So we’ve scrimped and saved for two years, picked the route, booked the tickets and jumped for joy when handing in our notice at work. But once the jabs and visas have been sorted, the equipment researched and purchased and a rough route around each country mapped, what we really want are tips from those in the know. Which hostels have the best view? What phrases will serve us the best? Which tours will astonish us the most? And of utmost importance, just where can we get the best food?
Top tips can come in all sorts of packages, from the person I met at a music festival who was so excited about all the places we were going to, he took an hour to write down all his ideas in purple pen on the back of a leaflet, to the friend who went into terrifying detail about the hotter-than-hot soup that was the best thing she had ever eaten but that made her cry “in a good way”.The most bizarre and specific tip came from the lady at work whose top tip for India was “take a sports bra for the bus and camel rides”. Now I am not sure how useful that ‘titbit’ will be for my boyfriend… but I have definitely put said item in my pile of travelling things.
And that’s another thing: I have been collecting all sorts of things since I started planning the trip. The pile currently includes amongst other things, a seam-free head scarf (an essential tip from another traveller), 10 bottles of hand sanitizer gel (thanks Dad, I know the money in India is dirty) and five seriously annotated guide books (this is where an iPhone would come in handy).
My original plan to take no more than 11kg in my bag seems to be looking pretty unlikely and the whole ethos of travelling is surely not ‘collecting’ stuff. But then on the other hand, I suppose it is; I fully expect to collect friends, photos, recipes and an array of strange items that in years to come will raise the question “what was I thinking?”. But that’s the other fantastic thing: I won’t be thinking. At least not about the things that seem to have become so important in my little world, like commuter traffic and the price of petrol and the latest media sensationalism. All I will be thinking about is the memories that I’ll be collecting and where I might go next!
So with my sport bra for Pushkar Camel trips, my shopping list for Hoi An tailors, my cycling legs for Angkor Wat and my stomach of steel for Queenstown, I’m about to start my next collection: tickets.