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Embracing new
opportunities

Travelling is all about new opportunities. With modern travel making the world accessible to you, where do you start? Here are some favourite destinations with travellers:

  • Siem Reap, Cambodia. The gateway to the increasingly admired ruins of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is popular with travellers who want to explore the vast complex of intricate stone buildings and temples. It’s one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia.

  • Queenstown, New Zealand. Arguably the adventure capital of world, Queenstown is the place to go if you want to tick things like bungee jumping or sky driving off your bucket list. It’s also the only place you can get your hands on a Fergburger.

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand. While on New Zealand’s South Island, you’ve got to visit one of the country’s most spectacular natural attractions – Milford Sound. Many travellers choose to hike along the Milford Track for several days through the Fiordland National Park to explore the mountains, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and wildlife of the area.

  • Cappadocia, Turkey. This region looks like something from a fairy tale – in fact, the cone-shaped rock formations dominating the area are often referred to as fairy chimneys. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most popular spots to go on a hot air balloon ride.

  • Bangkok, Thailand. The typical entry point to South-east Asia, many travellers spend a few days partying here before moving off to one of the country’s islands. After all, Thailand is the perfect place to go for the best of both worlds – some great parties and picturesque locations to relax in afterwards.

  • Cusco, Peru. Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu, Cusco attracts plenty of travellers every year. It’s a trek through history, exploring an ancient Inca city.

  • Bondi beach, Australia. Once you’ve explored the iconic Sydney opera house and Sydney harbour bridge, head to Australia’s Bondi Beach to relax. It’s one of the country’s most iconic beaches, where the sands are pristine, the ocean glistening and the surf is reliable. Spend your mornings learning to surf, before heading to one of the many laid back cafes for brunch.

  • Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. The jagged limestone pinnacles of Ha Long Bay have been well-photographed by the many tourists who visit every year. But it’s somewhere you should consider exploring for yourself – find a reliable cruise company and explore the beauty.

  • Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. The salt flats of Bolivia are a magical location, quite unlike anything else in the world. The Salt Lake is a huge 10,582 square kilometres of breath-taking landscapes, the pure white and clear blue skies providing the perfect backdrop for some memorable photographs. Salar de Uyuni is also a great place to go to acclimatise for a trek along the Inca Trail, as it’s 3.656m above sea level.

  • Barcelona, Spain. Of course, there are so many fantastic European cities – but Barcelona has got to be a favourite. The weather, the architecture, the nightlife, the food, it’s all some of the best you’ll experience on a trip.

  • Kerala, India. Looking to explore laidback towns in the day and spend all night partying on the beach? It’s the typical backpacker’s ideal day – and it’s exactly what Kerala offers.

These locations are just a small handful of the destinations you could include on your travels, some of them the most popular places with travellers. Feel free to find inspiration in the photographs of your friends, the abundance of ‘best of’ lists or wherever else you start your travel research.

All the research won’t prepare you completely for the variation and opportunities that spring up. A last-minute opportunity for a surf lesson, a local offering you show you the best bars and restaurants, joining new friends on an excursion – there are a lot of things you can’t predict or plan for. While your main locations should be planned, to allow for such occasions, you need to be keen to embrace opportunities. Here’s some simple ways to ensure your plans stay flexible:

  • Leave at least a day free at every new location
  • Be open to new experiences
  • Share your concerns with others

Stay healthy while travelling

Anyone who has suffered with mental health problems will tell you that failing to treat your body well can easily reignite symptoms. Staying healthy, of course, should be a priority for all of us. But creating stability and balance is especially important when you’re managing your mental health. Here’s some things to remember:

  • Excercise regularly. Committing to working out helps you keep some consistency, no matter your location. You can exercise wherever you go – whether you run along a beach, swim lengths, hike up a mountain or do a work out in your hotel room, get your heart rate going and move every day.

  • Watch what you eat. You can’t eat like you’re on holiday all the time without piling on the pounds. You’ll want to treat yourself to the local delights, some of which will be calorific, but the general rule is not to eat two bad meals in a row. Aim for a balance. Whether that’s preparing meals at your accommodation or taking snacks to avoid temptation, try to maintain a healthy diet – one bad day won’t ruin that, just don’t let it become a habit.

  • Don't drink excessively. Drinking can be bad for your mental health, disrupting the balance of chemicals and processes in your brain. This is only exaggerated if you’re on medication. At times, it can seem like the backpacking community is focused on heavy drinking – so avoiding alcohol can be difficult. Where possible, find like-minded people and activities which don’t revolve around binge drinking.

  • Find our where your embassy is. For every destination you’re visiting, find out where the nearest British embassy or consulate is. Officials here will be able to help and support you should any number of emergencies happen.

  • Know your warning signs. It can be all too easy to ignore signs that suggest you need to take some time to slow down and re-focus. After all, it’s likely you’ll only be travelling for a restricted stretch. You don’t want to waste time. But it’s not a waste if you listen to your body and take the time you need. Deal with issues as they arise.

General travel advice

The best travellers are those who take an interest in where they’re travelling to. It’s important to find out about local customs, to dress and behave appropriately. You are, after all, a visitor. You want to be a traveller people remember for the right reasons. That said, there are some common problems which arise and could test anyone’s patience. Here’s how to deal with key situations that could happen:

Situation one: Something hasn’t gone to plan

Your flight is cancelled, you miss your connection, you leave your bag behind – there’s a lot that could go wrong when travelling. But it needn’t spell disaster. There’s always a solution. The first step is to notify the relevant people to see how they can help – and how much it’ll cost you. Ideally, you’ll have had some emergency money stored away in case of times such as these.

