When preparing for our dream backpacking trip I was painfully organised; I’d spend hours comparing routes and locations, looking up hostels, flicking through Lonely Planet for recommended hot spots and finding out local delicacies so that I could fully prepare myself for foreign foods. I even made The Beard and I get all our injections about five months before our trip to avoid suffering any side affects on our travels. We had First Aid cases full of meds to prevent any illnesses occurring. But in reality you can’t prepare for everything and there are some last minute hitches you just can’t foresee happening. You may plan for an absolutely perfect journey, but I think everyone should acknowledge the following three things before you set off on your backpacking adventure.
YOU WILL GET ILL
It’s Inevitable. Whether your trekking through India, partying through Thailand or biking it through Vietman, at some point during your trip, you will get ill. I didn’t meet one single backpacker that got through their entire tour a complete picture of health. I was ill in Bangkok, then again in Ha Noi and one more time in Hoi An. It is best to avoid tap water and only drink bottled water, however your mind does forget and you order ice in your drinks, or brush your teeth using the taps, so just be careful. Food poisoning could happen too as a lot of the food isnt washed to the standards we are used to, and you can’t always tell, BUT, don’t let this ruin your trip. Don’t be afraid to eat the local food sold on the street, or try that delicious soup served in the shack, unfortunately it’s a risk you have to take. My advice to all is as long as others are eating there and there is a good crowd, it’s normally safe. However, you can’t always know, so at some point your probably going to be sat on a toilet having major food regret. If you do get food poising drink lots of BOTTLED water, or go to a local chemist and they will give you tablets to settle your stomach, most chemists speak English, but in remote places be prepared to do a Bridget Jones and mime your symptoms (I had to do this in China).
YOUR PLANS WILL CHANGE
There is no point in having a super strict schedule or route. Unless your doing a pre-organised coach trip through a travel agent, I can tell you now, be prepared for changes. Things happen that you can’t foresee. Good and Bad. I had a strict route planned which went out the window by week two when I had a leg injury meaning I had to stay put in one place for much longer than expected. But it’s not all doom and gloom (or injury related), jump forward a few weeks and The Beard and I arrived on the Island of Koh Tao with an intended stay period of three nights! Two weeks later we eventually shipped back to the mainland after an incredible and life changing adventure. Truly Amazing. You will no doubt come across places that you find to be absolute Paradise and can’t bring yourself to leave. This happened a few other times on our trip, including an extended trip to Pai (incredibly beautiful) and an overlong stay in Hoi An (too fun to tear ourselves away from).
YOU WILL EAT UNKNOWN FOODS
Unless your going to be boring and only eat packaged foods for fear of food poisoning (but as I said earlier, I advise taking risks, nine out of ten times they pay off) you will no doubt eat things that you have no idea what they are. Whilst munching on cockroaches and baked spider legs is adventurous – and yet somewhat sickening – it probably won’t be the most shocking thing you will eat on your travels. Remember the horse meat scandal back in January 2013? That’s just an everyday normality in some countries, order one thing, eat another. I found that in China a lot of the menus had pictures of the food with completely random English words next to them. On my Birthday we found a nice quiet and small restaurant in Beijing for a spot of birthday lunch. I was craving some sort of duck dish, I pointed to the one I wanted but the waitress shook her head, I took this to mean they weren’t serving it. No bother, I just pointed to another picture that had the word duck next to it. What I was served was a huge chunk of meat, on a huge bone, it was a dark red colour, and I needed plastic gloves to pick it up and eat it. This was definitely not duck. It was also not pork, beef or lamb. We came to the conclusion that I was eating either dog or donkey. Shock Horror. As disturbing as this was at first, being in a new country and culture, that’s what it’s all about, trying out another’s way of life. I finished off the meal, and honestly, it ended up being one of the tastiest meals of my entire trip *hangs head in shame*