Preparing For a Trip

Don’t Forget your pants! Top 5 things you didn’t know you needed to pack:

  1. Calico bags – Trust us on this: after you’ve worn those socks for a couple of days, you won’t want them touching your clean clothes. Shove them in a bag until you can find a laundrette.
  2. Solar-powered lamp – Cheap hotel room too fluorescent? Got the hostel bunk with the bung light? Not to worry – just pull out this baby and read your Carlos Castaneda to your heart’s content.
  3. Clipboard – Great for keeping all those flapping bits of paper together as you wade through the international terminal. Get one with a strong clip and external zip. Bonus: a solid writing surface.
  4. Spork – If your mum gives you one of these for the journey, be sure to hold onto it or you’ll be leaving a trail of disposable cutlery in your wake. Can also be used as a makeshift percussion instrument.
  5. Cotton sarong – You probably won’t understand this until you’ve been pressed up against the window of a crowded train for five hours. This humble piece of cloth is a surprisingly versatile barrier against all manner of environmental assailants.

New to long haul flying? Do yourself a favour and stash these 5 things in your hand luggage:

  1. Quality snacks – Your airline won’t tell you this, but if you’re flying economy, the food is going suck. Bring some easy-to-handle health snacks to supplement that poor excuse for taste and nutrition. (just be sure to declare them when travelling outside of oz)
  2. Headphone adaptor – Many flights supply headphones for their entertainment system, but if you own a halfway decent pair, your ears are likely to thank you for using your own. You’ll need an in-flight adaptor for your headphone jack, though. Buy one at the airport.
  3. Water flask – Because repeatedly requesting those tiny disposable cups of water gets old fast. You’ll have to empty it to get through security, but should be able refill it near the gate.
  4. Ear plugs – Many people don’t realise that air travel places significant stress on the ears – it’s a high volume environment. On long flights, make a habit of plugging up where possible.
  5. Comfortable Eye mask – Planning to sleep? Don’t go past one of these excellent inventions. Even if you don’t sleep, they’ll still help you switch off from the talkative guy sitting next to you. (These are often given out for free with your sick bag, but they’re insanely handy so you might as well get a cute one.)

Agonising over where to take yourself next? Relax – it’s all good. Here are 5 ways to narrow down your travel wishlist.

  1. Ask yourself what you really want – Do you want a break or a challenge? Is there something specific you’d like to learn, experience or accomplish (climb a mountain, learn Spanish)? Do you want to be alone? Ask yourself at least ten questions along these lines, and answer them.
  2. Assess your budget – Be realistic here. How much money do you have to throw at this? Furthermore, how much time? You can’t do everything all at once – don’t even try. Zoning in on your available resources can help you to be selective.
  3. Read widely – Not only guidebooks. What about a cultural history of bicycling in Amsterdam? A political critique of the Panama Canal? A novel by an up-and-coming Japanese author? Explore the world from home and get a feel for what floats your boat.
  4. Seek advice – If you’ve got some places in mind, ask around to see if anyone you know (or anyone they know) has been there. Don’t take their word as the final call on whether you should go somewhere, but their insights could help you narrow down your list.
  5. Flip a coin – Still can’t make up your mind? Let chance guide you. Flip that coin or draw a name out of a hat – you’ll know immediately if it’s not right! Besides, there are no wrong choices except not making one.

Strapped for cash, but still keen to see the world? It’s doable! Here’s 3 crafty ways of going about it.

  1. Call in your networks – Got a destination in mind? Ask everyone you know if they have any friendly contacts there. Be bold (but not too pushy) about it, and you might just score a couch to sleep on or a handy connection from an unexpected source.
  2. Volunteer in exchange for accommodation – There are heaps of platforms for volunteering your labour in exchange for board, meals and knowledge. For example, the WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) network links up volunteers with property owners looking to share skills.
  3. Attend festivals with camping on site – Okay, so tickets to these kinds of events aren’t exactly cheap. But if you play your cards right, you can often wangle your way in as a contributor. You’ve then got yourself free accommodation for the duration. Given that these events can run for up to 10 days, you may be able to plan your whole trip around them.

NB. Be sure to look into the terms and conditions of your visa before engaging in any kind of working arrangement. And be safe – only stay with strangers if you have a solid reference.

Planning a trip that’s worth the effort and expense. Here are five common themes to consider building a trip around:

  1. Relaxation – If this is what you need, get clear on that. Choose a location that will enable you to simply be, without having to be anywhere. Keep it as simple as possible while being honest with yourself about the level of comfort and luxury you’ll require (hey, it might not be as much as you think).
  2. Adventure – Here’s where you can go hog wild with the cross-country train journeys, location hopping, mountain climbing and stints as a research assistant on some hair-brained expedition to Antarctica. If an adrenaline rush is calling you, hanging out at a resort probably isn’t going to cut it.
  3. Cultural – If your trip is inspired by art, food, language, architecture or some other feature of your dream destination, acknowledge that and make immersing yourself in it a priority. Buy tickets to that alpine jazz festival, factor in enough time to get out to that historical site… just leave enough space in your agenda to drink it all in.
  4. Educational – Plagued by a sense that you’re missing out on skills you can only learn properly on the other side of the world? Whether it’s reading Sanskrit, cultivating Peruvian cacti or playing flamenco guitar, you can focus your whole trip around mastering (or at least dipping into) something you’ve always wanted to learn. Make the most of it!
  5. Visiting people – Sometimes visiting relatives or expat friends is as good a reason as any to go somewhere. Don’t feel obliged to make your trip about more than this, although it can be successfully paired with any of the above – besides, there’s only so long your cousin should have to put up with you being jet lagged on her fold-out couch.

Grab your binoculars – we’re going traveller-watching.  Here’s our top 5 species of wildlife commonly found in airports. 

  1. The first-timer. Don’t be fooled – this wide-eyed specimen may be a travel noob, but rest assured he/she is way more prepared than you. Did you bring waterproof trekking gloves on the off chance of scaling a mountain? Bet you didn’t.
  2. The digital nomad. This cool customer is easily identified by their numerous devices, immaculate cable control and innate sense of where the charging stations are located. Last seen wearing noise-cancelling headphones and buying coffee.
  3. The veteran. This old hand has been around the world and back so many times, they’ve just about burned through all the tosses there are to give about what other people think. Observe the distinctive lack of worldly concerns such as luggage.
  4. The group. This crew consists of individuals who, on their own, are surely fine people. As a team, they’re borderline intolerable, shrieking with laughter and ordering hard liquor on your 7am flight. What’s their deal? Honestly, nobody knows.
  5. The carnie. Who’s that charmingly dishevelled character in the squashed felt hat? And why – nay, how – are they unfolding that unicycle from their carry-on bag? These folks are pretty harmless; just leave them to it.