I started the year with the idea that I would start uni, I would love uni, and I would get high distinctions every day of the week.

I quit uni after two weeks.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t like the idea of being there at that time. This is why I took a gap year; to work, but more importantly, to travel.

With one trip to Greece and Cyprus down, and a month-long trip to Vietnam on the way, I’ve learnt (and am still learning) some real lessons on how to not stuff up your first holiday venture overseas.

1. You don’t need to spend big to live big on holiday

When I went to Santorini, the first stop on my big Greece trip, my brother and I stayed at a very lux Airbnb, spent a stupid amount of money on dinner on the cliff face and an even stupider amount of cash on alcohol. I had the time of my life for those three days, but my bank account didn’t- I spent the rest of my trip anxiously checking my savings, not wanting to know how much I had dipped into.

Holidays are definitely a very worthwhile way to blow your earnings- you worked hard and you should be having a good time. However, unless you want a sour taste from the trip when you get home, you’ve got to be smart. You’re still going to have the best time away if you swap that Airbnb for a hostel or that cliff face dinner for another kebab. I would give another alternative to alcohol but if you want to get loose, you’ve got to bite the bullet- sorry.

2. Avoid check-in baggage if you can

Obviously, if you’re doing a three month Europe round trip, you’re going to need check-in baggage. But if you’re doing a three week summer hop-around holiday (which is what I did) carry-on will be your best friend.

I ran through Athens airport sweating with 15 minutes until my plane was to depart after 29 hours of travel. I made it and the boarding gate officials looked at me in shock. The only other person who was on the same connecting flight as me missed boarding because she had to wait for her luggage.

Flights can be unpredictable and you’re going to have no idea if it’s ten minutes or ten hours late. Be prepared to change your plans, and at least try to pack your entire life into a 20kg carry-on bag.

3. Plan, plan, plan (but not too much)

Depending on where you’re going, you’re going to want to see as much of the place as you can. But, you’ve got to do this within reason. If you’re backpacking, you have no idea if you’re going to meet your future husband or wife whilst gallivanting around Asia, but if you’re locked into plans, there will be no chance for the romance to bloom. Things are easy to organise in certain places, so pick a few must-do’s, lock them in, and then let fate take you wherever else.

4. Have fun meeting people 

Holiday friends are the best friends! There’s still a girl who follows me on Instagram after I drunkly wrote my username  on a napkin in Crete after we danced together at a disco. Overseas friends are friends for life and can also give you free accommodation in their parts if you ever find yourself there.

5. Don’t look back

If you’re seeing any part of the world that isn’t your own, something about you is going to change. It might be through learning something new about your surroundings or it could be that you realise a tonne of new things about yourself. Travel is something really special, and if you’re lucky enough to do some yourself, don’t focus on mistakes. Focus on how you’re going to be remember this holiday for the rest of your life.

by Ben Freeman@ilovepasta2000

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