12 tips




Round the world travel is more popular than ever. The proliferation of cheap round the world tickets and student travel deals means that it is increasingly easy to set off on your own adventure. Grab a last minute travel deal, a round the world ticket and your toothbrush and you could potentially head off tomorrow morning!


But we are not all that spontaneous. Besides, one of my favourite things of any journey is not actually the journey itself. It is the anticipation. So do not despair if you are not heading off for a while yet! The trip to the bookshop to buy a map and a travel guide is one of life's real pleasures. So too is the browsing of travel blogs and travel photography websites to glean ideas of unusual places to visit. And the gaping blank pages in your diary that make you realise, with a little squeeze of excitement, that soon you won't be in work meetings or with your friends down the pub. You will be out "there" in places you cannot yet imagine. Every day will bring adventure and variety. I spent over four years travelling round the world by bike and it is the daily variety of it that I miss the most when I'm home.


 You may not have four years to spare. You may think that train travel is more your thing than sweating 46000 miles through five continents on a bicycle. It doesn't really matter how you travel round the world: the exciting experiences I had cycling all the way to China won't be too different from those you'll have if you take a flight to Hong Kong and begin exploring from there.


New York flights, flights to New Zealand, cheap travel deals: however you begin your adventure, I believe that the most important thing is this: just BEGIN IT! Put a date in your diary, tell your boss and your family that you are leaving on that day, and then commit to actually going. You will never have saved as much money as you should have done; you will never have researched every detail about the countries you want to visit. That does not matter. Landing in a strange and far-off country can be daunting. But I promise you that within a couple of days you will be feeling far more relaxed. You'll be haggling in the markets, squeezing yourself into cramped but fun local buses, and posting photos and stories on your own "round the world blog" to make your friends back home jealous. Who knows, perhaps your travel blog will inspire someone else to buy an air travel ticket and head off on their own journey of a lifetime?


Here then are my Round the World Travel Tips to help you get started:


1. However much of a budget you are on, I recommend booking into a hostel or hotel online for the first two nights of your trip. I still get nervous arriving in far-flung airports and feel much better if I know that I have a safe hostel waiting for me. Settle in, get a feel for the country you've arrived in, and then you'll be ready to head out and be more relaxed and spontaneous.


2. Multiple stop flights (such as flights to Sydney via Hong Kong) are often no more expensive than direct tickets. But they mean that you get to have an extra adventure for free!


3. Make sure you are covered in case of an emergency. You can buy cheap travel insurance these days. So it is definitely worth being covered just in case you do require something expensive like a medical evacuation flight.


4. Before you leave home email yourself copies of your passport, embassy phone numbers, visa stamps, bank contact details, insurance papers, and any other important documents. Even if you lose everything you own you can nearly always find internet access to start getting yourself some help.


5. Read a book by a famous author of the country you are in. It is a real pity that the authors we know about are generally limited to those who write in our language. So seek out a translation of a local classic. People will appreciate you learning about their country, and you will really benefit from getting another insight.


6. Always travel with a big, fold out map of the whole country or continent you are in. They are great for planning your trip. But unfold it in a bus station or cafe and it is a guaranteed ice-breaker for opening conversations. I find that people love looking at maps and pointing out  there home towns and so on.


7. Keep a diary of your trip. You will be grateful when you are old and wrinkly of being able to look back on your adventures. One option is to keep an online diary (www.blogger.com is simple and free) in order to share your experiences with friends and family back home and reassure them that you are safe and well.


8. Take a punt on a random country. Don't just stick to the well-worn routes round the world. Try a country almost at random. I can honestly say I have never regretted visiting a single country. What do Azerbaijan, Lesotho, Nicaragua and Japan have in common? Answer: they are all countries that I was not very excited about visiting but came to absolutely adore. Close your eyes, poke your finger onto a world map, and off you go!


9. Take a tent if you can. It greatly increases your freedom or where and how you travel. It will also save you a load of money. If you decide that carrying a tent is too heavy at least do take a thin sleeping bag with you. Better to have a small sleeping bag than a massive winter one that fills your entire backpack. You can always sleep in your clothes if you are cold.


10. Travel light. I spent four years on the road with only two sets of clothes. That may be a little excessive. But I have seen so many backpackers looking stressed and hot traipsing around carrying two enormous backpacks. Leaving the luxuries at home is one of the most important experiences of a round the world experience.


11. Keep your promises. In many parts of the world you will take photographs of people you meet and they will ask you to send them a copy. It's a bit of a hassle to do this once you get home. But doing it makes people so very happy, and will mean that they treat future backpackers they meet with even more friendly and warm welcomes.


12. Ignore the guidebooks. Follow your nose not the crowds. I walked across southern India without a guidebook, without seeing a single famous "sight", without seeing another traveller. And it was magical. Go out and discover places for yourself.






Alastair Humphreys is an author and adventurer. See more at www.alastairhumphreys.com