Backpacking guide
Hey, this is the voice of Lonely Planet UK, and we’re here for one thing, and one thing only; to tell you that university ISN’T the only way. A lot of people might talk to you about the prospect of gap-years as if you were considering suicide- ‘Don’t do it’ your loving mum might say ‘You’ve got so much to give’; but your gap year shouldn’t be a problem, it should be fun, and we’ll show you how.
One common myth about gap years is that universities will be put off by your request to defer entry- this is so untrue we can’t really believe it’s still going around! In actual fact, most universities- from Aberdeen to York- actually prefer for you to have a gap year; it will give you new experiences, and make you more self-reliant and independent- exactly what they’re looking for!
Another myth is that a gap year will put you in debt before you even start your degree. Well, it certainly doesn’t have to, and in the vast majority of cases a little forward planning and a little work will make all the difference- the real danger isn’t in taking a gap year, it’s in the lack of planning that’s gone into it. This is where we come in, to put a stop to the heartache, the headache- and the earache brought on by your mum’s moaning, bless her.
The third and final myth is the idea that a gap year has to be all about making a difference and helping charity- whilst that is all well and good (and more power to you if that’s your idea of a good time), don’t feel pressured to do things you don’t want to (yes, you heard it about sex, drugs, booze and now charity, life’s four vices). Your parents, friends and teachers can all be great sources of friendly advice- but in the end, there’s only one person responsible for your decisions. This means that your gap year is simply that- YOURS. Use it to do whatever you want, from earning money to helping kiddies to sitting on your bum all day eating crisps, whatever you want to do, do it. But this booklet is about backpacking, so if that’s not your thing, good luck to you, you are now on your own.
If you’re still reading, then hopefully backpacking IS your idea of a good time. So, without further ado, onwards to how YOU can make the most of YOUR gap-year backpacking holiday. Enjoy!
~ Love from
The Lonely Planet Team

Things to take
When you leave home for your gap year travels, bear in mind that you will probably never have been traveling on your lonesome for so long before, or so far from home; and although you may think that you have everything you need, why not take a look at our minimum requirements list (for ultra-light travel). The approximate weight of all the equipment, before food water and fuel, is shown- but you could always go to to get a more accurate estimate of your gear. Well, it couldn’t hurt, eh?
Ultra-light Equipment (weight: approx 8.8lbs, plus food, fuel and water):

• WM Ultralite, 25 Degree Down Bag
• Ridge Rest, 20″×36″
• Stuff Sack (sleeping)
• Silnylon Tarp, 8′×10′
• Ground Cloth, 2 mil plastic
• Triptease, 50’
• Stakes, plastic, 8
• Stuff Sack (shelter)
• Micro Fleece Shirt
• Wind Pants, Nylon
• Wind Shirt, Nylon
• Fleece Hat
• Socks, Nylon, 2pr
• Gloves, Polyester Liner
• Stuff Sack (clothing)
• Pack
• Alcohol Stove, Trangia
• Wind Screen
• Pot Stand
• Fuel Bottle, plastic 1pt
• 1qt Aluminum Pot
• Pot Gripper
• Plastic Cup
• Spoon, Lexan
• Knife, Swiss Army Classic
• Bic Lighter, small
• Stuff Sack (cooking)
• Umbrella, GoLite
• Rain Hat, OR Sahale
• Medi-kit
• Gravity Water Filter, SWA
• Cleaning Brush
• 1 Ltr Platypus water bag
• 2.5 Ltr Platypus water bag
• Pack Towel 11″×19″
• Flashlight, Photon II

Sounds like a mouthful huh? This really is the minimum requirement- and with equipment as light as this, covering long distances quickly should be a breeze. Needless to say, warm clothes are a must, and remember to stop and get them washed in a town’s laundrette every so often- being filthy isn’t fun, and could lead to illness. Frequent pit-stops in towns and villages are a necessity- to stock up on water, fuel, food, and anything else you may be lacking.

Bureaucracy and Documentation

The most important thing with documents and bureaucracy is to know the rules before you go- different countries have massively different approaches to passport control, customs, and sometimes even laws specific to the country. So, the golden rule- Know before you Go. With the library, internet and public service resources what they are, there is simply no excuse for not doing your homework before you go shooting off on your wild adventures. Control yourself!
Meanwhile, feast your eyes upon the following facts taken from the Eurostar website, which may give you an idea of what you’ve let yourself in for (only kidding, travel documents can be fun!). Remember, these are the rules for travel on the Eurostar- arguably the smallest overseas trip you could make- so if it seems like a lot to take in, bear that in mind when you’re planning your two month retreat to Madagascar.

• All passengers, including infants, are required to have either their own valid passport. (or national identity card for French and Belgium passengers)
• [If you’re passport is still in your maiden name] please take a copy of your marriage certificate with you when you travel.

• If you’re travelling in Europe it’s vital that you carry an EHIC, as well as comprehensive travel insurance.
• 1.2 million [brits] have missed out on their holiday [this year] because their passport was out of date.
Check out your documentation BEFORE you check in.

Cultures, People and Traditions
Another thing to be aware of is the cultures and traditions of the country you are entering- whilst making an O with thumb and forefinger, for example, means ‘perfect’ or ‘ok’ in England and America, it has a very different meaning in France- ‘zero’ or ‘worthless’. This has lead to a general enmity between the English and the French- mostly because whenever we intend to signal that the onion soup or baguette was perfect, they take it the wrong way, and every time they try and show us just how worthless our morris dancing was, it only spurs us on. Don’t let this happen to you!
So, whenever you set out on a trip, find out a little about the residents of the country you plan to visit. You don’t have to learn the language- although that would be very thoughtful of you- just learn enough that you don’t A) cause anyone important serious offense, B) spend the duration of the visit in a catatonic culture shock or C) generally make a fool of yourself. Although we can’t give detailed information of every country’s cultural heritage (look it up yourself, lazybones) what we can give you is a brief and light-hearted overview of some interesting differences you may not have come across before.

• Raising your eyebrows, indicating surprise in most western cultures, would signal agreement or affirmation in Tonga, and in Peru would be an indication that you required payment.
• Holding up ones hand and displaying the palm, recognized almost universally as ‘Stop’, is in fact a very vulgar gesture in Nigeria.
• In Taiwan, it is offensive to blink directly at another person.
• When nodding ones head, be aware that in Greece and Bulgaria this simple signal in fact means ‘No’.
• In many Middle Eastern countries, it is offensive to offer the left hand in any situation- as this hand is used to cleanse oneself.

More Help

The whole concept still too much? Documentation getting you down? Put off by that massive list of backpacking equipment? (I know, bloody hell eh?) Don’t despair, young backpacker, help is always at hand! Whether it be in the form of your local camping/hiking gear shop- who will usually be happy to give in-depth advice on all the equipment you might need- or the local post office- which can help you with almost all documentation, and also foreign currency at low commission- or simply friends, relatives and acquaintances who can always lend a sympathetic hand and a helping ear, or vice versa. As we said at the beginning, it’s all your responsibility, your decision, and your life- but that doesn’t mean there won’t be people to help you whenever you need it. Don’t rush, don’t panic, and above all don’t forget to have fun- that’s what it’s all about!

Best Wishes,
the Lonely Planet Team



Joined February 2008

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