If you have enough time to spare whilst backpacking then hopping aboard an overnight bus can be full of interesting and ahem unforgettable experiences. It is one of the cheapest ways to get from A to B, a great chance to mingle with the locals and meet other backpackers heading in the same direction but it doesn’t come without its down sides.
Cramped seats, roads not touched since the stone age and hours upon hours of endless mind-numbing boredom sometimes make you wish you hadn’t been such a scrooge with your budget.
But you can get through it and even feel smug at how far you travelled on so little cash. Here’s how to survive the never ending road trip:
Plan in advance – Book your seat, not too near the toilet or the door for smell and safety reasons. Charge your ipod, phone and kindle before you board, take a pen and paper, pack of cards, flick through your guidebook and as I explained in this post make the most of this digital detox me time.
Lock up – I’m sure you already have a heavy duty padlock firmly attached to your backpack well make sure you use it! Put all your valuables in your smaller day pack that never leaves your side (sleep with it nestled against your body) and only put stinky clothes in the hold of the bus.
Stretch – Like a long haul flight you need to walk around and uncurl those limbs from time to time. Usually these long distance busses stop en route a fair few times, most likely at overpriced tourist stations where naff souvenirs and pricy food can be bought so instead use that time to stretch your legs rather than stock up on crap you don’t need.
Pack a picnic– Like I said the food stops are expensive and limited so it’s good to have a small bag of healthy snacks, drinks and sweet treats to keep you going.
Be early – There is nothing worse than rushing through a town you don’t know to get to the bus station on time. When I was in Chile I’d smugly booked my bus seat the day before, turned up with 15 minutes to spare only to realise the place I’d bought the tickets from wasn’t the place where the buses left from! Arrrgghhh!! Cue a panicked sweat dripping run with heavy backpack crushing my sunburnt shoulders to make it in the nick of time.
You get what you pay for – Some bus companies offer VIP seats where you get snacks, reclining leather seats and DVDs to watch. Others offer the cheap and dirty hard seats, no legroom and a box of squawking chickens next to you. Ask other backpackers or at your hostel for reputable firms and options.
Be flexible – As with a lot of backpacking you need to chillax and go with the flow. Sometimes buses run late, break down (which happened to me over the border from Peru to Bolivia) and unexpectedly stop for hours for no reason other than the driver wanted to go and chat with his friend. Take it all in your stride and enjoy the journey.
Can you add anything to this list?
Being a travel blogger y’all know how much I love discovering new places, interesting people and let’s not forget amazing unable-to-pronounce food! But something that I don’t love so much is the actual travelling. You know the getting from point A to point B thing? Yeah, that part isn’t so high on my happiness list.
The stress of making your flight on time, having to undress to get through airport security, sitting in a cramped seat for hours with no way of escape. The pre-trip nerves at who will be your travel companion, your fingers crossed you don’t get lumped with a noisy over-eater, slobbing on your shoulder snorer or screaming tired toddler. Hours of delays, cancelled trains, buses or flights and that out of body experience as you race from one terminal to another to make your connection doesn’t exactly scream ‘fun’ does it?!
But there are ways to jazz up that journey and even *gasp* enjoy the experience. Here are my top 5 tips:
What would you add to this list? Do you hate the travelling part too?
I’d love to hear from you! Remember you can tweet me @notwedordead, send me a comment in the box below or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you ready for the bare faced chic of backpacking?
Before I went travelling the thought of leaving the house without even a dab of concealer or lashings of mascara freaked me out. Not that I was a really girly girl (bar the odd party nights out when I went from plain Jane to Barbie doll) but I’ve just never been that confident in my own skin.
Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses, add to that spots, red blotches and crooked teeth and you’ve got yourself one self-conscious worrier.
I even took a full bag of make-up with me the first time I travelled alone. Cringe. What backpacker has tubes of foundation stashed next to their travel wallet and passport? I was so naïve of just how much travel would change the way I viewed myself, not just on the inside but the outside too.
I probably only wore make-up on the first day I arrived in Bangkok to add a little colour to my lily white cheeks and again when I celebrated Christmas, a special occasion and all that. Apart from that I went bared faced, my make-up bag doing nothing more than weighing me down, a constant reminder of how much I’d previously relied on this expensive comfort blanket.
You see heat, humidity and sweat does not a perfect base make. There was no way foundation would have clung onto my skin even if I had layered and contoured it on. Dripping panda eyes is hardly the height of chicness, not to mention how out of place you look all dolled up when other backpackers embrace the laid back look.
I soon got used to rolling out of bed, running a cold shower to wake me up, spraying a blast of deodorant and if I was feeling really on form then maybe running a brush through my sun damaged hair. I had so much more time on my hands when getting ready for the day took less time than it did when I used to struggle over perfecting the cat eye flick. Curse you Alexa Chung.
With this new daily routine I started to grow in confidence. Slowly allowing myself not to worry if the group of strangers I’d met in a hostel could see that irritating cluster of spots around my chin or that my eyebrows hadn’t been threatened with a pair of tweezers for a few days, and instead enjoyed just being me. A very casual, relaxed but happy me.
Soon I developed a tan, my freckles took the place of acne scars and a dab of SPF lip salve to stop my lips from burning was all I needed. I finally felt good about myself. I made friends not through my looks but through my personality. I relied on my charms, sparkling sense of humour and modesty to meet people and let my hair down.
