Backpacking around the world is one of those experiences that everyone should enjoy - and the great thing is that taking a gap year is no longer the sole preserve of young people.
No matter what your age, you'll need to be really clever about what you fill your trusty backpack with, as space is limited, and most of us have to be creative when it comes to making our money last the duration.
Here are a few tips to make for a more enjoyable trip:
Find a hostel with a kitchen
Cooking? You don't want to cook on your travels, what with the array of world cuisine at your fingertips, right? Of course, right, whatever. Backpackers' budgets don't usually extend to buying three meals out a day, so search for a hostel with a kitchen or a camp site with communal barbecues so that you can prepare dinner on the cheap. Believe us, you'll need to do this at some point. It'll be much cheaper to hit the local Coles or Woolworths when you're in Australia, for example, than dine out all the time. Plus you might want to eat with your new found travelling chums in your dorm while sharing the usual 'where have you been?' stories. Most hostels will provide cutlery and crockery.
Forget the water bottle
One of the items that the would-be backpacker sees as absolutely crucial is the water bottle. Well, it's not. You don't need it. A water bottle takes up valuable room in your bag, it typically requires you to decant water from either a tap (don't do it) or from a bottle of water that you've just bought (so what's the point?), plus it requires washing out unless you're happy to harbour several million micro-organisms on your travels. We don't care that it rolls up or is insulated, you don't need it. Just buy a fresh bottle as and when required and remember to recycle the plastic where possible.
A sarong will be your life-saver
Don't baulk at the thought of buying a sarong, chaps - honestly, this mere rectangle of brightly-died cloth will become an essential part of your backpacking armoury. Rather than packing or buying a beach towel, use a sarong. It's lighter, can be rolled into a teeny tiny ball so takes up less space in your bag and it will dry out faster than the musty old towelling alternative. Girls - and boys that dare to emulate David Beckham's 1998 look - can use this handy item to cover up on the beach or as a scarf to cover heads and bare shoulders when visiting sacred sites. Best of all, though, if you're sleeping in a dorm and have managed to snag a prized bottom bunk, a sarong can be used as a curtain - simply tuck it under the top mattress and you have some much-needed privacy.
Sleep with your bag and other security tricks
Aside from generally keeping an eye on your stuff, there are a few things you can do to promote security - in addition to having the right kind of travel insurance, naturally. If you're staying in a dorm, put your valuables in a small bag and sleep with it. Tuck it under your pillow, under the mattress or down the side of the bed to prevent anyone getting their hands on your items during the night. Keep a fake wallet, containing some old, insignificant cards and a small amount of cash in the front pocket of your bag. That way, if you are targeted, the thief will scarper after getting their hands on the fake wallet and your real one remains safe.
Lastly, to ensure that you're never without any money, keep some notes rolled up in a cleaned out lip balm tube - no one would think to look there, even if they found your purse. Even better, buy a pre-loaded currency card and forget cash altogether.
Travel overnight to save time and money
Covering long distances is part and parcel of backpacking - and much of it will be done using surface transport rather than the luxury of flight. Instead of wasting a valuable day of your trip sitting on a bus, book your journey over night. It's likely that the vehicles will be less crowded and you also save money by not requiring accommodation for the night. Keep your valuables tightly clasped to you if you're likely to sleep - certainly don't leave them in your backpack, which will be stored in the hold or - as in many cases - balanced precariously on top of the truck, exposed to wind, rain and wandering hands.