Your First Steps to Independent Travel
Travel can be a daunting prospect for a lot of people, This guide is aimed at first time backpackers or adventurers who are not sure where to start.
Five years ago I made the leap when I organised a round the world trip without using any travel agents or tour companies. It took time and effort, but I saved a lot of money and had the satisfaction of knowing that my trip of a lifetime was completely tailored to what I wanted to do, see and achieve.
Figure Out Your Budget
Budgeting both your time and money are essential. Time is the first hurdle; how long are you going to have off work or study in order to explore this place? If you are taking a career break or a gap year then this may stretch from months into years. However, as long as getting to your destination won’t eat drastically into your stay, it is definitely possible to truly explore a new place in a shorter holiday.
Once you know how long you have got, set yourself a financial budget and start saving! For a shorter trip you’ll need to check out the cost of flights and accommodation first. Skyscanner and Trip Advisor are great online resources to help you get an idea of how much you should be paying for this, and usually a great way to secure a deal once you are ready to commit to purchasing.
If you are travelling long haul and for more than just a couple of months then a good estimate to start saving towards would be $1500(US) per person, per month that you’ll be away (assuming that more of this would be spent in countries like Australia or UK, and far less in India or Thailand).
Make a ‘Bucket List’
You don’t have to see all of these places at once, but a list of your dream locations is a great motivation. Think about places you have read about or seen in films; every year over 2.5 million tourists arrive in New Zealand, and a large chunk of those have been inspired to do so to find the real life scenery that provides the backdrop to blockbusters such as Narnia and The Hobbit.
Once you have your places and a timescale, you can start to plan out your first adventure. With a couple of weeks you can easily visit three or four locations within a country. For a longer trip, four to six weeks per country seems to work nicely for most people.
Get a Map Out
I’m a fan of real maps, but google maps/earth works just as well to get an idea of how your journey will flow. Pick a definite starting point, somewhere that you are certain about visiting. From there you can visualise your journey and pick places nearby that would make sense to visit. Asia and Europe are especially fantastic for hopping between countries and experiencing the shifts in cultures and cuisines across borders.
Take a look at the journeys made by others to the places you want to visit. Travel blogs have a wealth of ideas and information about specific locations. A favourite starting place for me is TravelPod; a quick search of a place name will bring up the blogs written by people who have already been there, offering valuable advice about what is worth seeing and what should be avoided.
Travel expos are another great way to get ideas and inspiration. Check out your local exhibition venue to find out if there is one near you. Just be prepared for the hard sale from some companies. If you are there just to get travel suggestions, be clear and firm about that with them as well as yourself!
Talk to friends and family who have visited the place or country that you are planning to go to. First hand experience is always the best way to find out about best places to stay, or the hidden treasures that you might otherwise miss.
Once you have a clearer idea of where it is you want to go, and how you will make that work financially, it’s time to be brave and book that first ticket. Organising travel by yourself is a scary thing, but in the best way possible.
Until you book it, it’s just a dream.
© 2015 Nic Fletcher