Thinking of doing the same thing?
Most of this I learned as I went along. Other travellers will have other ideas - if you are planning a big trip I can only suggest that you listen to as many people as possible and then work out what is right for you. (Unless anyone tells you to save on insurance, that is!)
- Insurance. I know it's boring and you might think it's a waste of money. You buy it, hoping you'll never need it. But if you are ill, or have your money stolen, you will be looked after. It simply isn't worth taking the chance.
- Where to stay? Only you know how much discomfort you can manage. Dormitories are cheap - and can be convivial. But you'll be lucky to find one without a snorer. And some, these days, are mixed.
- Wherever you stay - lock up your luggage, always, even if you are only going down to breakfast. Most travellers are generous and utterly trustworthy; but not all. On top of which it's not fair on the person cleaning your room: you think you are travelling light but he or she may have significant less than you carry about with you. Presenting easy pickings is asking a lot of them.
- On the subject of money: you will come up against scams. Everywhere. If you spend all your time trying to spot them, challenge them, beat the scammers - well, you'll miss out on some wonderful experiences. Stand up to the worst of it and then accept you will get caught; it happens. Then get on with enjoying yourself.
- The best things happen when you are lost. I'm not saying don't plan ahead - I know the anxiety of arriving without knowing where I'm going to sleep that night is more than I can manage. But being lost is not so terrible - it's often where the best people are.
- Having said that I'm going to contradict myself. Standing on street corners looking at a map if your gut tells you this simply isn't safe is a bad idea. Instinct is wonderful - trust it. You've come to enjoy yourself, not to prove you can survive among gangs and hoodlums.
- It's worth taking a complete medical kit - including a syringe in a sealed bag, just in case you need an injection in a remote corner.
- And, while we're on the subject of health, don't scrimp on the vaccinations and anti-malarials. It's simply not worth the risk. But - malaria is less rampant in some corners than others, and at different times of the year. Check websites, and then ask around in hostels and hotels, to get a feel for prevalence. There's no need to take prophylactics all the time, but it's equally bonkers to take risks.
- If you see a decent toilet, use it. You never know when you'll find another one! (Though, to be fair - this is improving. But you do need to learn to squat without falling over.)
- And then the tedious things that you probably know: be careful what you eat and drink, and keep yourself clean.