What I learnt to do on my next trip based on my first solo travel experience. What to pack, how to keep organised and what expectations you might encounter.
1. Invest in a good camera
So this may seem really obvious but I can't tell you how important this is. I took a GoPro with me, my iPhone and iPad. I took photos on all these devices and looking back I just wish I had one impressive camera that I could use for everything. You need one that works in all scenarios - day, night, close up, far away, in all weather conditions, can record awesome videos and has a focus option and it needs to be small enough that you can carry it everywhere with you and not too flashy so that in certain situations there is less of a threat of being robbed. I have done a lot of research on this and I have now invested in a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100. I know that this will be one of the best things I have ever brought and I can't wait to test it out on my next trip.
2. Keep on top of your photos
I never realised how hard it would be to organise 5,000 photos from three different devices, stored in six different portals that I used to save the images throughout my trip. I just wish that I had been more organised at the start, keep your photos stored in one place and try to organise them weekly. Try saving them by location and date, and I recommend using google photos or even Facebook to store your photos so they are saved even if you lose your entire backpack! Trust me, this one is a real life saver when you return.
3. Take a laptop/notebook if possible - and at the very least a tablet
For those 16 hour coach journeys, nights spent stuck in your room being ill, FaceTime and overall organisation on your trip, I found having one of these devices was neccesary. I was away from home for 8 months and I missed my friends and family a lot. Being able to keep in touch through FaceTime was amazing and helped me get through those tough days you don't usually get told about. I could watch Netflix, read a book and go into my own world when I needed to.
4. Will you be keeping a journal? Do it online!
I started my journal on paper. It was a beautiful hard back book and as nice as it was to write down what I felt and experienced, it is a nightmare now. It depends on what you are using it for but I would say keeping the posts online would be the best option. I spoke to a few travellers who had been keeping logs throughout their whole 6 month trips and lost them - never to be seen again! And also if you want to find specific info or what you did on a certain day, copy or post the info elsewhere, or turn it into a book then it would be easier to do online. With all that being said however if this is just a journal for your own personal enjoyment, a paper book can be really unique and beautiful. Also - don't spend your entire time documenting what you ate, saw and did. Make notes to look back on but only things that are worth remembering and realise that not everything needs to be written about. Sometimes its just something you have to experience then and there.
5. What to pack - learnt from experience
Obviously this is completely based on your personal choice but what I learnt from my trip was to not focus too much on having specific travelling clothes. The things I wore most were soft skinny jeans, trainers, light jumpers, shorts and sport leggings. I wished I had taken a nice pair of shoes, more jeans and a small hairdryer as there were times when I visited a beautiful restaurant, maybe in the heart of Medellin, and didn't want to look like I had just got out of bed. I came across people that had completely let go of personal care, they didn't wash regularly, they didn't brush their hair, their choice of clothes was baggy trousers with holes in and they had gone completely o'naturel which involves a complete disregard for shavers...but for me, this is just an idea of what a travellers do rather than there being any substance to it at all. I travel to meet new people, see new things, experience new cultures but does that mean I shouldn't take care of myself and keep doing the things that make me feel good about me? No! My advice, don't fall into the expectations of other people, do what makes you happy and feel great, after all this experience is all about you!
6. Take notes to keep the memories alive
Going on a tour with a local can open you up to real life stories and history from someone who possibly experienced it themselves or grew up in a world where it was all very real. I came across some extremely interesting facts and some funny, enlightening and thought provoking information that I wish I noted down. I would hear stories of myth, reasons as to why the indigenous tribes sacrificed the most beautiful children, how the local people believed the world to be created and more and these stories took my imagination to places I didn't know existed. But try remembering these facts one week, a month, a year later. For most people it's just not possible. Try to make notes of these particular moments the same day they happen so that when you look back in a year's time it jogs your memory and you relive the enjoyment you felt in that moment.
7. Say 'Yes'
And Lastly, don't take it for granted - it doesn't last forever so soak up every single passing minute and say 'yes' to things you might usually say 'no' to. You will get some days where you don't actually feel like doing anything or socialising but the more you let this affect you the worse you feel. Get up, get out and talk, laugh and experience. It's only going to happen once so don't let the opportunities pass by.