Saturday, March 30, 2013

All about your backpack

Here is a vedio about how to choose a good backpack.

And this one is about how to fit your backpack in the right way. Are you ready to go now? Enjoy your trip!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Backpacker 101 (part 2)

Step 3: Route and transportation

Once you have enough information, you can start to plan your route. My suggestion is: don’t make your route plan to tight since it’s quite frequent to change your route during your trip. Furthermore, it’s not like “the more places you have been, the better trip you will have”. So you’d better determine where are the places you have to see and where you don’t really have to. A flexible route plan will be really helpful for planning for a fun trip.

Step Four: Before you go

The next step is to prepare for the paperwork, such as applying the visa, booking flights, applying for International Student Identity Card and International Youth Hostel Membership Card (these two cards will save you a lot of money in tickets and accommodations), getting a travel insurance and exchanging currency.

In addition, if you are going to somewhere like India or Africa, to inject a vaccine is essential to keep you safe.

Step Five: Pack your luggage

If you are going to somewhere like America, Australia or Europe, maybe a suitcase is not really a bad idea for those who don’t want to carry a huge backpack, since those countries have wheelchair accessible channels where you can pull your suitcase easily. But to go to somewhere not that well-developed, backpack is your best choice.

You need a good backpack (50L-70L) for a long trip. When choosing them, comfy and light are the most important. You don’t need an expensive and attractive one – you will have more chance to get robbed. Maybe you also need a small backpack for your phone, camera, passport and other stuff you need to carry every day.

Believe me, the lighter your backpack is, the happier you will be. I have a 70L backpack and when I put everything in, it’s huge and crazy heavy for almost 25 pounds. It drove me crazy when carrying them for an only 20 minutes walk. So only bring what you really need for your trip is the smart choice.

And also be aware of the plug seat difference if you need electronics to be charged.

Step Six:Go!

Check the documents and all your equipments, and then go! Enjoy your trip! But you also need to remember to respect the local culture and environment. Be a responsible traveler while having fun!

I will post some videos of how to choose your backpack in my next post.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Backpacker 101 (part 1)

After reading about backpacking trips in the past posts, have you come up with an idea of what  backpacker is?

Backpacking is about to plan your trip, determine your route and take care of yourself. It is a positive, proactive, unconstrained, profound, frugal but full of poetical traveling style. Backpackers have their own style- you can walk in the cities, drive on the highways or hike in the natures. Backpackers need to be responsible to themselves including care about accommodations, transportations and their own safety.  But their work is also rewarding, you can not only learn how to be independent, take care of yourself, but also own the journey only belongs to yourself.

What is the hardest part? For many people, it’s to take the first step - having a heart that is ready to go out of your comfort zone, to step to the world you may never know.

Here are 6 steps for backpackers. 

Step one: Recognize yourself

To recognize yourself, you need to know:
  • How much money and time you are willing to spend
  • ŸWhat do you want to see in your trip? Nature or culture? Bushwalking or shopping in big cities?

Once you understand what you want deeply, it’s easier for you to start to plan.

Step two: research and determine your destination

The basic research you need to do is about the scenery spot, climate, transportation, price of commodities. If you pursue a depth of your trip, you might also want to research on local history, culture, language, holidays, architectures and arts. For the newbie backpackers, you should start your research early. The more information you have, the more smooth and fun you trip will be.

I will talk about other steps in my next post.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Help exchange - the special way to travel

I have worked in a farm and a hostel through HELPX.

I applied to about 3 farms that match my schedule and one of them took me. I was really picky when choosing these farms. I was looking for the farms with different kinds animals I really like to work with, while a lot of them only specifically have a few kinds. I ended up working in a farm has sheep, cattle, goats, ducks, chicken, big parrots, and even two ostriches. I also looked for private room, free meals and the farm owner need to have good comments. Most importantly, they don’t ask me to work long hours so that I can have my own time to have fun. And those are all possible in Helpx.

I worked 2-3 hours per day and took one day off in that week. My job included feeding animals, digging potatoes and cleaning house. They are not really hard and I surely had lots of fun during working. The best experience I got was to sell animals and vegetables in a farmers market. We sold more than 10 chickens, 3 ducks and a lot of potatoes that day.

The couple in that farm was really nice. They tried to let me have all the experiences I can ever have in a farm. They showed me how to feed animals, how to inseminate a cow and they even shaved their sheep earlier because I was leaving the next day.

