Since deciding to leave the country back in May 2013, I’ve done absolutely nothing in the way of planning, packing or getting remotely ready for this trip (minus booking flights and telling people I’m attempting to leave the country). It’s a pretty standard way of organising things in my life: planning and I tend to end up in a deluge of stressful lists and post-it notes that multiply every time I look at them.
It’s the final six days before leaving, and currently I’m surrounded by a pile of clothes, some extremely tiny travel towels (lesson number one: don’t just guess that you’ll probably fit into a 45x90cm towel. You won’t. Unless you’re a very small person or a child), and a snazzy new rucksack that I picked up for £45 in a sale at Black’s.
Seeing as some of my uselessness might be helpful to other people who are even more rubbish at planning than me, here’s everything I’ve learnt during the run-up to going:
1. Getting a guide book doesn’t mean you’re automatically planned and ready to go. However, it does make it seem like you’re being a very well-prepared and productive individual, so there’s that. I’m now the proud owner of a stack of Australian guide books, all of which I’ve flicked through maybe four times (in eight months), and selected a few obscure and most-likely unrealistic activities to try. Guide books are great for inspiration, but mine have turned out to be slightly more distracting than helpful – though saying that, I’m sure they’ll come in handy when I land and start really planning (haha).
2. The fewer clothes the better. I’m one of those people who packs eighteen different outfits for a weekend away, and then wears one religiously: ‘ruthless’ and ‘packing’ rarely appear in the same sentence with me (unless it’s “I’m not very ruthless with my packing”, obviously). Deciding to visit Canada in the depths of its winter and then go onto Australia’s manic summer may not have been the best move, but it’s certainly honing my packing skills. I’ve gone for a load of thin tops, t-shirts and a few jumpers, with the idea that I’ll just wear everything every day at the same time in an attempt to stop from freezing in Canada, and then probably wear nothing and die in a pool when I get to Australia.
3. No one tells you how crazy you’ll feel before you go. I can safely say I didn’t think it was possible to feel happy, excited, scared, nervous, sad, forgotten, impatient, and relaxed all at once. People say things like this are an ’emotional roller-coaster’ but that’s a lie. Roller-coasters have a very definite end in sight, and they go up and down in a very uniform fashion. This is more like being in an emotional tumble-dryer. Anyone who’s ever travelled will probably say this all settles down soon, but I won’t lie, the prospect of journeying to the other side of the world on my own is terrifying.
4. Phones are confusing these days: I have no idea if my iPhone’s unlocked, whether it’ll work when I get out of the country, how I use the internet on it, and if I can listen to music on the plane on it (although I have an inkling that’s what flight mode is all about…). Luckily I’ve invested in a cheap century-old flip phone to keep me in touch with the rest of the world, but honestly, when did technology get so complicated (slash when did I turn into a ninety-year-old?)
5. It’s totally fine to forget stuff (as long as it’s not your passport/tickets/visas/money). Now this lesson I learnt a few years ago while travelling around Ireland: other countries have useful, day to day essentials too. You don’t need to buy a 5-litre bottle of Coke just in case. Very unnecessary. Obviously I don’t know if I’ve forgotten anything yet (and knowing my luck, it’ll be my passport), but this is one thing I’m very confident about – I can simply buy it somewhere else.
6. Roll don’t fold when you pack clothes. This little tip was a lifesaver going on holiday to Spain with only hand luggage: it’s amazing how much you can fit in a fairly medium-to-small bag when you roll everything up as a clothes-sausage, instead of folding it. Less creases too.
7. Make sure you’ve got copies of everything and important phone numbers written down. I’ve possibly gone a bit over the top on this, printing out everything and anything that has any bearing to the journey, and leaving long instructions and lists of details for my parents, just in case someone steals all my money/my identity.
Pretty certain that’s all I’ve learnt so far, but seeing as that’s been gathered over the last few days, I’m not off to a bad start.