How to prepare for a one year backpacking trip?
A whole year is a fantastic amount of time to spend exploring unknown territory. For my partner and me it meant giving up our jobs for a year. In the last months we counted every day until finally our last working day passed by and total happiness conquered our minds. We were free!
Of course taking time off is not the only thing we did. The year before take off we saved up every penny and did a lot of research on the countries, cities and regions we might visit. We knew all about highlights, places we definitely had to see and places we absolutely didn't want to go to. A lot of our belongings were sold or stocked away. So in the end only the backpack remained.
The provisionally route was ready before we left although we knew that this route was no more than a guideline which we didn't follow at all. Even the first place we were supposed to go, changed very last minute. Villages which we thought would be awesome, turned out to be terribly wrong. And places we never heard of, were real hidden gems.
To have an idea about how much money to take, we calculated our days: a hostel, transportation, food and a little extra. Depending on which country we would visit, the budget varied. The average was about 1000 € per month per person. That was supposed to give us some freedom, but not enough to go crazy. We actually managed to stick to the budget, but we also learned that you should do more excursions in countries like Guatemala. Doing the same thing in Argentina will cost a lot more! Though sometimes you have to forget about the money and just do that thing you really want to do. A great experience is worth more than a few euro's.
One more thing to keep in mind, probably the most important. What do I take?
Knowing that you'll be living out of the same backpack for a long period of time, makes you think about every T-shirt and every pair of socks.
Some things you shouldn't forget to pack:
a multi tool knife (Swiss Army knife or equal)
a good flash light that works without batteries
a good padlock
a lighter or matches
some rope (to fix stuff or dry your clothes)
duct tape (to fix stuff too)
a real book (that you can exchange for another in many hostels)
a good backpack
A good backpack was a big quest for us. It shouldn't be too large, but not too small, easy accessible and convenient. They come in different sizes and shapes and you'll know if it's the one, once you're on the road. The second half year, we got different packs and I liked the second one more. When buying a backpack, imagine yourself like a donkey: carrying it from one place to the other, throwing it on the roof of a bus and getting it back off; because that's what you'll be doing all the time. And when you get to a hostel late at night, you don't want to unpack all your stuff in search for your toothbrush.
The last part of preparing a one year trip, is saying goodbye and getting on the road, leaving tearful faces behind.