I N T R O
This section is the one I wish I started a long time ago. At the time of writing this, it has nearly been three years since I left for my adventure. Fortunately, I wrote a diary and have thousands of pictures to help me relive this adventure. Funnily enough, I have actually put off writing about this for so long due to the range of emotions created from seeing the pictures from this time of my life. Sometimes, for reasons obvious or not, reminiscing can be just far too overwhelming. However now, I feel ready and excited to relive my own experiences through writing which will hopefully help anyone wishing to visit these countries (hopefully in the near future) plan their very own adventure.
First things first, I had known I had wanted to do this trip for a couple of years. When I finished my Undergraduate in 2016, I was undecided whether to work for a while and do the trip, come home and do my Masters or vice versa. As much as I wanted to just get away, I figured I’d have a better shot at passing my Masters if I did it while I was still in the education frame of mind. I finished up in London in September 2017, came home and worked from October to May, saving every possible penny.
I wish wish wish I had written this at the time, as there will potentially be SO much I am missing out, but I know for sure I will have remembered the most special parts. Please do feel free to contact me if you want any more information about anything – small or large!
P R E – T R A V E L
S A V I N G
I started off working in a gym and although I really loved the people and enjoyed the job, let’s just put it this way- I wouldn’t have been going anywhere in May on the wage. So fortunately, I got a better offer earning more money with a company who were aware of my 6-month availability. I set up a MONZO bank account and created a ‘Travelling’ pot to store away my savings. During the week I kept my expenses down to purely: fuel and food. I allowed myself to do a few things at the weekend but was always cautious of my spending and gently reminded myself that £10/£15 here and there at home, could go a long way in Asia. Another good thing I found out with Monzo was their exchange rates were always the best while I was away, which does end up adding up if you’re not careful.
Closer to my departure date, I savagely cleared out my wardrobe and set up a DEPOP account. I didn’t put anything up for much, but I knew it would shortly be no use to me anymore. Everything I earnt went straight into my savings pot. The final item I sold was my first car, my beloved cream mini. This of course, depends on how serious you are and how long you plan on being away for. I planned on being away between a year and a year and a half, so to me it was logical to do so.
P L A N N I N G
As I mentioned earlier, I have had a rough plan of where I wanted to travel for a long time in my head. As it was my first time going backpacking, I did take our plan into STA and asked for some travel advice. I had heard mixed reviews about peoples STA* experiences, but I did indeed find them very helpful. We got a brilliant price for all of our base flights and secured them with a £49.00 deposit. I think now having done this trip, I would be more free while travelling and book as I am going along. However, I am glad I had this base for my first time. Flights were organised in the October, so about 7-months before we left. At this point we now had our flights booked from London to Bangkok (stop in Dubai), Singapore to Manila, Manila to Bali (stop in Kuala Lumpur), and Bali to Sydney, costing £700 total. With the deposit, it also gave us around 10 weeks to pay the full amount. (*STA are sadly no more due to COVID-19)
(Plot twist, we actually didn’t manage to get to Philippines or Bali on this trip… but I’ll save that juicy bit for later.)
I N S U R A N C E
So important! An absolute must. The amount of people who we witnessed, especially in Vietnam, with terrible injuries mostly from motorbikes was shocking. Of course, all travel companies offer their own insurance so search around and see what suits you and your plans most.
I went with a company called Neil Willies- https://www.neilwillies.co.uk. It is a company I had used previously in my Camp America days and they offer a well-covered Long stay & Backpacker extended insurance. I paid a total of £534.00 including tax for a year’s cover, which I renewed the following year at around £200.00.
I did end up falling quite ill in Cambodia and after trying to battle it for a few days, my body gave in and I had to go to the hospital. You hear of this all the time. From falls, to dengue fever to simple heat exhaustion. Always have insurance, and on that note, make sure its handy to you if you’re ever to (touch-wood not) need it.
