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I was always dubious about people who went travelling for a few weeks and claimed it ‘changed their life’ that is, until I went travelling for a few weeks, and it changed my life.
Maybe that’s extreme, but it certainly provided me with some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. There was also plenty of suffering and the odd near-death experience though, so I have compiled some general advice that may help reduce these factors if you are considering travelling this Easter break (this is aimed towards interrailing trips or similar, but some of my advice will apply to any kind of travel).
As much as we would love to explore the world free of this capitalist hell we live in for a few weeks, money is a huge factor to consider, and bad management of it can lead to a far less enjoyable experience. I have three pointers in this field:
- Keep a record of what you have spent. In particular, who owes what to each other among your travelling companions. I kept a spreadsheet for this purpose, and while it was not the most glamorous aspect of our trip, it saved us from awkward finance related arguments.
- Set a daily budget. I found it helpful to withdraw my spending limit in cash on the morning; physical money is more distressing to part with!
- Expect to spend more than you planned for. However well planned your trip, there will always be plenty of hidden costs. Set emergency money aside at the beginning so that you’re never caught short.
The notion of wandering around wherever the wind takes you is certainly a romantic one, but I found that things were unexpected enough even with a meticulously planned trip. Here are some ideas on reducing the stress of the unexpected:
- Plan accommodation in advance. While I know people who’ve managed finding hostels on the day, after hours of train journeys and walking, it is an added stress that you really don’t need.
- Pack for all types of weather. You will likely experience every variation of weather from the sun being 40 degrees to sky-splitting lightning storms, so do yourself a favour and pack a cagoule.
- Plan days in advance. Spontaneous days out are fun, but having an idea of where you are going and what there is to see reduces the chance of walking in circles for hours in a boring neighbourhood. Not so fun.
- Bring every document you can think of and keep them safe, because you never plan to end up in a Czech hospital at 5 AM, but before you know it, you’re shelling out £200 because you forgot your EHIC card (don’t ask).
Be Ready For the Boring Bits
As mentioned, you will experience incredible highs while travelling, but it is also important to remember that at least 50% of your time away will be queuing, waiting, or sitting quietly on public transport. Here are some tips on being ready for this side of your journey:
- Choose travelling companions wisely. If you can’t imagine spending five solid hours in an overcrowded train carriage with them, then they are not right for this kind of trip.
- Plan some activities for the quieter times. One activity I came up with on my trip was to keep a travel journal where each of us would write an account of what we did that day, filling time and preserving the memories for later on.
- Plan travel so it is an event in itself. Particularly in Europe, many trains go through mountain ranges, providing some of the most stunning scenery you can imagine.