How to choose your destination | First Time Backpacker Series

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So, you’ve decided that you’re ready to take the plunge and go on a backpacking adventure.

But then you’re left wondering where the hell to go: do you go inter railing in Europe or partying in South East Asia? Do you go off the grid in South America or take a tour bus round New Zealand? Or do you do a bit of everything?

And then you start to consider and weigh up all of your worries and fears about travelling for the first time, and suddenly you have no clue of where to go.

The first point that I will make is that you should do your best to not stress out about this. The process should be fun – make the planning a part of the adventure!

Here are some simple and easy steps to help you get the ball rolling:

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1) Write out a list of places that you have always wanted to go

I know this is elementary, but it’s where I started when I first started planning my backpacking adventure, and it was what I kept coming back to when I was plucking up the courage to book my flights. I added to this list when I was tired and miserable at work, when I was sitting on the train, when I was tucked up in bed at the end of the day – it was an outlet for my dreams and wanderlust in an otherwise dull world.

Imagine that you have no budget and no limitations. Forget your fears of solo female travel and no-go areas in foreign cities.

Dig up every place, activity, exotic animal, and tourist destination that you have ever wished to experience in your life. Write everything down – no detail is too small and nothing is too extreme.

2) Get on Pinterest

Gather pictures and ideas, and organise them into location-based inspiration boards.

See which areas fill up the quickest.

Are there any locations in particular that you are drawn to?

Have you been pinning places that you had never even thought of, leading you to a whole new dream?

The images I have been pinning lately are photos of Italy and France, so I’m guessing that’s where my heart is telling me to go!

3) Pay the travel agent a visit

I wouldn’t recommend getting travel advice and booking on the same day, but travel agents can be a great source of advice. Chances are, one of the agents will have travelled to where you are thinking of going, and they’ll have great ideas for possible routes and budgeting.

I recommend STA for cheap flights and backpacking information, though be careful with add-ons such as their money card and insurance policy as they aren’t always the best value for money!

Check out my article “Should I book through a travel agent?” for more tips and tricks.

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New Year’s Resolution Inspiration | Getting your New Year’s Resolutions off the ground

Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina

Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina

Many people are getting into the swing of 2016, whilst some of us are, er, slightly lagging behind.

Either way, all we know is that we’ve eaten at least three Terry’s chocolate oranges, and devoured an entire box of After Eights and downed a bottle of Baileys within the hour; the gyms are crowded and uninviting; and kale is still stiff and unappetising.

Some people are screaming “New Year, New Me!”, but let us politely punch those people in the face and get on with more practical matters such as negotiating who gets the last Matchstick.

Having said all that, a small dose of motivation and inspiration never hurt anyone, so I thought that I would take a look around for some useful tips, tricks and web links to help get you in the right frame of mind for 2016.

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“Intercity Milford Sound Day Tour” Review + Is Milford Sound worth the visit?

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I initially planned on hitch-hiking to Milford Sound, but I eventually decided that I just wanted to sit quietly and enjoy the scenery, and so I opted for the Intercity Milford Sound day tour.

The bus section of my tour was well worth the money – it was easier and less stressful than hitch-hiking and I had a fantastic guide. I was less impressed by the cruise in terms of its value for money as both the information and the tour were relatively basic.

Milford Sound is one of the most talked about destinations in New Zealand, creating impossibly high expectations. But, broadly speaking, I enjoyed the tour and I would definitely recommend that you pay the sound a visit, especially if you’re at all interested in geology.

If you have a pretty decent budget and don’t have your own transport, taking a tour is the way to go.

(Note: Costs and overall ratings of the tour are listed at the bottom of this post)

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My New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 – Fitness, Mental Health & Travel

Photo credit: Ivanna Salgado

Photo credit: Ivanna Salgado

I’m not really one for resolutions. I used to love them as a teenager, but my long-standing journalling only seems to prove that I have a habit of not following through on my resolutions (not biting my nails has been number 1 on the list for the last 15 years to no avail). I usually get too caught up on broader goals, such as travelling and academic exams, to keep up with my vague resolutions ( “get fit and healthy” being the classic!).

That being said, coming home after years of travelling can leave anyone in something of an emotional slump, and I don’t want 2016 to seem small and ordinary in comparison to the excitement of years 2013, 14 and 15.

Instead of just looking at the big picture, I want to use this time I have of relative peace and stability to work on some of my smaller and more personal goals:

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How to travel (successfully!) with a friend or partner in 5 simple steps

Photo credit: Ian Schneider

Photo credit: Ian Schneider

Many women don’t feel ready to do the whole “solo female travel” thing on their first foreign adventure, and so opt to travel with a friend or partner.

It always seems great at first – excited conversations about exotic lands and expensive tours start flying, you plan the basic logistics and you both start packing your bags.

However, without proper foresight, things can quickly go downhill. I have witnessed far too many long-standing friendships and relationships fall apart in a haze of arguments and disagreements on the road.

It’s important to understand that being best friends does not automatically equal perfect travel buddies.

However, with a few easy questions and some simple considerations, you can quickly work out whether or not you will be good travel partners.

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