As you've probably gathered by now, this is my first real backpacking experience, so I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to, well, everything to do with travelling (aside from city breaks, I'm a whizz at those)!
Most of my advice has come through badgering ex travellers, looking online, finding travellers on Twitter, badgering them, even speaking to total strangers who look like they may be on a trip somewhere.
And, although I haven't actually left the country yet (less than four weeks to go people) I can still tell what advice is going to be the best for me, so here's what I've picked so far:
1.) Don't just rely on travel guides, speak to genuine people, read their blogs, ask questions, join forums, TALK TO EVERYONE! Ok you get my drift.
2.) Start a blog and a Twitter for networking. This helps massively with point 1.
3.) If you're female and this is something you've never done before, read this book:
High Heels and a Head Torch- By Chelsea Duke
It's so easy to relate to and has heaps of advice on pretty much everything you will need when backpacking- it even includes recipes for hostel cooking and a suggested packing list for your trip.
4.) Don't buy a top loader. Go for a travel pack instead so as to avoid taking everything out when looking for something which, inevitably, is going to be right at the bottom.
5.) Don't always get the cheapest thing going. I am terrible for doing this, I can't resist a bargain! But it's true in most cases, if you want quality then you'll have to pay that little bit extra for it. Make sure you allow for this when budgeting as it will make a big difference to your trip. This is particularly the case with walking shoes- A random guy in a hiking shop (buyer, not seller) practically jumped on me when he saw I was about to buy the cheapest pair of shoes going, thinking I wouldn't be doing much walking so what harm could it do? Anyway, he gave me a lecture about how the shoe would let me down when I needed it most, and if I wanted to 'preserve my feet' (eew) I should think about paying a little more and wearing them in for at least a week before I leave. Great advice, thanks random man!
My chosen walking shoes Hi-Tec Women's Quadra Classic Hiking Shoe
6.) Pack one nice outfit and keep it for 'best'. I'm sure this will be much appreciated when I've been wearing the same smelly khaki shorts for 5 days hiking, then I get the chance to smarten myself up and look reasonably presentable for one evening at least. If you look good you feel good, right?
7.) Chose an overnight flight and get some sleep. Chances are, if you can't sleep well on an aeroplane, you're not going to sleep well in a room of about 15 people all snoring, so you better get used to learning to sleep in all conditions. This is one my really helpful STA rep, Natalie, told me as she had done the same trip as me about a year before. All of my flights are at least 6 hours or something (I'm trying not to count!) and I've opted for mostly all night flights. The plan is to sit down, watch one film, eat the in-flight meal, take some natural sleeping tablets, then crack on the eyemask, ear plugs and sleep pillow and snooze the time away!
I need these!
8.) Relax, enjoy yourself, and take everything backpacking throws at you in your stride. I booked my trip to have fun and experience as much as I can do, so I guess this includes all the scary things too. It's all learning!
I hope you've found this helpful. Please feel free to share your best advice and let me know if there's anything that's really stood out to you :)