Updated: May 23
When I used to think of backpackers my mind would jump straight to the classic postgraduate student trying to find themselves. Danielle would always think of an idyllic lifestyle she craved but was never in reach. You might be more inclined to think about the "hippie" on an eternal quest for love and understanding, or maybe the travel influencer jumping from luxury resort to luxury resort. After becoming disillusioned with the normality that came with a regular 9-5 and a house in Manchester, we decided to head out in search of adventure. We took a giant leap straight into the shoes of a backpacker.
There were certainly some misconceptions that our friends, families or ourselves had before departing. Here are some that we can debunk for you now...
YOU NEED A LARGE POT OF CASH OR A BLANK CHEQUE
This depends on where you want to go, and what you want to see however, the simple truth about travel is that it's not exclusive to the rich and wealthy. Granted, if you want to spend the next 12 months in Dubai living your best life, you may want to start saving those pennies sooner rather than later. For everyone else, there are large parts of the world that can be experienced in all their glory on a shoestring budget. By avoiding some of the most expensive cities in the world you can stretch your money as far as possible.
We can vouch that you need much less than you might think. We did recently save up, quit our jobs and embarked on an adventure after all. We're no Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert, and nor do we profess to be. By applying some simple budgeting advice with a clear focus, we were able to save more than enough to finally embark on the journey we'd had dreamt about for so long.
TRY TO LIVE EVERYDAY AS IF IT'S YOUR LAST
When the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said to "live each day as the last" he didn't have to carry around his own luggage. We have spent months on islands, hiking, scuba-diving and more recently, exploring the wonderful waterfalls in Bali. Sandwiched between these incredible moments are days spent by the pool, relaxing and sitting on beaches. Then there are the exhausting days when we're moving from one place to another.
Don't get me wrong, we are not complaining. The simple fact is that everyone has an idyllic image in their minds when they think of travelling. The reality is that constantly trying to find adventure every day is simply not feasible. Days spent resting and relaxing are just as important to help you appreciate when you do something truly remarkable.
EVERYONE IS TRYING TO"FIND THEMSELVES"
When we first set off on our exploration there were a lot fewer backpackers than there are now. We spent two months in Thailand only to come across only one other person doing the same thing as us. We've since gone on to make a whole bunch of friends, and not one has proclaimed to be finding themselves...yet anyway.
We get it all the time. Family and friends will make subtle references to this with sry smiles and sniggers as they refer to the common misconception. In truth, we did expect to find some people who were looking to do that exact thing. As of yet, we're still to find them.
WILD ANIMALS STAY IN THE WILD
Whether it's spiders in your room, snakes in your toilet, monkeys on the road or dogs running after your scooter. Unlike the UK, many different animals are all too common, and not only in the wild. We're lucky to have never experienced a snake in the toilet so far, but have heard the stories. We still have Australia to go yet though! Everything else happens all the time, and it's something you have to become accustomed to.
There are stray dogs everywhere in South-East Asia, and luckily most are happy as long as they're left alone. It still doesn't stop the occasional one from catching a scent in the air that someone nearby is having too good a day, and they have to put a stop to it at once. Anytime we've been chased down by a snarling dog it has always been while on a scooter, which hopefully suggests that it wouldn't have happened had we been on foot. Regardless, there are severe dangers with rabies being a very real concern. Dogs contribute to 99% of all transmissions of rabies to humans, and it isn't only dogs you have to watch out for either.
Take somewhere as seemingly magical and peaceful as the Sacred Monkey Forrest in Ubud, Bali. The fact that "be careful" is the first popular keyword on Tripadvisor for this place tells you everything you need to know.
IT'LL RAIN MUCH LESS THAN IN MANCHESTER
We are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that this isn't true. Having lived in Manchester, UK, for the last 7 years we thought it couldn't possibly rain anywhere else in the world as much as it does there. In Manchester, we have experienced a handful of days where it hasn't rained at all. The same can also be said about Thailand and Bali so far as well. While the rain differs enormously, it's still ever-present.
The time of year hasn't helped things. Currently, in this part of the world, it is approaching the rainy season. Right now, we are in Canggu, and it decides to rain most days here around 4 pm local time. We'd take a heavy, but short-lived tropical shower over the constant daily drizzle we're used to backing home any day!
YOU WON'T MISS HOME COMFORTS
Of course, you will! On those rainy days when you sit down to binge-watch your favourite Netflix shows, you will miss things about home. Family and friends are obvious ones, although you can expect to quickly miss things you never even considered before.
Food shops can be quite expensive in this part of the world. Your shopping bill can quickly match what you'd be used to back home, especially if you're buying anything not native to where you are. We used to love an evening with cheese, wine, olives and a selection of crackers or bread. We waved goodbye to those foods the moment we saw their prices.
It's not all bad. Rather than spending money at a supermarket, we opt to eat out for all meals of the day instead. It works out much cheaper!
IT'S BETTER TO TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Being able to have unique experiences are amazing. It still doesn't take away from the incredible experiences you can have at the more popular places too. Ultimately things are popular for a reason, and it usually comes down to them being amazing. You're never going to be able to find a beach that's yet to be explored or a hike that hasn't been conquered. Why not focus on having an incredible time instead?
People learn to five in Koh Tao and surf in Canguu for a reason. We recently tested out another beach that we thought looked good for surfing as a beginner. I was quickly made aware of my ignorance when being barrelled over, slapped and drowned by the sea over and over. I did learn my lesson eventually, but it took a lot longer than I'd care to admit.
TRAVELLING IS JUST ONE LONG PARTY
Any experience is ultimately what you make of it. If you intend to go on a year-long bender then that's what you're likely going to find. Our parents could have easily thought this would have been the case for us. Perhaps they thought we were reaching some kind of early mid-life crisis after entering our 30s? Had we travelled in a pre-pandemic world then maybe this could have been the case. Either way, we are happy that it hasn't ended up like this.
With Thailand as our first port of call, it would have been difficult to find weeks blur past in a party filled haze. Their alcohol ban in bars and restaurants put a stop to that!
IT'S TOO DANGEROUS
Of course, there are dangers out there. We aren't going to say there's nothing to be afraid of, and any current or prospective traveller should always be careful on the road. I don't believe it should be something that holds you back.
As Steve Jobs so elegantly put it during his Stanford commencement speech in 2005 "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice, and most important, dare to follow your heart and intuition.". We very much believe that fortune favours the brave. Taking courageous steps towards what we want most in life can bring about the most magnificent outcomes.
YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON A CAREER INSTEAD
The most common misconception is that you can't travel and pursue a career at the same time. The pandemic taught us many things, one being that it's no longer imperative to be in an office for work. There are a bunch of things you can do remotely. Better yet, you can do them all while sipping a pina colada out of a coconut on the beach.
If you're torn and can't decide whether to travel or work then why make that choice at all? If you want to explore the world while building something for yourself then there are a lot of options out there. It's better to work and build something for yourself, rather than spend your life doing it for someone else.
We hope we've been able to debunk some misconceptions for you here. We're in no doubt that there are still a whole lot more, but we can't wait to find them out along this adventure of ours! Maybe you can get out there and debunk some for yourself.