Pack a bag, get set and go

Today’s guest post comes from KC Owens, who is a college student.  KC loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about. His post is about backpacking and he offers some great advice to adventurous travelers . Over to you KC.
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While many people think life at college is all fun and parties, there are also many challenges like studying, bills and team sports that cause stress. One way I try to find some relief from the stress is by using my time off to travel. The great part about college life is that we get a lot of vacation time in-between semesters. Traveling can be expensive, but that’s why I do as much research as I can to find ways to save money on travel.

Funding your Vacation:
Having a job while at college can be difficult but it can save you money in the long run. I always work when I’m at school because it gives me the opportunity to save money for my overseas adventures. Sometimes, this part-time job does not fund my wallet as much as I plan so I have to get creative. After doing some research, I found that I was able to apply for a student credit card that could help me purchase tickets, overnights and meals while I’m abroad. Many credit cards are available to students at special rates, and they are not very strict at all about accepting you. Applying for a credit card may not be the right choice for you so be sure to research your options before making a decision.
Personally, it was a no brainer because my card allowed me to bounce from country to country without exchanging currencies too often. This can be a major inconvenience as well as a major expense. Each time you exchange your cash, you are charged. It also helped keep me safer because I wasn’t pulling out a wad of cash every time I bought something. This can be dangerous in foreign cities where pickpocketing is a major issue. Do your research to see if this could be a viable option for you.

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How to Carry Everything:
Aside from not packing too much, another important consideration is your actual backpack. Your best choice is a lightweight, efficient backpack. Don’t bring several bags of luggage, which will require your attention at all times. Having more than one bag makes you a target for theft, it will cost you more at airports and it will annoy you every step throughout your journey. Even luggage on wheels is of limited usefulness once you get off the plane. A solid backpack allows you to hike, explore city streets or even tour a city on a bicycle. Furthermore, having one bag allows you to lock your belongings while you’re sleeping. This peace of mind is worth anything while you’re traveling since you always have to be on guard for theft.

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How to Pack:
Packing is an art that you really need to master if you’re going to go backpacking. Traveling light is a must or you will find yourself lugging around heavy and awkward bags everywhere you go. I learned from experience that the less I take with me, the more comfortable I am.
If your luggage weighs much more than ten pounds, you are probably over-packing. This might seem extreme, but the truth is you really don’t need to take much when you backpack through another country. Focus on bringing items that are practical and light. Leave home hardcover books, heavy boots, sporting equipment and other stuff that you think might be fun to take with you but that you will never use. A good rule to follow is that if you’re not sure you will need something, you probably don’t!

The most important item I bring with me on a backpacking trip is a money belt. Now, it seems foolish but having this little pouch allows me to secure my passport, phone/camera, cash and credit cards without worrying about pickpockets. Many places, like South Africa, don’t use credit cards as often as many other countries but it’s important to protect your valuables, either way. If you’re heading to some place like South Africa, then you’ll want to keep more cash on you and safely tucked away in your belt. Beyond the money belt, I always pack a couple pairs of clothes, toiletries, a chamois to dry off with, power converters, my phone/camera and a good pair of sunglasses. Everything else will seem useless when your time is spent sightseeing.

Picture credit: KC Owens

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