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Willover’s Travels – Tips and Tricks.

Jenni in KS (when she’s not disputing what I’ve said or trying to pick holes in my posts) sometimes makes valuable contributions to the Dingo. In this case she has asked a number of questions on behalf of her son’s friend. So, while I’m sitting on the plane waiting to take off for Moscow (that’s a metaphor guys, don’t send me any emails asking how long I’ll be gone for!) I’ll answer them, and add a few bits of advice as well.

It sounds like you worked for a while until you got enough money for one of your journeys, then worked again once you were out of money until you could afford to go again. Did you have a place to come back
to in between?

Yes and no, I worked in either mining or industrial construction in remote areas of Australia to earn enough money to get me on the circuit* again. I did this for two reasons, a) at the time they were the best paying jobs in Oz, so I didn’t have to work too long, and b) accommodation (including all meals) was provided, which meant that I didn’t need to keep a base of my own. However, I did have some stuff in my parent’s garage in Sydney, and I did stay with them from time to time in between journeys. I should add that I worked for four years straight as an apprentice electrician before any of this happened. Once I got my Electrician’s Licence I started to travel.

Did you work odd jobs while on your travels?
Normally I worked as an electrician in Oz to earn the bulk of my travel money (around a thousand dollars was enough in those days, but I usually tried for a thousand in spending money after tickets), however there have been times when I’ve wanted to extend the trip, so I have also worked as a builder’s labourer, painter, carpenter, waiter, translator, handyman, fruit picker, wood cutter, car deliverer and a few other odds and sods. I’ve worked in New Zealand, America, Canada, Thailand, England and Bali (and of course, Australia).

What kind of places did you stay while you were travelling? (He specifically asked if you had to spend all your money on hotels or if you were sleeping on park benches.)
I have never slept on a park bench, and I never will. Oh wait, there was one time when I went to Queensland with my brother and his car broke down, so we had to sleep on park benches and in picnic shelters while we waited for dad to send him the money to get it fixed (he always was a dependant sort of a person, still is from what I’ve seen). But I don’t take any blame for this, as I had only just turned 15 at the time and I was 700 miles from home and didn’t have much control of my destiny yet. (When I was robbed in NZ six years later I didn’t even tell dad, as I knew he try would to get some money to me, and I didn’t want any help.)

One thing that you learn if you want to stretch the adventure out as long as possible, is to always do long trips overnight, that way you get accommodation thrown in, you may be sitting up, but you’re safe and you haven’t had to fork out for a room. This is actually why I flew to Athens via Moscow (but I’ll explain exactly why in the next episode, if there is enough interest for me to keep writing).

Another thing that helps is that there is a loose travel fraternity, and it’s not uncommon to meet someone in one country and stay with them in another (generally their homeland), for this reason it pays not to be a prissy whining traveller, if that’s how something is done in a country , that’s how it’s done; either deal with it, or fuck off back home to where things are done how you’re used to! It also pays to travel by yourself as you’re more likely to get invites when you’re on your own, plus you’re also more likely to meet people. Where couples tend to stick to together, singles (out of necessity) tend to mix much more.

Have I not been paying enough attention while reading your posts?
Probably not, you’re usually too busy trying to find fault with what I’ve written.

Any other thoughts?
Yes, I wouldn’t mind a cheeseburger. Oh yes I do have another handy travel tip, taught to me by a Texan by the name of Howard. The best way to pack soft luggage (which is the only luggage you should ever travel with – handlers hate suitcases and regularly take out their frustrations on them), is to get a few nylon sack type backs with string pulls (you can buy them in any camping store now, but I used to get my aunt to make them for me). You need one for t-shirts, one for socks and underwear, one for sweaters (it’s best to follow the seasons, then you don’t need too much heavy clothing, one for your blanket (make sure it’s thin and pure wool), and a slightly larger one for dirty clothes. To pack your clothes (say your tees for example), fold them in half lengthwise and lay them neatly on top of each other, trying to keep the wrinkles to a minimum, then roll them up as tight as possible and stuff them into the sack, which should be just a fraction smaller in diameter than the clothes that you have just rolled up. You’d be surprise how good they look when you unroll them when you get to your destination.

