During the summer before I had graduated, I had immediately started a permanent full-time job and I looked out over the industrial area of the office where I sat from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5:30 pm after I arrived at the office (usually) drenched in rain. In short: my life and I were ready for some adventure.
And what could be more adventurous than traveling with a backpack on your back for a few weeks through countries on the other side of the world, where you have never been and which you can hardly imagine? The choice was made quickly. I took all my vacation days, researched which destinations were doable for a single, inexperienced backpacking woman and booked a return ticket to Singapore. From there I also wanted to discover Malaysia.
It turned out to be a memorable trip that I will never forget and I learned a lot of things that I had to remember about myself and thus write down for future trips. Also traveling for the first time? Maybe it will help you!
#1 Totally not read about the best travel time
In Asia, of course, most countries also have a summer and winter, or at least a dry season and a rainy season, as is clearly the case in Malaysia. I traveled there in January. If I had googled for two minutes what the best travel time was, I would have found out that there is an awful lot of rain on the entire east coast (average 676mm in January, compared to 189mm in July, for example) at that time. Not so handy. For example, I had to skip the paradisiacal Perhentian Islands on the east coast, because of all the rainfall it was simply not possible to get there. Luckily I didn’t have a set plan anyway, which brings me to my next point.
#2 No plan at all
Before departure I had made no plan at all, while I only had a few weeks to see as many of these beautiful countries as possible. I still like to travel without a fixed plan that I have to stick to, but these days I do look for places I would like to see. It saves a lot of time on location and you do not find out at home that you have missed all kinds of beautiful places, as was the case with me… On the other hand, thanks to not having a plan, all kinds of wonderful encounters and new places came my way. I even went to Thailand (because: tropical islands with a good temperature) and Indonesia (I still had a few days left in Singapore and a ferry went, so why not?).
#3 Far too little stuff with you
When I returned to Schiphol, my parents and sisters wrinkled their noses. I smelled quite a bit. This was mainly because I only had about five kilos of luggage in my backpack. It seemed like such a hassle to always carry such a heavy bag on my back. But of course you don’t have that backpack on your back all the time and who can live a few weeks with only five kilos of luggage?
So I had forgotten everything.
- Sunglasses, they could still be bought on location
- Random reader, as a result of which I could not book a ticket for a domestic flight and instead of an hour and a half in the plane for thirty euros, I spent two full days in a bus for three times the price
- Bikini, not really handy with all those beautiful beaches
- Nice clothes, I only brought some shirts and shorts because I thought you don’t have to look good when backpacking. While going out in Kuala Lumpur it turned out that a beautiful dress would not have been out of place
- And most importantly: my passport. On my way to the airport, my father asked, “Do you have everything?” “I think so,” I replied. Fortunately, he then started to list things (which I didn’t have) and we found out that my passport was still in my room, which I had already sublet. Quite inconvenient if you want to fly to Singapore. Fortunately, we were able to collect the key to my room and then we drove back to Schiphol with our passports
Are you going backpacking for the first time?
And yet I had the trip of my life. Precisely because I stepped into it so openly, a lot of things went very well. That way I did exactly what I felt like at that moment without having to take a travel plan into account. I met the most wonderful people, saw beautiful cities, impressive jungle and tropical beaches and of course missed some things. But how bad is that?
After this trip, many more trips followed in which I read carefully about the correct travel time to visit the country, thought about what I wanted to see in advance and even made a packing list. And you know I did too? I quit my job, now I work as a freelancer wherever and whenever I want and I still think about that wonderful first trip every week.