Three Questions from a Backpacking Novice

I’m pretty new to this backpacking lark. With less than a week to go now, I’m finding myself speaking to lots of people who’ve “been there, done that” in the hope that I can learn from their mistakes. It’s very nice of them to have taken the fall, and I appreciate them learning the hard way so I don’t have to.

Anyway, here are the three questions I find myself asking more and more.

1. Where the bloody hell do I start with packing?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve travelled with a backpack before, but that was only for a few weeks and I pretty much took my entire wardrobe with me. Amazingly, no matter how short my shorts were and how thin my scoop neck t-shirts were, I still felt like I was lugging a fully grown human around on my back.

Now it’s a bit of a different story. As I’m travelling indefinitely, I want to obviously pack light whilst still having enough clothes to not smell like a complete hobo every few days. The main problem isn’t a lack of choice, it’s the fact that I can’t bring myself to decide what I want to take! Add to that the fact that I have to think in terms of practicality as well as style (no snarky “style” comments please…), and I’ve got a serious struggle on my hands. 

I’m currently making my way through this, slowly.


So far I think I’ve chosen:

• four t-shirts
• one long sleeved top
• a pair of jeans
• three pairs of shorts

I’m hearing that this is already too much, in which case I think I’m actually going to have a breakdown.

2. How much should I plan?

I don’t do planning. I don’t like sticking to rigid plans. I only bought a backpack last week for god’s sake. I’m extremely laid back and more than happy to just go with the flow and be spontaneous.

However, it recently dawned on me that it might be wise to have some sort of plan as I’m jetting off to the other side of the world with a one way ticket. Just an idea anyway.

Thankfully, I’m going to Australia for my step-brother Mike’s wedding with the family, which kind of forces my hand in terms of plans. In other words, my mum’s sorted out flights and a stopover in Singapore, time in Sydney and finally Coff’s Harbour for the wedding. After the wedding, I’ve decided to head to Surfer’s Paradise for a bit with my other step-brother, Chris.

When Chris leaves, I’m back to having no plans. I barely know anything about Australia so haven’t planned anything else. Here’s hoping I can wing it!

3. How easy is it to get work?

I’m under no illusions, I know the length of my stay is probably dependant on whether I get work or not. I’ve saved some money, enough to last me quite a while, but the more I hear about Australia the more paranoid I get about running out of cash.

Also, did I mention that I’m a little office boy who doesn’t like getting his hands dirty? A snob, some may say, so the idea of fruit picking in a field doesn’t necessarily jump out as a great option. Ah well, needs must.

Are you a seasoned backpacker? How do you like to pack, plan and work?

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9 responses to “Three Questions from a Backpacking Novice

  1. You’ve just got to eliminate as much as you can.. Trust me, when I travelled around Europe for 2 months there wasn’t a single thing I wish I had that I wasn’t able to buy. Just bring the least amount of clothes you think you will need, minus some.

  2. Just a heads up, my mates who have gone to Oz to work spontaneously have all got manual labour type jobs as after 2 months of getting nowhere and running out of money paying for hostels, food etc (Oz apparently has a really high cost of living) they have just had to take anything they can get to be able to stay.

    By day, a lot of them are like, crate-packers, factory workers, carnival workers, fruit pickers and then by night they’re barmen, waiters, merchandise sellers etc. You need 2 part time jobs to make enough, so i’m told.

    My line manager was a tomato picker too for 5 month and lived in a hostel with her co-workers. According to her, you only make so much money each week to either spend or save, but not enough to do both.

    If you’re thinking of working, you should look in to BUNAC, they specialise in finding work for Brits in Oz, NZ, USA, Canada etc and do a lot of the work in terms of VISA’s and stuff. Plus they send out groups so you can have penniless friends with you, at least.

    • Yeah, the whole manual labour thing was a bit of a joke (although as you know, I am a complete snob). I’m fully expecting to get my hands dirty and take whatever I can to get by whilst I’m in Oz! Will be sure to look into the BUNAC thing, sounds good!

      I guess a lot depends on how long I stay I Oz too, as my plans are so loose I’ve no idea where I’ll be in six months or so!

      Are you still planning to travel?

      • Haha, you really are winging it aren’t you. Fair play. Whatever you do it’ll be an experience i suppose. If you’ve got your TEFL thing that could come in handy in Malaysia or Indonesia i guess?

        Yeah, I do, it’s just a case of when. I want to travel without needing to work really, so gonna have a few more months of saving up and maybe re-assess the situation later in the year and hopefully start planning when i’ve got like 10k saved. Reckon i could do a lot of it comfortably for that.

      • Yeah, aiming to finish off some online TEFL stuff too before I go, no rush eh?

        Haha yeah, my hands are a little tied with the wedding so I had to go out now no matter what. Maybe don’t have as much cash as I’d like but just glad o be going now!

  3. Now mate. I know 4 lads out in Melbourne at the minute, 1 is a qualified car mechanic and got a job as that, the others are doing call centre work and stuff like that. My mate said he picks up over $4k AUS a month and spends $1k on living costs (they all live in a weird double studio apartment, but they live well). Also, have a look a media jobs out there, I’ve looked in the past and to be honest, there’s quite a few. Our degree will count for something out there mate, don’t worry about it. For a 2nd years visa you have to do manual work, like the strawberry picking you mentioned, but that’s only if you haven’t been sponsored by a company. Get in touch with your local LOCAL paper too, see if you can write for them for nothing about your travels whilst your away (you’ve probably thought of that lol). I’ve heard a few contradictory stories about living costs in Aus, but you’ll be fine pal. I’m planning on moving out there when I’ve finished my teaching course in 18 months, been told ill get a teaching job fairly alright out there. Good luck though Jack, try not to get bummed in your sleep. Remember why you’re on this planet lol

    • Haha that quote will stay with me forever!

      Yeah, I know I’m going to have to work and it was a little tongue in cheek talking about fruit picking really. Realistically, I’ll do anything within reason! Cheers for the advice though, it’s good to know there are people out there doing alright!

      How’s the teaching course going?

      • Haha good! It’s the quote that runs my life nowadays.

        Aye you’ll be fine, if my mates can find work out there (met them after uni, no degree, A levels etc) then you should get snapped up.

        The teaching course is going well mate, despite not having paid work (as I’m not qualified obviously), but aside from that, yeah it’s actually going good thanks. Feels weird teaching people A level English, especially when more than half the class know quite a bit more than me lol but it all goes with experience I suppose ha.

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