Having never backpacked before, when we first set off on our current 12-month trip, naturally we had quite a few concerns about long-term travel.
Now over half way into our adventure we’re pleased to say it’s been much easier than we anticipated. Sure there’s been a couple of minor incidents like getting sick on the road and our laptop screen cracking, but apart from that we’ve been very fortunate.
And so we’d like to share with you some of our pre-travel worries in the hope of showing you that if you are worried about any of these things, there’s probably no need to be.
Other than our native English, we only spoke some very basic French and we were nervous as to how this would work in our Spanish-speaking first stop of Argentina. How would we find places? How would we ask for things?
It turns out a lot of Argentinians speak some English and if they don’t, Spanish phrases are quite easy to pick up – and trust us we are not linguists of any kind.
We left the country to continue our journey up through the rest of South America with a much better understanding of the language.
So if you are planning a South American trip, Argentina (in particular Buenos Aires) is a great place to start. It was trickier when we moved onto China but we had five months travelling experience under our belts by then.
Travelling as a couple, we were also apprehensive about spending so much time together. However, having spent 8 months by each other’s side, at this point we can confidently say that we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Working as a team and having someone to share the magical moments of travel with is incredible. Of course, we’ve had petty disagreements (usually when Sarah is tired, hungry or travel sick) but never anything that hasn’t been quickly remedied.
In fact, without the daily stresses of our old lives and corporate 9-5’s, we enjoy each other’s company and appreciate one another so much more these days.
We’ve always erred on the side of caution when it comes to safety and security, for example we wouldn’t leave an upstairs window open at home whilst we nipped to the shops or walk home alone from the pub at 2am with our iPhone in our hand.
Still, about to propel ourselves into unfamiliar places we were concerned about getting stuff stolen, or worse, being injured in a mugging. But we’ve been fortunate to not come anywhere near anything like that happening.
The thing is, you are naturally more aware in new surroundings anyway and by applying some common sense you’ll greatly reduce your chances of something bad happening.
Even in places like La Paz in Bolivia and Bogota in Colombia that are notorious for those types of crimes we honestly never felt at any risk.
The longest we had been away from home in another country was a two-week holiday and so understandably we thought about all the home comforts we would miss.
We wondered if we would even like not having a base and moving from place to place. Of course this does creep in from time to time, generally when we are having a bad day, but on the whole we love living in different locations.
It really makes us appreciate things that we would previously have taken for granted. For example, having a warm shower or clean clothes.
You also realise how very little you need to live comfortably. It makes us cringe thinking about how much stuff we have packed away in our families’ lofts.
Missing family and friends is probably a big one on anyone’s pre-travel anxieties list. Of course this will be inevitable and although we do get terribly homesick from time to time we’ve found ways of minimising it.
We make sure we schedule in regular Skype chats with our loved ones at home and have group chats set up on What’s App where we keep up to date with what each other are up to.
Sarah’s sister actually jokes that she speaks to us more now that we’re away! We had a new nephew born whilst we have been away who we haven’t met yet and that has been tough.
But we realised very early on that there was never going to be a perfect time to fulfil our dream of travelling and so there are some things that you just have to suck up and deal with.
James would like to point out that this wasn’t a shared concern, but one half of us was actually nervous about not working.
Not having a routine or a purpose and skills becoming stagnant. Turns out travel blogging is a pretty much a full time job with tons of stuff to learn (if you want to be any good at it anyway) and so that needn’t have been given a second thought.
But even if you aren’t blogging, you find new routines and new interests. We both exercise and read way more than we used to at home, just because we have more time.
Chances are if you are travelling it’s because you are interested in learning about new places and different ways of life and that in itself is a purpose.
Along with meeting new people and navigating your way through different cultures, I think we can safely say we develop new skills all the time.
We spent a long time before we set off researching the best types of medication to take with us and ended up with a bag that to date we’ve used very little of.
Getting sick whilst away from home is a natural thing to be worried about but the truth is as long as you take sensible precautions you really can’t do anything more.
We got all the relevant injections before we travelled, don’t drink tap water where you shouldn’t, wash our hands regularly and only eat in busy places. We pretty quickly adopted the attitude that if it happens, it happens.
Of course it’s not nice, but it isn’t when you’re at home either. From South America, through Asia we’ve found there’s always plenty of pharmacies and doctors around, so as long as you have good travel insurance for anything more serious this really isn’t something to get caught up with.
There you have it, how our pre-travel worries have faded into nothing but distant memories. So if you are thinking about starting out on your first long term travel trip don’t let any of these things put you off making the leap. Go on, what are you waiting for?