I have traveled around the world as much as I could and I have stayed in many countries. Sometimes in fancy hotels and sometimes in off roading situations. Either in my car, or into a tent or just under the stars. I will share some hints and tips I found out while I was travelling around. I am going to refer only to the basics because every country has different needs and every person is different.
I believe the most important thing you should have with you is your smile. Smile breaks any language barriers or the ice you might think there is. In most countries, locals can easily see you when you are a tourist, so if you need any help, just smile and approach them. What I don’t suggest doing is approaching them fast and trying to touch them. In some countries like Japan, people refrain from touching each other. They may think you are trying to rob them or trying to do something inappropriate. Specially we, westerners, look kind of terrifying to some Asians because we are bigger, we have much facial hair and usually more muscles. A really good friend from Iran, Ali, taught me an iranian saying: “Japanese people are like their rice. Small and all together. Iranian people (Greek people too) are big and try to stand alone.” Which is actually true if you have tried their food!
Money is something you should consider carefully. Mobile applications, credit cards and cash are all equally important. In some extreme cases you should have some valuable products with you! Many Asian countries are developed enough to have all means of payment. While I was living in Japan I could pay my bills or my meal with my smart phone just by touching it to a special machine. I believe it was using the NFC technology although I am not an expert. Cash and credit cards were also accepted. In Europe I haven’t found this mobile comfort yet. Cash or credit cards is the most common. On the other hand, in some opposite cases like Mongolia, cash or products are most important. Credit cards are available only in Ulaanbaatar which is the capital. The furthest from the capital the less cash you will need. It’s better to have some bottled water, candy, or alcohol to give to the people you will meet. Trade is another form of money. Mongolia will be a whole other chapter soon because it’s just raw nature with harsh conditions and pure people. Coming soon!
Another bullet point you should check is your team. By the term team I mean the people you will travel with. In the worst case scenario you could travel alone than having some friends you are not very comfortable with. It’s essential to have some people to connect and have same ideas because you will spent time with these people and you must have a great time! Travelling experiences are something you will see/smell/hear/touch/taste in a country usually once in a life time. So you should take care of the team you choose to be with you. Ideally some friends with same ideas and beliefs is the best choice. I am lucky enough to have my girlfriend sharing the same passion with me.
Choosing your gear is very important because you will have to cope with it at all times. Getting specialized gear for every trip is not something easy and usually it’s very costly. If you can do it, do it! In case you can’t, then I suggest you get something you are weak at. That suggests that you know your needs. I like to think about it as a SWOT analysis. SWOT comes from Strengths Weakness Opportunities and Threats. If you are weak with the cold weather, get something warm. Maybe a shirt made from camel leather, or a jacket from Mongolian Yak, or a very good sleeping bag. You know your needs. There are specialized solutions for every need. I prefer to have something to prevent me from getting overheated than getting cold. I go camping in the snow with my summer tent but during summer I need an air-condition with me! Basically, try to make some combinations. Maybe you don’t have the best quality sleeping bag (average cost) but in addition to a survival blanket (really cheap) you have a perfect winter solution. Plan ahead and put yourself into different situations, read reviews and ask other people.
Well… having a camera is almost a must! Nowadays, smartphones have awesome cameras installed but they lack in some aspects. I have a CANON 7D and I use it as much as I can. 99,9% of all the DSLR cameras are way better than a mobile phone. My opinion is simple. If you are going for a photoshoot, take your DSLR with you. If not, leave that baby home. Take a small one, or a mirrorless, or anything that is not as bulky as the DSLR. Travelling means fun, means freedom, means smile! It’s not fun when you carry a heavy camera with you, you are not free to “enjoy the ride”, and certainly you are always worried about your camera not getting stolen or damaged. Trust me, even when you are in your car, safe from other people, safe from the wind and dust, still you are missing some good shots because it takes time to take out the camera, change lenses or even persuade yourself that you have to do it! I have missed many shots because I hate the whole procedure (go get the heavy bag, open it, take my baby out, open the body and lens caps, put them together, make adjustmens aaand…. the shot is gone). Also, when you are with your partner trying to enjoy a beautiful city, you can’t walk with ease holding that big camera, or have a romantic dinner with the camera occupying half of the table. Travel light and you will enjoy more.
- Missing something?
I don’t know if I missed something or if you would like to ask any questions but feel free to do so!
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