Phase III: My debute as ‘Backpack Expert’ and some challenges that lie...

Phase III: My debute as ‘Backpack Expert’ and some challenges that lie ahead!

And suddenly Bob’s Epic Adventure is only four months away! Can’t believe how fast time flies. Because I’ve been busy with my regular job(s) I haven’t done as much as I would have wanted to do in terms of preparation. Fortunately, I did manage to tick a few preparation boxes…!

For those who missed the tentative itinerary… This is it (sort of): South Africa – Namibia – Botswana – Zimbabwe – Turkey – Iran – Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan – Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan – China – Indonesia

Backpackers VIP Night

Before we move to the preparation stuff, I would like to tell you about my evening at a ‘Backpackers VIP night’ at the well-known Dutch outdoor shop De Wit Schijndel. During this event I got to meet (mostly) first-time backpackers who were about to leave for adventures in SE Asia, Australia, the Transmongolian Express etc. We discussed their travel plans and shared tips and experiences! It was so much fun and an absolute honor to be invited to this event as the official ‘Backpack Expert’!

De Wit Schijndel

Die-hard backpacking

‘Backpack Expert’… Wow, not sure if I’m worthy of that impressive title, but with ten years of backpack experience under my belt I’m certainly now longer a rookie. And as a non-rookie, I know backpacking is not always all unicorns and rainbows. It can be quite intense, extremely tiring and sometimes even be dangerous.

On this upcoming trip to Southern Africa and Central Asia, I will do some die-hard backpacking. Obviously, the interpretation of the term die-hard backpacking differs from person to person, but let’s put it this way: it’s no Thailand ;)

During BoB’s Epic Adventure I will visit some of the more remote corners of the world with (sometimes!) extremely bad infrastructure, no official public transportation, no street lights, high (violent) crime rates, no internet, no English-speakers and almost no other tourists. In evening and at night, it’s not always safe to go out. In some places police ‘shakedowns’ of tourists are commonly reported. Some areas (and some parts of the day) may be male-dominated.

These are the facts of my trip:

  • Solo. Especially in ‘tricky’ situations it feels way better to have someone with you.
  • Independently. Having most of your accommodation and transportation booked, saves you a lot of a hassle. Also, there is always a person or organization you can fall back to in times of distress.
  • On a budget. No money for private cars or VIP buses.

Basically, this trip sucks.

No obviously, not true. All of the above make the adventure to what it is. However, it’s clear that being wary (in a healthy way) is important. Therefore, to stay informed, I’m keeping a close eye on the (political) situation in the countries I intend to visit. I follow the news on Turkey (and surrounding countries), read a Central Asia newspaper and check the latest updates on Southern Africa via BBC Africa and This Is Africa (obviously not only for security reasons, but also out of interest ;)). Also, I regularly check our Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Unfortunately, at the moment a number of destinations are partly orange (some with red), which means the government strongly advises against travel in those areas. I’m not one to worry quickly. However, I’m realistic and will not take unnecessary risks.

Reisadvies
©Ministery of Foreign Affairs the Netherlands, 2015
A holiday during my holiday

But let’s not jump the gun, so far there is no change in my itinerary. As you may remember I will fly from Harare to Istanbul in April to start the Silk Road adventure. I will arrive in Istanbul on a friday and a few weeks ago, me and my friends realized this would make a perfect Istanbul weekend trip for them. So, I’m quite excited that a few of my girlfriends (unfortunately not all in this photo) plan to come over from Rotterdam for that weekend! It will be great to explore Istanbul together and to see some familiar faces! It’ll be like a little holiday, during my 6-month holiday.

IMG_2830b

Just some things to look forward to!

Soooo many things to look forward to! Out of the top of my head: Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Okavango Delta in Botswana, horseback riding to the Song-Kol lake in Kyrgyzstan, seeing the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, beholding the largest carpet in the world in Turkmenistan, surfing in South Africa and much more!

NAMIBIA from Rufus Blackwell on Vimeo.

Tajikistan from lawrence blankenbyl on Vimeo.

Practical issues: money cards, immunizations and travel insurance

What else did I do? I visited the Wereldmuseum in my hometown Rotterdam for an exhibition named: Persians – Warriors and Poets. Great to learn a bit more about this fascinating civilization and I can’t wait to see more art works in Iran.

I applied for a second debit card and also decided to take a VISA card with me (next to my Mastercard). I had another round of jabs, this time for rabies and typhoid. It was a bit early, but it was more economical to do some of them now insurance-wise. I also checked the validity of my passport and the number of pages left.

I contacted some housing companies in Rotterdam. After I gave them a bit more information and seeing some photos of the house, they are convinced they’ll find me a tenant in no time. I hope they’re right! Last but definitely not least: I also got a brand new beautiful backpack!

Preparation BoB's Epic Adventure vaccination

Latest additions to BoB’s Epic Adventure collection
  • New backpack!
  • Secondhand Lonely Planet China (I already had one, but it was 10 years old)
  • Hammam towel (after hearing so many positive stories of other travelers I intend to take this instead of an ultralight towel or normal towel)
Summary of ‘How to prepare for a RTW-trip 5-6 months before take-off’ tips:
  • Start the immunization process (some shots are done in series with 6 months in between the first and second)
  • Get informed about the possibilities to sublet your apartment and make preparations
  • Get your bank cards in order. Apply for an extra debit card and arrange both a VISA card and Mastercard.
  • Check the validity of your passport and check if you have enough pages left for all your visas and stamps.

Manouk Backpack Fjallraven Travelbags2

In the next two months I still have many things to arrange including finding a suitable daypack, an easy way to store my photos during the trip (tips anyone?), get visa stuff sorted (e.g. check how to get Letters of Invitation etc.), get a travel insurance etc.

