Oh those were the days, backpacking in the 90s – young, slim, careless and free. How things have changed! It’s a whole different ballgame now - from my fitness levels to how connected we are wherever we are.
Here's a list of what is different for me as I set off traveling now with my five year old, Emmie:
1. Phone cards and poste restante V The Internet.
The first time I went traveling there was no internet. Well there was, but computers were really big desktops, I think there was a search engine by alta vista and technology just wasn't happening for the every-traveller like it is now. We relied on phone cards used in public phones and scheduled mail sent to post offices for us to pick up en-route. Now, well, we could be connected every minute if we wanted to. And I’m happy cause it means we can blog and share our adventures on Instagram, and it gives me greater peace of mind that I can get help in an emergency if needed. I don’t think blogs existed when I first went backpacking.
2. Ridiculous budgeting V Just no way I'm going to do that anymore.
We stole toilet paper, we walked for hours carrying our packs rather than pay $2 for transport and when we did use transport we took the cheapest way even if it took hours longer, But never again. I'm all for stretching my money as far as I can, but I have limits (and now I also have standards).
3. Sleeping in dorms and dodgy rooms V Resort and mid-range
We slept in concrete squares with no windows, disgusting old mattresses and a dodgy ceiling fan, we walked miles to find the cheapest hostel or room. It was fun at the time. It’s a part of being a cheapskate backpacker. This trip there’ll be no dorms as I’m with Emmie, and we will stay cheap but safe and reasonable with our own bathroom, interspersed with resorts. Again - standards.
4. Risky business V Careful and mindful
Taking a 14 hour ‘boat’ trip to Sumatra (it was scary and we were lucky to make it), getting stranded on the Egyptian highway, hitching in Syria, sleeping in a bus in the middle of no-where in Turkey (with the drivers down the back) and lots of other retrospectively scary situations…on this trip we’re going to be careful and where we go, when and who with. We will still be adventurous, but mindfully so. I’m happy to go off the beaten track, explore, eat street food and take public transport – but we’ll be careful to not take un-necessary risks.
5. Cheapest airline ticket V safest airline
On our first backpacking trip my partner in crime and I flew Egypt Air and spent half the flight down the back smoking and drinking with the crew. We walked off in Singapore with bags stuffed with Aussie reds and started our insane trip to Sumatra on dodgy public ferries that looked like they were built by Noah back in the day - the wine and ciggies came in handy on the terrifying 30 hour trip across the ocean. These days it’s Qantas first, One World second and then subsidiaries with solid reps. I’ll now choose safety over price any day.
6. Rocking up V Booking ahead
Back in the day we would just decide where we were going, rock up and look for somewhere to stay. We’d use work of mouth and tips from other backpackers we’d met on the road, we had a Lonely Planet and we just took a punt we’d be able to find a bed. These days everyone is online…even the dodgy hostels. I can literally book our whole trip from budget to five stay over the internet – which is great when traveling with a five year old, but does take a bit of the adventure out of the trip. I’d suggest not booking ahead if you don’t need to. Get to where you’re going, take a look around and then pick your digs.
7. Dodgy backpacker integrity V Resort life
We were so committed to the backpacker life staying in a resort didn't even cross our mind. We pitied people who stayed in resorts. How could they possibly have the authentic experience we were having - poor, stingy, dirty and real. Now to that I say hahahahaha as I check into my fancy room, have my long, warm bath, drink my good wine and hang out by the pool.
8. Drinking and love affairs V Sobriety and chastity
Oh well we can't have it all and while I will have a few wines when we’re at resorts and Em is in bed or in Kids Club I’m going to be super vigilant and careful, which means not even a glass of wine when we’re on the road, and definitely no male company, no matter how lean and outdoorsy they may be.
9. Daggy old clothes V Looking presentable
When we first went backpacking we took all the old daggy clothes we had and a few sarongs and that was it. For some reason it's a habit I've stuck with on all subsequent trips that have involved trekking or being off the beaten track. But not this one. I want us to look nice! We still wont pack much - we can’t, we don't have room - but we’ll pack some nice clothes for our trip.
10. One FILM camera V Laptop, digital camera, go pro, international hotspot, external hardive, extra video hard drive, battery back
How crazy is this? 15 years ago I took one camera with me…and a heap of film canisters, which I then had to carry around with the used film in it and develop it when we got home. This trip I’m taking my phone, my GoPro, a digital camera, my laptop, two hard drives, a mini charge bar, a kindle, Em’s ipad, an assortment of chargers and cords and goodness knows what else. If I could I would take my own mobile hotspot but I can’t find out that works in enough of the countries we’re going to to make it worthwhile.
11. Sleeping at the airport V Lounge access
Oh how times have changed, from sleeping in airports - I once missed a flight to Sardinia and slept the whole night at London Luton, underneath a metallic structure in the middle of the entry hall. Um, never again. These days I have lounge access and enough money to actually afford a night in a hotel should we need it. Thank goodness!
Less than six weeks to go til we start our Big Adventure! If you have any tips, please leave them in the comments! xoxo