Backpacking, Is It The Best Way to Travel Abroad?

People love to travel. Travelling the world appeals to people from all walks of life.

There is the right kind of travel out there to suit all budgets, from high dollar luxury resorts in the Maldives to $5 per night rooms for Backpackers in Bangkok.

For most though, their travel budget lies somewhere in the middle, between luxury resorts and travelling on a dime.

Backpacking these days has never been more affordable, with budget airlines competing to get bums on seats and the internet making it so easy to find and compare hotels and youth hostels online.

Asia has long been a favourite for backpackers and budget travellers. SE Asia in particular, offers almost any kind of travel experience you desire. including luxury beach-side resorts or budget $15 per night beach bungalows – Thailand’s Islands such as Koh Samui are famous for.

From Bangkok, Thailand’s major hub – you can fly to just about any city in Asia that has an airport.

With a multitude of budget airlines flying out of Bangkok, you can get some great value fairs from anywhere to Siem Reap in Cambodia or Hanoi in Vietnam or even to less travelled Borneo.

Its always a good idea to have a travel gear checklist on hand to make sure you’re taking the right kind of travel backpack, clothing, shoes and even first aid kit and medication for your sabbatical.

When Backpacking in South East Asia, a sturdy travel backpack is recommended, along with a good quality pair of travel pants, such as cargo pants with lots of pockets that zip or button up to keep your valuables safe while on the road.

You don’t need to worry about packing too much when going to Asia, in fact its best to travel light. Make sure you take a few pairs of pants, some swimming bathers, a few t-shirts, a sturdy pair of travel shoes and that should be a good start.

Remember, it’s Asia. If you’ve forgotten anything important you can probably buy it there cheaper than you can at home.

Its also a great idea to visit some SE Asia Travel Blogs before you go backpacking to read other travellers stories and get recommendations and advice on where to travel to, what to pack and keep up to date with general travel news from all the RWT (around the world travel) blogs.

If travelling to Europe, you probably want to pack a few more things, as the weather varies a lot depending if you travel in summer or winter.

Packing for Adventure Travel

There’s a funny scene in Romancing the Stone when Michael Douglas’ character meets Kathleen Turner’s character and agrees to take her to a phone booth hundreds of miles away. He simply refuses to help her carry her completely impractical luggage and a few scenes later goes even further by chopping the heels off her shoes so she can actually walk in them. This little fiasco encompasses the essence of packing for adventure travel. Less is most definitely more!

When in a foreign country it is usually pretty easy to spot the experienced traveler from the novice. The novice is usually dragging a giant suitcase or trying to lug a brightly coloured backpack that is even bigger than they are. They are dressed in the latest “must have” adventure gear from the most expensive adventure stores and have “trekking” shoes worth hundreds of dollars.

This is not the way to do it for several reasons. The first is comfort. You will usually be doing a lot of walking whenever you go on a vacation and walking with 50 kg of luggage is both tiring and difficult. You will also, most likely, be getting extremely dirty and ruining whatever clothing you take (even if it’s expensive “adventure clothing”) and don’t forget that some of your gear may even be stolen (sometimes by other travelers). If you show up with all the best and most expensive gear you are also a walking target for hustlers and thieves. With all of this in mind here are a few tips:

Luggage – If you are going to be doing anything even remotely physical and walking any further than a few hundred meters, then a backpack is definitely the way to go. But not all packs are created equal! Think small and inconspicuous. Dark colours like brown and black will attract less attention than a bright purple or red pack. Make sure it is the type of pack that has a flap on the top that closes over the pack’s opening to keep out water (the types that zip up WILL get your stuff wet). You will also want to put your clothing in waterproof stuff bags – I use standard plastic shopping bags, but there are tougher ones that you can buy from disposals and camping stores. You also want your pack to be as small as possible. Especially if you are only touring (mountaineers may need something bigger). I use a 30 liter pack but would say 45 liters is an absolute maximum for general purpose use. You will be carrying it around a lot and if you cannot fit something in then you probably don’t really need it.

Clothing – Think light and breathable! Cotton is always good. Three shirts is usually enough because you can wear one, wash one and have a spare. Take ones with collars to keep the sun off your neck if you are going anywhere remotely sunny. For pants, I like cargoes that can zip off the legs and turn into shorts (which can also double as swimming trunks). Dark colours are always going to hide the dirt and grime so that’s also a good idea. Usually, other than underwear and socks, I don’t take much more than this. Remember that if you need something you can always buy it there and usually for a fraction of the price than at home! Don’t forget to take some type of hat as being sunburnt is a real drag when you are traveling.