V I S A S
I guess I will touch on this section in each country, however I will just mention I did submit for my Australian Visa (Working Class 417) in the March, two months before I went away. This is because I could afford it at the time, it is valid for a year (it starts when you enter the country) and the time varies to receive your grant letters. Luckily, I was granted a visa quite literally straight away. You can do this very easily on https://online.immi.gov.au/lusc/login. I was so stressed out about doing this, as everyone made it seem scary, but it was absolutely fine. This visa enables you to live and work in Australia for a year from the day you arrive. Remember, if you want to get your second year visa, you need to complete 3-months agriculture work in a rural area of Australia. From July 2019, for individuals on their second 417 visa, you now also have the option to complete 6-months agriculture work for a third year visa. More on this to follow.
P A C K I N G
Oh God. I am positive everyone leaving for a trip of unlimited time & uncertainty has had this dreaded feeling of how the hell do you fit your life into one backpack?
First off, if this is your first time, my biggest advice is to buy a bag that zips all the way around and not the one that ties at the top. This was the best thing ever while I could access all of my bag, my travel partner had two options of either emptying the contents of her bag or only wearing whatever was on the top.
I purchased a ‘Voyager’ 50L bag, with a small 20L backpack that clipped onto the front from Mountain Warehouse. There is so much choice, but please consider you’re carrying this bad boy on your back for however long in 30+ degrees. My bag was a lot smaller, which meant I could pack less. But how thankful I was! I think it weighed in at 13kg at the airport. My life in 13kg, lol.
Unfortunately, I no longer have my exact packing list but it went a little like so:
- A week’s worth of pants & socks
- Two bras
- Two bikinis
- Pair of Pyjamas (long trousers if you get attacked by mozzies like I do)
- Birkenstocks (every outfit I wore was ruined by these ugly mother f’s)
- Flip flops
- One pair of trainers (wear to airport)
- Couple of vest tops
- Couple of ‘nice’ tops
- Couple pairs of shorts
- Pair of jeans
- Couple of dresses/skirts (steer clear of denim. Its heavy and even heavier when your whole bag gets drenched on a leaking bus or caught in a tropical storm)
- A long sleeved top
- One jumper (wear to airport)
- Leggings (also wear to airport)
- A micro-fibre towel (PLEASE check the size of it before you leave, unlike me who took a micro-fibre cloth as my only towel hahaha – not pretty)
- A beach towel (I ended up ditching this pretty soon and buying a pretty material blanket from the market to take to the beach)
- Eye mask & earplugs- essential equipment for shared rooms in hostels. I also took a sleeping bag liner to sleep in the beds at the hostels, because well, ew.
- Neck pillow!! Never heard of anyone surviving a 22-hour bus journey without one
- I ordered these little packing bags before I went off amazon because I’m well, OCD. But they are so great for finding clothes easily without pulling out the contents of your bag.
- Take a distinctive little tote bag or something similar with you to put your dirty laundry in (Haha, I just remembered walking through a Thai town and seeing my clothes hanging on some ladies washing line. Her and her friends thought my thongs were the funniest thing they had ever seen)
- First aid kit, because well, you never know. And you will use it.
The first time I packed my bag, I had straighteners, the full content of my makeup bag, travel hairdryer etc. all rammed in there. Thankfully my friend, who had travelled before assured me I wouldn’t be using any of the above so I took them out and literally took – mascara, BB cream, hair brush & ties. The one time I tried to put makeup on in Asia, it literally slid off my face so what a waste that would have been. And my hair, Hagrid springs to mind.
I think I’ve covered most of the pre- travel essentials. In regards to carrying cash, I only took a very small amount of each currency with me. Everything else was on my Monzo account. Some APPS I recommend to download are:
- XE Currency
- Hostel World
- Maps.me (Loved this as you can pin where you go for memory & people can send you pins of where they went to help with your route. The GPS also works offline if you plan your route prior, meaning you can use it as a SAT NAV without data)
- Grab (amazing in Vietnam, we got a couple of grab bikes which work out as nothing)
- STA travel
- Air Asia/ Cebu Pacific (and any airlines you fly with)
- City Mapper
So here goes, stop number 1 – Thailand.
“WANDERLUST”(n.) a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.