Since returning to some level of normality living and working in northern France, where the weather rivals the UK for sunny days, I admit that my make-up bag has been back out. The tan has faded, the spots are annoyingly reclaiming their place (argh adult acne be gone!!) and it has taken a few trips to the hairdressers to improve my straw-like split ends, meaning the free spirited hippy look has had a mini makeover.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that make-up is a negative thing. It is a luxury us women have to highlight our features, accentuate our best bits and to hide pesky dark circles but when make-up is used as a mask – hiding yourself or changing how you want to be perceived – then that isn’t healthy.
I don’t wear make-up every day but when I do I chose a much more natural look. I haven’t worn fake tan or applied fake eyelashes for at least 2 years (they were a Saturday night staple before) and my heavy foundation has been swapped for a lighter CC cream. I guess it could also be a combination of getting older, surviving the big 3-0, realising this is the skin I am always going to be in so I may as well love my flaws. But if I hadn’t had that wakeup call when I backpacked I doubt I would have come to this realisation so quickly.
You are you.
You are beautiful. Seriously.
I am currently drowning in French paperwork. I seriously don’t know how people can move to France with just a basic GCSE French and work their way through the mountain of paperwork in order to live and work here.
It is immense.
I am so lucky as I have my boyfriend and family who are able to guide me through this process translating formal letters, explaining the bizarre doctor’s waiting room customs and keeping me sane when everything takes so long. Even with all their support it still feels like a losing hair-tearing out battle. Looking to come and live over here? Well get testing out that patience skill as you will need it.
I could post a whole series of how-to’s when moving to France as the medical, employment and housing system are all TOTALLY different to what I am used to back in England. But to spare you from my rants about how confusing and drawn out a lot of the processes are here (let’s just say I’ll never take the NHS for granted again) I’m just going to focus today on how I found renting an apartment.
Simple? No. Stressful? Yes. Worth it? Totally.
To rent an apartment the first thing you need to get in order is your dossier – basically a folder of paperwork with photocopies and original sheets of important documents (ID, bank details, job contract, bills, medical info etc) that have to be checked over by a solicitor. You also need two guarantors who must also provide all their personal details. When all these pieces of paper are compiled together your dossier begins to look like a short version of War and Peace.
You see a place you like. You ask for a viewing. You have the viewing. You have to make an appointment to register your interest, not just a quick phone call but a face-to-face chat with the estate agent.
You then have to prepare your dossier making sure everything is as it should be according to what they need to see proof of. You arrange another appointment to show and explain your dossier (like an estate agent version of the Apprentice persuading them why your credentials mean they should chose you as the tenant.) If someone else is interested in the same apartment you have to wait for them to present their details too, so you both have a fair chance of persuading those suits to pick you!
During this lengthy wait you stress and panic that you didn’t use the right coloured ink, forgot a form they asked for, photocopied the wrong thing or didn’t use the blood of a virgin unicorn to sign your name.
Then you wait.
If you’ve been chosen (a joint decision by the landlord, estate agent and solicitor) then you get the call telling you it is yours! Woo hoo. Finally it is celebration time!
You have to arrange another meeting to sign the documents and pay the deposit (as well as the first month of rent). You have another meeting to get the keys in your clammy little hand and do the inventory checking you won’t get screwed over when your lease comes to an end.
You move in, promising yourself that you will live here forever and ever so as not to go through this process again!
I couldn’t find a suitable photo for this post but figured a jar of nutella telling you it loved you is always nice to know! So I mentioned here how important it was to have a cheerleader in your life, someone who will give you those all-important pep talks to perk you up. But for this week’s #howtobehappier post I want to turn the attention back to you.
You know when you have days that are just a little flat, maybe your motivation is at a low, you’re tired, got an enormous to-do list but none of interests you so you spend the day watching cheesy films, munching on snacks and promising you will tackle it tomorrow. Only it always feels like you’re saying it will happen tomorrow!
Well the key here is to talk to yourself in the 3rd person. Okay so you may seem a little loony but stick with me here. By talking to yourself in this way it’s easier to realise what needs to get done, and that no opening a second pack of hobnobs probably isn’t the wisest idea ever.
When I first went backpacking all on my own my mum wrote me a list of do’s and don’ts. The one that stuck with me was to treat yourself as you would your best friend. You would never let him/her do things that would make them unhappy. You can be more objective if you imagine yourself as another person, one that you love and care for. It’s much easier to see where problems lie and how to tackle them when you look at your habits from a different perspective.
Have you ever had a friend ask you for some advice and you can’t understand why, as the answer is so obvious? Well it may be obvious to you what they should do but sometimes we can’t see the wood from the trees, you need a fresh pair of eyes to help you figure your way. YOU can be those fresh eyes if you imagine yourself in the third person.
For example: Katy should really get dressed, get out of the house for some fresh air and get off the internet, rather than slob on the sofa knowing she has stuff to do. She doesn’t really need to google videos of pigs sneezing or read another BuzzFeed article. Getting out will help her feel better and maybe provide some inspiration for that next scene she should be writing but has in fact been staring at a blank laptop screen wondering how the hell sentences even work.
You will look weird giving yourself a telling off/kick up the bum but if it was my best friend telling me this then I would totally be running (okay walking quickly) out of the front door with my notepad in hand.