What planning does it take? How much more is left?
It’s ok to say that to really backpack around a good chunk of the globe that there really should be no plan. How I wish that were true…It’s not, well not for us anyway.
We had been renting a 3 bedroom house for 6 years, we had boat loads of stuff to move, throw, donate, sell and even keep for our return. we had to organise new bank accounts, visas, flights, somewhere to live, notice for work, things to buy/take, vaccinations to have, medical conditions to sort, families/friends to spend time with, events to attend, studying to finish, Christmas to buy/wrap/give, holidays to go on, gym to attend and a 60 hour working week to attend. All of this and we still had to save money…we’ve done OK with that. We don’t have as much as we’d like but we have more than enough for what we (hope) need!
Being 25 and deciding “Right, I’ve had enough of this life. I live to work and I should be working to live!” is a difficult time in any persons life, but then you have to decide how to change it. I’d always had dreams of going travelling but never thought it would happen in reality. I’d started higher education late and the recession was making it really difficult for me to get into a new company and establish myself and it really wasn’t for lack of trying and then the clock is ticking to be applicable for an Australian working visa.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
So we decided to do it, but we had to sort the house. We rallied as many friends and family members as we could to help us organise our house, I took time off work to pack it all and poor Neet had 2 slipped discs and was useless to me. We did it we got our stuff safely store and moved in with my Gran for 6 months … what an experience that has been.
It’s been chaotic but here is a few things I have learned along the way that just may help any other Brits taking the plunge:
Booking the trip – Although Anita is 26 and I was a 25 year old student we still received a really good service for the price we paid and the advisers at STA Travel Liverpool really did their job. We told them what we wanted and they sorted it in half an hour, it really was that easy. It is however up to you to check your emails regularly because if you miss one you could be in trouble, especially if some details were wrong. What we booked through them (the comments in red I have added retrospectively following our arrival to update the original post):
- Flights (Heathrow > Kuala Lumpur > Sydney) (Brilliant flights, I ordered gluten free meals directly from Malaysian airways and they were perfect);
- Travel Insurance (My surname was spelled wrong as well as the street name on my documents);
- Working holiday visas;
- Australian Tax file no (I received mine fuss free via email, yet they asked Anita to go to their Sydney office to collect);
- Australian Bank accounts (Opened with the Commonwealth bank which has the most ATM machines, this is beneficial as all banks charge for using another bank’s ATM);
- Student ID Card;
- Pre loaded cash cards (£2000 annual limit).
Bank Accounts – In the UK we have moved to HSBC and opened and Advance Account this account gives a number of perks and piece of mind to many for a small monthly fee (we got a joint one so we both benefit and pay the fee only once). The relevant ones for long term travellers are (there are other insurances and covers not applicable unless residing in the UK):
- world pay which costs a meagre £5 to transfer money or £9 with world pay to your Australian HSBC account for up to £2000 and then only 17AD for anything over that up to £50, 000, what is there to complain about with that?
- Red24 (click the link for case studies of how they have helped) they are literally the A Team on the end of the phone, they offer travel advice and they can get you out of a sticky situation in an emergency.
- 24hour telephone and internet banking.
- Emergency cash, HSBC really is the worlds local bank and any branch can help you organise emergency cash or they can do it over the phone.
We opened a HSBC joint account in Australia once we realised it could cost around £40 to send the money and a receivers fee to the Commonwealth Bank, whereas the HSBC account can be linked to our joint account in the UK via global view and transfers cost £5 to send and £5 to receive. Another benefit of two HSBC accounts being joint comes back to when we leave Australia we will only pay one transfer fee between us to send money to our home account. The HSBC has partner banks who’s ATM machines can be used free of charge so it really is convenient to have.
Overall we are glad we have two accounts in Australia because now we have one for our wages and one to save in for tours or sending back home and no matter where we are there is an ATM we can use free of charge. My advice is make sure you know as much as possible about bank charges before you leave the UK, I still don’t know them all because it is really difficult to find a document online or in branch that details everything completely clearly.
Vaccinations – I talked about vaccinations a lot in this post a while back so I’ll mention them briefly here. We decided it was only worth getting some items here as the others can be done in Australian Clinics for pretty much the same price as over here even with the exchange, over there we will be living off what we earn rather than paying for house, car, bills, shopping, holidays, etc. So in theory, I say in theory because I have absolutely no idea until I get there, we should have more disposable cash.
Vaccinations in UK:
- Diphtheria, poliomyelitis (polio) and tetanus booster;
- Hepatitis A;
- Hepatits B (I had this free but Anita’s surgery denied it to her for free, so CHECK);
- Anti-malaria medication. (click here for more on Malaria);
- BCG (Mantoux test).
Vaccinations in Australia:
Finally Packing – It’s really hard knowing what to take, especially hard when you are accustomed to certain luxuries and even harder when you want to save money. Other than an array of clothes I would usually wear at home there are a few bits that are deemed as essentials according to the many backpackers I have spoken to recently:
- BACKPACK – We have 65L backpacks that we bought from Tesco, we checked all the out doors shops and all the ones that opened to access each end easily and had suitable locking capabilities for security were over priced and overrated. We really found our packs completely accidentally when doing our food shop and for £30 (now reduced to £20). They are a bargain, loads of pockets accessible top and bottom, lockable and comes with it’s own rain cover!
- Sleeping Bag Liner – Ok so I’m not expecting Aus to be filthy but some of the reviews for Asian hostels reveal some doubtful ideas about hygiene, so we bought cotton liners from Tesco too (sorry I couldn’t find them online to link them). They were cheap and fit for purpose … great!
- Microfibre travel towels – Mountain Warehouse we salute you. We bought the mega and the small clip on ones, we are hoping to do a lot of travelling by bus, coach or train and don’t want to be searching for our big towels when just having a quick wash at a service stop.
- Zip Off Trousers – Again Mountain Warehouse had great quality products they were soft trousers that weren’t uncomfortable and idea for trekking.
- Mosquito nets – We will buy these closer to when we go to Asia as impregnated nets have expiry dates.
- Foldaway Rucksacks – just for day trips, some big packs have small packs zipped to the front but if yours doesn’t have that design one of these from Amazon are ideal (always check reviews).
- Small first aid kit – For obvious reasons.
- Types of clothing: A good hoodie, long trousers, shorts, leggings (girls only of course), long sleeve shirts (to cover up in areas where you should be respectful), thongs (not the up your bum kind but the between your toes kind), hat, dark underwear and socks (repeated washing makes them not so nice), good pair of walking shoes/trainers. all these along with a couple of tees, tanks and a bikini (or 2 if you can fit one in ;)). There is only you who can decide if you are going to be completely practical or fashion forward (I’m aiming for somewhere in between if I can help it).
TIP: Travel Vacuum bags, they are a life saver when condensing clothes. Bare in mind the more you fit in the heavier your pack will be so don’t go over board.
TIP: Practice pack, take it out, half it, pack again, take it out again, half it again, pack it again and you should be good to go.
So for now that’s about as far as I have got, I’ll update once I’ve actually packed. Hopefully that will be some time before the day of departure, if not I’ll have to wing it.