- First listen when I say NO, a wheelie suitcase is not the way forward. We have all considered it, but a night arrival on a rain flooded island made of mud and sand will have you cursing yourself that your neat, compact, easy wheeler hasn't got two big straps to fix it onto your back to escape the torrent of filth. You will find your way into these problematic situations and you will realise why backpackers are called backpackers and not suitcasers.
- Clichéd golden rule.. Pack light. By light I don't mean two pairs of jeans instead of five, I mean.. Do you actually need jeans? At present my backpack is still bulging despite my three ruthless cleansing sessions. You may treat yourself to a bargain t-shirt or bottle of booze, you may adopt clothing from a fellow traveller's chuck away session, you may savour ticket stubs as souvenirs. Your backpack WILL grow. My all knowing wisdom suggests to start off as light as humanly possible. Remember the majority of what you want to pack you can buy over there. Try not to ignore this advice like I did or you will spend far too much of your budget posting back beloved items of clothing you will never need, cannot bear to throw and would not give away.
I am writing this advice on a two day train journey from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok so this is as fresh as it gets...
- Prepare for arctic conditions on trains and coaches. Though you may initially welcome the icy breeze gushing from the vent above, after an hour or so you will be dreaming of a blanket and a warm fire. So as well as your compulsory iPod and earplugs pack a hoody and trousers in your day pack.
- Bring gallons of water! If you don't you will end up grouchy and dehydrated or paying prices so inflated they could probably fly you to your destination.
- Bring snacks! I don't care if you're trying to lose your beer belly, after watching everyone else munching down lays crisps and Oreos you will want them.
- Delve into a good book or watch something on your laptop/iPad/phone. Make sure you have lots to do to fill the time and stop you clock watching.
- Take a travel pillow everywhere you go. Invest in a comfy one, not a cheap blow up plastic one which will melt onto your face. My mum bought me one as a travelling present and it is my best friend on journeys!
- Make sure you have some cash on you. This is my current mistake, planning my money so well that I have no ringgits left leaving Malaysia, but forgetting to pick up any Thai baht. Consequently I am being forced to watch a group of smug Thai's tucking into their hot chicken and rice while my stomach grumbles like my hungry boyfriend beside me.