But if you stay calm and remain polite, staff will usually do their best.

Situation two: You feel lonely or homesick

You’re seeing some amazing sights and making great memories, but there’s a lurking feeling of loneliness creeping in. It’s normal. But listen to your body for a minute – are you hungry, thirsty, or tired? It’s easy for these basic needs to snowball into something bigger. Sometimes all you need is a decent meal and a good night’s sleep.

If you wake up and still feel terrible, teach your brain to focus on the good times you’ve already had. Get out the photos to jog your memory that by travelling and meeting people you’ve already done more than you once thought possible – be proud of that.

Situation three: You’re getting annoyed at your travel buddies

Perhaps you’re having the opposite problem – you don’t have any time to yourself. Travelling with friends is amazing, and gives you a great support system wherever you are, but it’ll also test your friendships. Recognise when it’s time to give each other space and don’t be afraid to skip an activity. You’ve got to consider each other and keep communicating, even when something has really irked you.

Situation four: Your money or possessions are stolen

Unfortunately, opportunist thieves operate in almost every country. While there are steps you can take to minimise the risk of being targeting – not flashing your valuables and trying to blend in with the locals – you need to know what to do if you are robbed.

It’s important to report the crime to the local police quickly, and then notify your insurers and your bank. Ideally, you’ll have stored your insurance details online so you can access them anywhere. Different providers will have various provisions, but banks should be able to get you a replacement card anywhere between 24 hours to three days.

The local embassy will be able to issue you a new passport – so long as you’ve reported the theft to the police and are able to answer some question about how it was lost or stolen.

There are some key lessons from common problems that arise when travelling. These include:

  • Be prepare to reassess your plans regularly and change them if necessary
  • There’s always a non-confrontational solution, which is best for everyone involved
  • Know your limits
  • Take your time to re-focus and enjoy the present

Keeping in touch with home

Missing home? It’s completely normal to feel home-sick, even if you’re in some of the world’s most beautiful places. Don’t feel guilty. Being hard on yourself will only make things worse.

Instead, figure out how you can keep in touch. Whether you need some support or just want to report back on your latest adventure, the best ways of keeping in touch with people at home, or elsewhere in the world, include:

  • Skype. A popular free videoing service, download and share contact details before you go. When you’re connected to WiFi, you’ll be able to connect with people almost anywhere in the world.

  • Facetime and iMessage. If you, your family and friends use Apple devices, these are the easiest ways to keep in touch.

  • Viber. All Viber users can send messages and call each other for free.

  • WhatsApp. Another free instant messaging and voice call service.

  • ChatSim. An international SIM card which can connect your smartphone to local operators in more than 150 countries. Avoids reliance on Wi-Fi, but you have to buy extra credits to make calls.

  • Create a mailing list. Perhaps you’d rather just update your friends and family than have a conversation. A weekly email could be something they all look forward to.

  • Start a blog Similarly, travel blogs open up your journey to anyone who is interested. Not only will you be updating people, you’ll be entertaining and educating them.

All of this is made easier – and cheaper – when you’ve got Wi-Fi. It’s expensive to use your normal phone contract when you’re travelling, so most people replace their sim with a local one or switch off data roaming.

However you decided to get in touch, remember to set expectations. Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a burden if your family or friends are wanting you to get in contact a lot. Of course, they’ll want to know you’re safe but it’s unlikely you’ll be talking to them every day.

Generally, it’s good to get in touch when you arrive in a new destination. If they know you’re travelling, touching base when you arrive safely will give them peace of mind.

This is where social media can be great too. You can update everyone with photos and posts – they’ll know what you’re up to, without you having to contact them individually.

Getting medical support when abroad

Before you head off on a travel adventure, you should familiarise yourself with the healthcare systems of other countries. The idea is to know what steps to take should an emergency occur, but also plan and look after yourself so that the chance of this happening is minimised.

To ensure you can the right medical support when abroad, you can prepare the following:

  • Have the right insurance. Make sure you have the right insurance, as standard travel health insurance plans don’t cover mental health conditions. Ideally, you would want psychiatric care and emergency evacuation covered as part of your plan.

  • Take a decent supply of medication. Try and coordinate with your doctor to get permission for an additional supply of medication before you go. You should keep a copy of your original prescription and a letter from your doctor, in case you need more supplies. A doctor’s letter will also be necessary to get your medication across borders. But if you do need to get more medication, always make sure you locate a reputable doctor or pharmacist, preferably in a major city.

  • Research local facilities. Not every country will have the same standards of medical facilities you’re used to. Some places will not treat mental health with the same seriousness; in fact, they can be a bit behind the times in how they view such concerns. Try and find out what facilities are available.

  • Learn a few key phrases. Struggling with a language barrier is the last thing you need if you require medical attention. Knowing how to ask for help and being able to say something brief about yourself and your medical history would come in handy.

  • Be able to contact your doctor or therapist. Would you be able to contact a medical professional while you’re away? It could make a huge difference to how you deal with any bumps in the road. If you use a private therapist, establish how much it would cost you to keep in touch.

  • Tell someone if you’re struggling. This is easy if you’re travelling with friends, who know and understand you, but it can be daunting if you’re travelling solo. Nevertheless, it’s important to let someone know if you need some support. Don’t struggle alone. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help.