For now, this was it! What do you think of ‘die-hard’ backpacking? Would you enjoy it? Any tips for photo storage (I do not travel with a laptop)?

NL: Hoe denken jullie over het ‘die-hard’ backpacken? Zou je dit leuk vinden? Heb je nog tips voor het opslaan van foto’s tijdens zo’n lange reis (ik neem geen laptop mee)?

Read Phase V: Saying Goodbye 20’s and Hello BoB’s Epic Adventure

Read Phase IV: Only 2 months until BoB’s Epic Adventure

Read Phase II: Shaping the itinerary of my Africa And Silk Roads trip

Read Phase I: Preparing and planning my Silk Roads and Southern Africa adventure 

Read On Work and Wanderlust

22 COMMENTS

  1. During my 1-year solo trip through Asia I didn’t take a laptop. I went to internet cafes to put my photos on a CD, which I then sent home. Not a very safe backup, as CDs can break.

    Nowadays I never travel without a notebook. Call me soft, call me why whatever you like, but I really want to have a good backup. And a notebook plus quite some SD-cards or USB-keys do the job.

    Notebooks don’t cost a fortune and they don’t weigh much. Just consider to bring one!

    • Thanks Jenny! I’ve thought about bringing a notebook/laptop, but as I’m traveling solo and already have to carry my DSLR, GoProHero4 and Iphone I don’t feel like carrying more valuables with me. It’s too heavy and too much to keep an eye on. Also, I look forward to stay away from computers ;) I think I’ll go for the SD card and USB key!

  2. I think it is a cool and very brave trip !!

    As far as photo storage is concerned. If there are enough internet cafe’s you could just buy a USB stick (or two, for backup). Also you can buy cards with enough storage to store all your pictures once and backup on the USB stick(s). Take more than you need. Cards and sticks can break down. And have everything twice.. In separate places. At least that is what I do :-)

    Will you take a tablet or a smartphone? I guess you will. I have a Sandisk connect. That is a small device on which you can store E boooks, music, movies etc. As extra memory for the smartphone. But you can also copy cards to the internal memory and from there on backup cads.

  3. Huh waarom ontdek ik jouw blog pas net! Super tof dat je deze reis gaat maken! En je hebt al super veel gezien zie ik. Het staat vast ergens maar ik zag dat je arts bent, heb je gewoon je baan opgezegd? Geen dromen om specialist te worden zoals velen? ;p

  4. Can’t speak for Africa (yet), but you have nothing to worry about in Central Asia. Just spent three weeks in Tajikistan too, in the GBAO region that you highlighted, and you will be fine. Stress less in Central Asia :)

    As for photo storage, do not expect decent internet cafes anywhere outside of cities. I would suggest bringing a small notebook. We travelled Central America for 8 months with only a hard drive to back up our photos, but it got pretty old always asking other backpackers if we could use their computers to back up our pics.

    Have fun!

  5. Thanks Jazza :)! Haha not really stressing, just some thoughts on basis of previous trips to off-the-beaten track places (e.g. in East Africa). I was already a bit worried about decent internet cafe’s, but I decided not to bring notebooks/ipads etc. Guess I’ll try asking other backpackers for help ;) Enjoy the rest of Central Asia and hope to meet somewhere on the way!! P.s. I didn’t color the maps, the Dutch government did ;)

    • Hi Cory, I hope to do a little bit of blogging during the trip, but not much! Maybe one article per country! I intend to give social media updates though (1 every 3 days or so) :)

  6. What a bloody amazing trip you’ve got planned. I’m so jealous you’re hitting up Iran! I’m living in Beijing, China so if you get stuck or need some tips/advice feel free to drop me a line. Check out my blog if you fancy!

  7. He Sheen, cool blog! Love the ‘Where’s Sheen been?” haha! I’ve been to Beijing quite a few times already, but I will definitely keep your offer in mind. Happy travels!

  8. Zojuist je blog ontdekt en ik ben onder de indruk! Van de manier waarop je de dingen aanpakt en je reis uitstelt maar dan toch gaat, je route voor je geplande avontuur in 2016. Super! Veel succes met je voorbereidingen en ik ga je belevenissen zeker volgen. Ben heel benieuwd hoe backpacken door een heel aantal van deze landen gaat zijn.

  9. Wat een gave reis ga je maken! Maar hoe doe je dat met al die visa die je nodig hebt in Azië (bv Iran, China)? Regel je alles alvast in Nederland of onderweg?

  10. He Leonie! Ik kan het helaas niet in NL regelen, dus alles zal onderweg (in het land ervoor) geregeld moeten worden. Dit wordt nog een uitdaging omdat het soms wel 10 dagen duurt. Verder hebben ze soms een ‘uitnodiging’ nodig, een lijst met geboekte hotels en een vliegticket. Bij mijn reis heb ik dat allemaal niet! Ben me nog aan het verdiepen ;)

  11. Echt supervet! Ga je helemaal alleen reizen. Ik dacht altijd dat ik behoorlijk diehard was nadat ik alleen voor 3 maanden door de amazone had gereisd. Maar op de een of andere manier blijft de Silk route mij toch echt wel een uitdaging. Vooral om hem als vrouw alleen te bereizen.. Hoe ga jij daarmee om?

    • Hi Christa!

      Ja, ik ga inderdaad alleen. Ik vind het van te voren lastig te voorspellen hoe het zal zijn als vrouw alleen op de Zijderoute, maar tot nu toe vrijwel alleen positieve verhalen/berichten gehoord. Overigens hiervoor ook nooit in vervelende situaties gekomen als solo reiziger :) 3 maanden Amazone klinkt ook erg avontuurlijk overigens!!

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