I am no backpacking expert, as I have started doing it fairly recent and haven’t even done it outside the country.
But I’m sharing this anyway. Below is a list of things I do when planning a trip and things to remember when backpacking. I hope these will help you jumpstart your own adventure!
1. Read and research
I’m really bad with directions. That’s why for me, the most important thing is to get to know your destination. For my first backpacking trip in Negros Occidental in 2015, I did a lot of research a few months before my actual trip. I find that the best source of travel information are blogs. They usually provide information on the cheap accommodations, things to do and sometimes even contact persons or tour guides. Just make sure that the entries you read are recent (at least a year or two).
If you are planning to head north, you can check out my blog and read up on my Northern Luzon adventures: www.eatpraylovel.wordpress.com
2. Plot and plan
After reading up on your destination, you can then plot and plan your itinerary. Get to know specific areas you want to go to and find information on how to get there.
I usually work backwards when doing my itinerary. I first determine my last stop for a trip which is usually the place I really want to go to – save the best for last! Then, I check out the places I will pass by during the trip and identify where I can do pitstops to break the journey.
I usually prepare an excel spreadsheet that has my travel particulars: where to go, how to go there, fare prices and the links where I got my information.
I tend to get OC when planning a trip, but on the travel day itself, my itinerary usually ends up being jumbled around. The good thing about having the spreadsheet is that you already have an idea how to go around a place (where the terminals are located, the name of the place you have to go to, the price, etc…), so it’s easy for you to get directions from locals and not get lured by tourist traps!
I also recommend that you get in contact with your homestay or guide at least a week before your travel. Finalize homestay and guide fees beforehand and avoid unnecessary expenses when you get there.
Having a thorough trip itinerary is important, especially if you are planning to go solo. But always be open to surprises along the way. Getting lost is part of the fun, after all!
3. Cash and kindness
I would like to believe that in backpacking, there are two currencies you can use: your cash and your kindness. The cash you will use for traveling commodities and accommodations, while kindness you will use for experience – maybe even for everything!
I’ve met locals who were willing to let us pitch tents on their backyards for free to pass the night; we’ve shared meals with a family after running out of food supplies. The kindness of people are humbling, that’s why it is best to always have a little something you can leave behind like candies for the kids or medicines for adults. I recommend this especially if you are traveling to remote destinations (a.k.a. places without commercial accommodations).
If you don’t have anything with you, repay their kindness with yours: offer help preparing a meal or cleaning up their place, especially if you are staying in homestays, where there aren’t many hands to help the owner around.
Lastly, always check if there are available ATMs in the area. Otherwise, bring enough cash to last you for the entire trip.
4. Dress down
Backpacking requires a lot of walking, running (after jeepneys or buses), climbing, bumpy motor rides, etc… Basically, you will have to be on your feet and ready to run at any moment.
When planning your outfits, make sure your shoes are sturdy. Check weather reports and pack clothes as needed. Hot or cold, ensure that your outfits are easy to move around and are okay to get stained and dirty – all while still looking good for the camera.
Personally, I prefer dressing down and being discreet as much as I can when traveling. Dressing down allows you to avert unwanted attention. Also, the more you blend in, the more you will appear approachable to locals.
5. Ask a local, earn a friend
The best way to explore a new place is with a local. My favorite part of traveling is the immersion – living life just as locals do.
Never hesitate to talk to locals. More often than not, the ate or kuya sitting next to you is more than ready to answer your questions and help you.
Ask them secret spots that they frequent, their go-to place for local food favorites, and the cheapest way to go around town. Don’t be afraid to ask. The Filipino hospitality is world-renowned after all!
Traveling is also a great way to meet people. Some of the most fun, interesting and inspiring people I met, I met during my travels. If you come across solo backpackers, ask for their itinerary and consider traveling together. Not only will you earn a friend, it’s also a good way to maximize your budget!
Backpacking may feel overwhelming and scary – and I don’t want to say that it’s not. I do still feel overwhelmed and scared before a trip. But as long as you have an open mind, a kind heart and an itinerary, you will be fine. Decide that you will have fun, and you will. And once you get home, you will find yourself craving for the thrill of another adventure.
Ingat and see you on the road!
Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org