When I first made the decision to go travelling in South America there were a variety of thoughts that flickered through my head. These came in all shapes and sizes and ran the gamut from: doubt as to whether or not it would hurt my career, concerns over how I would raise the money and even questions over how I would maintain relationships whilst abroad. Despite these reservations, when I thought about how I would like to look back on my life, I decided that the experiences I would have and insights I would gain whilst travelling far outweighed any of these potential problems and so I resigned myself to go – no matter what. That was the best decision of my life and the decision to travel is one which I believe, given the opportunity, we should all make.
Whilst there’s no one good reason to pick up your rucksack and hit the road the following are, for me, some of the most important:
1) New perspectives – Travelling gives you a number of novel perspectives to view your life from. This is because it allows us to take a step back from the often hectic schedules of our lives and reflect on who we are and what we would like to become. It’s surprising how the ability to just pause for moment allows us to see our lives in completely new ways and establish new goals and objectives for the future.
2) New friendships – Another great reason to go travelling is the assortment of new friendships it allows you to create. Like nothing else, travelling exposes you to new people from places that you may not have even known existed or had only heard of. This opens up the mind to new ideas and viewpoints and there’s always the chance that should you choose to go to that new friend’s country, you have a ready-made tour guide and place to stay!
3) Lasting memories – Another great reason to go travelling is the lasting memories it creates. Whether it is partying with your friends for a week solid at Rio Carnival, or climbing up 1000 steps to the ascent of the iconic Machu Picchu, travelling allows you to have the most incredible, unforgettable experiences. When you return home these really keep you going through some of life’s more stressful moments.
Now! Next month! Or if not, at the earliest available opportunity. I can’t count the number of people who have told me that they would like to go travelling “once they finish this, or that other important thing” and many years down the line have still not ended up going. The fact is, that conditions will never be perfect to travel (they definitely weren’t when I went) and we can always find some other super-important thing we should finish first. It’s essential to remember however, that travelling is important too and is something to prioritise and make special provisions for if you want to achieve it.
It must also be said that there is also no perfect age at which to go travelling. I met people of all ages and walks of life on my travels from late-teens looking for adventure before starting University, to pensioners who had eschewed the safety of package tours for a chance to climb down the Potosi mines for themselves. The truth is that age doesn’t really matter, the most important things is that you go and preferably as soon as possible!
Whilst a lot of people have a genuine desire to go travelling, many are simply unsure of how to go about the whole thing – from how long to go for, what to see, who to go with and how much money to take. Admittedly these are difficult and ultimately subjective questions, however, here is some guidance that may help you come to some of these important decisions:
– How long have I got? – The first thing to decide is exactly how long you want to travel for. Most people have an allocated time period that they want to fit their travels into prior to some other important event in their calendar but if not, thinking about where you want to go will help you plan your travel time. For example, if you want to visit a certain part of a continent such as Central America or South-East Asia, 3-6 months might be sufficient ,however, if you would like to see whole continents or ‘continent-hop’ at least a year may be necessary to fit it all in. For me, 5 and a half months was perfect to cover most of South America – Not too short that I had to rush through countries and not too long that I became a nomad.
– What do I want to see? – Deciding what places you’d like to see and visit is also a great way of narrowing down your options and helping to structure your trip. You could for example, pick 3 wonders of the world you would like to see and plan your trip around them. Or you may plan your trip around festivals and other key cultural events – In this respect it’s worth checking backpacker calendars in the early stages of your planning. I mixed both events and wonders (e.g Rio Carnival, the Amazon, Machu Picchu) and found this was a great way to pick my destinations.
– Who shall I go with? – This is an important question and will have an enormous effect on the experience that you have whilst travelling. Friends can keep your spirits up and help you soldier through the toughest moments, but as a general rule, you won’t be as open to meeting new people if you are always with your best friends from home. Travelling alone is great and an increasingly popular option for both males and females, however, from my experience, sometimes you would like the familiar faces and comfort that your friends can provide. I was fortunate to be able to start off with my friends, which was great for settling in, and then go the rest of the 5 months alone which allowed me to meet new people and develop an open mind. I would recommend this mix and match approach, but In any case, I don’t think we should torture ourselves with these questions, plan your trip and who knows maybe friends can come and meet you out there or if you’d really like to travel with someone, tell them to come along!
– How much money do I need? – Time and again I’ve heard these financial concerns scupper peoples travelling plans and whilst in reality finances are important, we often need much less than we think we do. After spending a total of 5 and a half months in South America, I would say as a ball park figure from anybody coming from England a sum of 700-1000 pounds per month (excluding flights) is more than enough to visit South America and live and travel in comfort. Of course this depends heavily on where you go. South-East Asia for example is much cheaper and even within South America prices tend to vary greatly from country to country. It also depends what you want to see and do – Treks and specialist activities such as Paragliding and Scuba diving can cost a lot so you may need to budget separately for these.
All of the above represent important considerations for anyone looking to go travelling but one thing is for certain, despite the necessary planning and questions to ask yourself before setting out, travelling is something that you will never, ever regret so make sure you do it at least once in your life!