Shoes – Unless you are doing some serious mountaineering then you probably won’t need those $300 Scarpa trekking boots. In many poorer countries you can buy those $300 Scarpas at the local markets for $10 anyway, because some idiot tourist left them outside his door to dry and an enterprising local stole them to sell at the markets! Think comfort – I usually go for Converse All Stars, but any type of cheap canvas shoe will probably be ok. On a trek across England my Converse shoes allowed my feet to get wet about 10 minutes before my buddy’s feet got wet – he was wearing the $300 Scarpas! Once again, if you need something better, you can probably buy it at your destination for a cheaper price.

Other stuff – There are a few things I will never travel without. Sunscreen is the main one because I REALLY hate getting sunburnt. A small multi-tool is often pretty handy too – don’t get a leatherman because you will lose it or get it stolen. You can often buy multi-tools for $5 anyway that work perfectly well. I also always take a lighter ($1 plastic kind) for anything from lighting people’s cigarettes to sealing the ends of ropes.

The trick to packing for adventure travel is to pack light, inconspicuous and cheap. This avoids you becoming a human pack-mule or a target for thieves and hustlers. You will also find that you will enjoy your traveling more because you won’t be so tired now worrying about your gear so much.

Unified Communications Puts On its Traveling Shoes

Unified communications (UC) is an empty slogan – or at least, a sector that is a shadow of what it can be – until it has a strong mobile element. The two endeavors overlap and share the goal of making employees more accessible when they are away from their desks.

Mobile devices’ inability to support those applications presented a hurdle to the true marriage of mobility and UC. Recent announcements, however, clearly say those limitations have been surmounted. At the VoiceCon Show this week in Orlando, Nortel introduced a number of mobile UC products. The company said mobility has been embedded in the Communication Server 1000 IP PBX 5.5 (available next month) and Mobile Communication 3100 for fixed/mobile convergence. The vendor also introduced the IP Softphone 2050 3.0 laptop for PCs and a DECT system for international markets.

The commentary in the story says that adding mobility to unified communications not only makes people more accessible, but it cuts costs – to the tune of 30 percent – by enabling them to use corporate calling plans. Call-completion rates, the story says, improve from 30 percent to 50 percent.

The age of mobile UC is upon us. In January, Datamonitor released a report entitled “Trends to Watch: Unified Communications 2008,” which found that many organizations use technologies – such as presence, mobility and Web conferencing – that benefit traveling workers. To date, however, the overall concept of mobilized UC has not taken off. Recent cellular advances and the higher profile of mobile e-mail will make mobility a more central feature of UC.

The online post, which for some reason omits Datamonitor’s name, lists the section names in the report. They clearly suggest the mobilization of UC. Some of the titles: “Mobility Will Play a Greater Role in the Unified Communications Market,” “Mobility Will Help Drive Investments in Unified Communications” and “FMC and ‘One Number’ Solutions Will Become a Reality.”

Mobility is a theme that runs through Avaya’s VoiceCon announcement of its Unified Communications Services initiative to lead companies gracefully into the world of UC. Avaya UC Services will assess the company’s needs and desires, create a plan and deploy the system. While the idea is to address the entire UC landscape, the company clearly sees mobility as a key element. Indeed, the example given in the release describes how Avaya helped the Black & Decker tool company create a mobile UC strategy.

Smaller vendors are mobilizing their UC products as well. Last month, CommuniGate Systems added features to its
Pronto! UC system [http://www.communigate.com/news/c-news_article_02052008.html]. Pronto!, which uses Adobe Flash, now supports Web-based VoIP. This eases remote access to the corporate PBX and offers features such as click-to-call from the address book, programmable function keys and speed dial.

Network World also positions mobility as an important piece of the overall UC strategy. A Verizon Business director positions mobile UC as the ability to use enterprise applications and services while not being plugged into the network. This requires VoIP, secure access, auto-forwarding of voice and text-to-voice and voice-to-text services. Security, in a mobile UC context, is about risk management – not locking down applications so that they cannot be used outside of the enterprise.

It is illogical to think of UC and mobility as separate entities. Now, for the first time, the technology is in place to truly join them.

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