No matter where you’re travelling to, making the necessary preparations is an important step to ensure that you iron out the loopholes of your itinerary or that you have the right bit of kit for your journey. Now, with my solo backpacking trip to New Zealand fast approaching, the end of my to-do list is in sight and soon the only item left on it will be to get on a plane and go. But, with all the hostel bookings and travel insurance aside, it’s only recently dawned on me that despite all my best efforts I’m not the slightest bit prepared for what’s coming.
For those of you who aren’t aware, New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world. It is the place to go for all adrenaline inducing sports and believe me it’s not for the faint-hearted. Hair-raising bungee jumps, skydives, and canyoning are just some of the activities advertised across the country. For the winter thrill-seekers, New Zealand’s South Island is a hub of snow sports activities, and Queenstown is known to get packed with ski-enthused travellers eager to take on the slopes. But, New Zealand isn’t just one giant adrenaline rush. For those who prefer life in a slower lane, they advertise boat tours, whale watching, and wine tasting as well as stunning walks across their mountainous terrain.
I was aware that New Zealand was a champion of the outdoors when I booked my trip, but I realise now that unless I get into shape I won’t stand much of a chance of completing even the gentlest of mountain walks with ease. It turns out backpacking does require a level of fitness. After all, you will be spending most of the time on the road with a rucksack strapped to your back. The last thing you want when you embark on your travels is to be marooned by your own lack of physical strength. There’s nothing worse than being the wheezing member at the back of the group when you’re in the middle of a long walk. The rest of the team scampering ahead of you into the distance like a lively group of mountain goats.
You’re forced to wonder if it’s even worth getting to the top of the mountain as you stagger up with a face redder than a cooked lobster. You carry on anyway only to arrive ten minutes after most of the goat-people, jelly-legged and out of breath. Of course, the view is worth it. It always is. And no matter what level of fitness you are you always feel that exhausted pride as you take it in…Until you have to climb back down again and this time you’ll be battling against the forces of gravity which so desperately want you to fall on your face.
I don’t know about you but training for my backpacking trip never really occurred to me. It was too easily side-lined by actually planning my travels. That and the fact that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to exercise. If you’re anything like me then disciplined workout regimes are never something I can get used to. No matter how hard I try, I can never be that person who gets up before the dawn and does three straight hours of cardio (and if you are one of those people then I am in awe of you. What’s your secret please?).
Nevertheless, with some admitted reluctance I’ve realised that training for your backpacking trip can possibly be the best preparation you’ve ever done. Because let’s face it you’re going to be on your feet a lot and you’ll be relying on stamina to keep you going. In the months running up to your travels start practising for the kinds of activities, you want to do while you’re abroad. Give yourself a routine that’s achievable, whether it’s one or two days a week, and force yourself to stick to it. It’s the best way to save yourself the embarrassment of being the wheezing wreck at the back of a tour somewhere.
You’re never going to develop a superpower stamina to go sightseeing and do activities every single day. That would be insane, you definitely need some time to relax in the pool or on the beach. But, giving your body the chance to be physically fit enough to ensure that you enjoy the activities that you do can only be a benefit. That, and good footwear. Just make sure they’re broken in first as there is nothing worse for a backpacker than painful blisters. It’s a little hard to admire the view when you’re wincing with every step. Luckily, I still have a few short weeks to get at least a little fit for my backpacking trip. Who knows, maybe this year I’ll be able to join the goat-people cohort too!
Thanks for reading,
If you liked this then you might enjoy How to plan your trip: My solo travel advice.