Help exchange is a good and special way to explore the world you don’t know. It’s not about how much money you can make or how important your job is. You volunteer your time and receive free accommodation. Remember, the amazing experiences that you don’t have in your daily life are what you will treasure the most.
A "smiling" goat. It ran toward me every time I walked to the fence.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Websites you need for planning your trip

Besides CouchSurfing, there are so many other resources you can use. I will talk about some useful website when you are travelling in a budget in this post.


Hitchwiki is a collaborative website for gathering information about hitchhiking and other ways of extremely cheap ways of transport. It is maintained by many active hitchhikers all around the world. You can get information about how to hitch out of big cities, how to cover long distances, maps and many more tips.

Semester at Sea

Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students of all majors emphasizing comparative academic examination, hands-on field experiences, and meaningful engagement in the global community. Students from 250-300 colleges in the United States and the world participate on Semester at Sea each term. Credit earned is transferable to a student’s home institution.


WWOOF is a worldwide network of organization. They link volunteers with organic farmers, and help people share more sustainable ways of living. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.


HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.

Volunteer Vocations

A list of organizations that take volunteers:

NEIO- Nepal Education Initiative Organization

IHF- International Humanity Foundation (Indonesia, Kenya and Thailand)


Otra Cosa (Peru)

Aec Tea (Brazil)

Sikanda- Solidaridad Internacional Kanda A.C. (Mexico)

I will talk about my own help exchange experience next week.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

CouchSurfing - What? How? Why? When? Where? PART 4

Now I will talk about the best host I’ve ever met and she is also a really good friend of mine now.

I applied for a 4-day couch in Sydney. At first I applied to her mom, while she said she is travelling in other country at that time but her daughter can open the door for me. So luckily, I met Miriam. She is a Jazz singer and I went to a bar where she was singing to meet her at first. She is a lovely girl and a good singer. I also got the amazing chance to live in a sea-view house (with a queen-size bed) alone.

The beautiful view I got at her house. This is the Sydney Harbour side.

After I told her that I kept getting lost in Sydney, she spent a whole day to show me around. You know when you have companies who have grown up in that city, it will be so different to travel with them since they know all the fun places. We are the same age and share a lot of common interests, so it’s easier to connect with her and we became good friends. I also spent two nights in the bar to listen to her songs and I indeed had a good time.

The beautiful view I got at her house. This is the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House side. Don't you think just this amazing view will be enough for enjoying Sydney. And don't forget you don't need to pay for it. 
CouchSurfing is not about SUFFERING!

Before I left, she drove me to the train station and told me I will always be welcome to her place no matter how long I need to stay. Sydney became my favorite Australian city because of her. I came back to Sydney about half month later and spent another three days at her place because she made me feel really welcome.

But that is not the whole story- Miriam came to Beijing in 2012. We had dinner at my apartment and we even traveled together to south China for ten days. I am sure I will meet her again in the future. When I talked with her on Skype last time, I invited her to Niagara Falls and she invited me to her place in New York since she will record an album in New York in 2013.

So this is my story about CouchSurfing, and I will post about HelpExchange (volunteer vacation) 

Check out this vedio from BBC- CouchSurfing Report.

Friday, February 8, 2013

CouchSurfing - What? How? Why? When? Where? PART 3

In this post, I will talk about my own Couchsurfing experiences.

I went to Australia as a backpacker in 2011 and I spent around 800 dollars for a one-month trip. I met three Couchsurfing hosts during that time.

So my first host is a nice young lady who lives in Melbourne. She picked me up at the train station and brought me to her place. Since it’s my first day in Australia, I just dropped my stuff and then went to the city directly. Unfortunately she had to work during the whole night every day. So I barely have the chance to talk with her. So my suggestion is if you really want to talk with people, try to apply for these ones who can match your time. A funny fact is her cat was snoring everyday next to me on another couch!

The couch I slept in Melbourne

Downtown Melbourne

The Twelve Apostles at The Great Ocean Road (near Melbourne)

My second host is a single mom who lives in Gold Coast. She was really interested in Chinese culture and her mom was an English teacher in China 30 years ago. I remembered that she told me that she has hosted Couchsurfer from Iran and China, and she just need one more from North Korea to collect all the “evil countries”. While she said the both the Iran girl and me have changed her mind about those countries. But here is another important thing I have to say is even though we went well with each other- she cooked nice meals for me for free and we talked a lot every day, you have to make sure you followed your schedule or at least communicate about it. She kicked me out of her house at the 4th day, because I made a mistake when applying for the couch- I applied for 4 days while I actually need 5 days. She just told me I have to leave, so I ended up in a hostel that day and that is out of my budget. So be aware of the date, you may meet some strict-scheduled hosts.

I will talk about my third host which is the best I’ve ever met in my next post.