advice pages, but I don’t think you can over state its importance. I started the trip with two bags. A camera/messenger bag-7 pounds- and a 45 liter backpack -12 pounds. I ended up sending two boxes home. Most of the stuff sent home were souvenirs, however I also sent some personal items back. The more stuff you have, the more you have to worry about, the more you have to carry, and the more that dig through when you’re trying to find something. If you think you have too much, you do. Take what you have planned and then cut it in half. Remember, if you need anything you can buy it there!
3. Respect other cultures.
I learned, enjoyed, and in general appreciated my experiences much more when I respected the cultures of the countries I visited. I can only imagine how much my respect affects locals.
4. Pack-it cubes!!!
Life. Changing. Pack it cubes making finding something in my bag so easy. I use two size L and both a medium and a small.
5. Bring zip lock bags.
These were surprisingly useful while traveling. I threw in a couple of sandwich sized bags and a gallon sized bag at last minute, and was so glad! I used them to store different items, cover something I didn’t want to get wet, for wet clothes, and many other odd and ends.
6. Snacks, snacks, snacks.
I highly recommend bringing snacks for the beginning of your trip. For me, during the first couple of weeks I need time to get accustom. It is so helpful when I have some food that I’m used too, and is easy accessible. In the beginning, I sometimes have trouble finding food places and food that I either know I like, or feel comfortable trying. My two must have snacks are trail mix (peanuts, almonds, m&ms, and raisins), and cliff bars (a type of power bar). Both of these are easy and clean to eat, and have some protein.
7. Bring a small note book.
I keep a journal while traveling. In the beginning of my life as a traveler I would put planning or directions notes into my journal. I soon discovered draw backs to this method. Because my journal is so big it was sometime hard to get out and then find the page with the right notes. I also didn’t like “polluting” my journal with items I didn’t want to remember in the long term. I first bought a small journal in Thailand at the suggestion of a friend. I LOVE it. It’s about four by three inches big with a plastic cover. It’s perfect for writing down words I wanted to remember, directions, budget planning, and so much more.
8. Keep a budget.
I need to state a head of time that I may be a little ocd. (Only kind of a joke). I write down EVERYTHING I spend for everyday and keep a running total. I use old check registry to keep a budget. Now, you don’t need to be as methodical as I am, but keeping a budget will allow you to travel for as long as you want, help you keep a handle on how much you spend, and give you some leeway for bigger splurges. (I have another post outlining exactly how I do my budget and afford to travel)
9. Use your head, pay attention to your gut.
If you only take one thing away from this post, please take this. I have managed to stay safe with a combination of luck and brains. ALWAYS listen to your gut. Sometimes feel uncomfortable because it’s a new experience or I don’t totally understand, and I have to remind myself that it’s ok to feel uncomfortable in those cases. However, if I’m feeling uncomfortable because of how someone is looking at me, or talking to me, or with what someone is doing, I get out of the situation. If something doesn’t feel right- don’t do it. Situations like this can also be avoided by choosing the right people to hang out with. Although– it’s impossible to always know.
Have any questions? Let me know:).