Just one more thing, always carry a flashlight small enough to hold comfortably in your mouth so that you hands are free, a pair of tweezers. a pocket atlas (I find Bartholomew make the best ones) and a universal plug (there’s usually a sink but there’s never any plugs, this way you can always wash your underwear).

*There is a distinct low cost travel circuit that is fairly fluid in nature and can change without warning due to the changing popularity of destinations, the current political situation, the cost and standard of
accommodation as well as the cost of travel.

To join the circuit, basically all you have to do is
find a place where travellers congregate and tag along, you’ll eventually find out where the cheap and safe places stay are. Unfortunately this doesn’t work so well in America for some reason. But anywhere else, all you have to do is stay in a few backpacker hostels and you’ll soon have a pretty good idea of where the current circuit is.


49 Responses

  1. I know my grandson isn’t old enough yet to travel but he’s talking about it. You’ve given a lot of good advice in this post but I feel youngsters are a lot more vulnerable than when you were traveling.There are some countries I would worry about!

  2. Good tips. I’ve done a little traveling, mostly years ago, but I wouldn’t be as likely to strike out on my own now. Things aren’t the same, much less safe, than they were once upon a time.

  3. my brother has traveled all over the world like this, without the working as an electrician part.

    once he and i were traveling through canada by car, and the car broke down in the middle of nowhere. we had to hitch hike back to town and spent the night in a hostel. on our way to the hostel, he pointed to an old railroad car that was off to the side in a railyard and said, “if you weren’t with me, that’s where i’d be sleeping.”

    and i thought, again, how much more fun it must be to be a boy.

  4. Terrific travel tips, WT! If I wasn’t so fond of my own bed and, more importantly, my own shower, I might be tempted even yet. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a public shower until I started driving truck…lol.

  5. I’ve traveled quite a bit, but in a more conventional way, I think. You’re much more adventurous that I think I could ever be. Even if I were a boy.

  6. Thanks so much, WT! This was an excellent post and very helpful. I know I for one am interested in hearing more about your travels. Please keep it up.

    It’s funny what Sandy said about the public showers. On one of our recent trips for a gymnastics meet, we stopped at a truck stop for gas and a bathroom break. Na (11yodd) was shocked to see a sign pointing to a shower room. I spent some time around truckers and in truck stops when I was a kid. My mom, brother, and I even hitched a few rides in semis. It never occurred to me that such things would be so foreign to other people, especially my own kids.

    Oh, and you know I only pick on you because I like you right? The worst ribbing is always for those I like best:o)

  7. Great post. I wish it was the habit of those in the US to take time to travel after school. Or before school. Whenever. It would sort a lot out if our population were more comfortable in the world. But when your own country is so huge, and the boundaries so seldom pierced, it’s difficult to encourage kids to go.

    I wonder why Oz is so much better at travel than the US? Do you think it might be connected to the spread of the population and what seems like more cities here? (I’m still ignorant of Oz except from maps, so be patient here. I’ll get there yet, just give me 2-3 more years.)

  8. WT you should write a travel book. That was a lot of good info there!

  9. “enough interest for me to keep writing” – is that a beg for comments?

  10. Karmyn – WT wouldn’t beg for comments….would he?!

    This is a great post! I think you should write more on the subject.

  11. Thanks Willow. Of course, now I want to pack my bags and head out on an adventure. I love that travel tip-it makes total sense.

  12. Good post, WT!!

    One thing I noticed in my own travels is that wherever you are there’s always an Aussie or two at hand. It seems that when the travel bug was passed out Germans and Australians got more than their fair share.

    Note to single female travelers: when picking a seat in a pub/bar always remember that the area close to the Australians will be either the safest or the “liveliest” spot in the room. The blokes are certainly scrappers.

  13. Now I know why my luggage always looks like it went thru the shredder…

    I want to see video of the t-shirts – I just can’t IMAGINE packing them that way, and not having tons of wrinkles!! Are you a genius, or just kidding around?

  14. That was lovely, but where is the posse video? :-).
    I will go through withdrawals soon…

  15. Interesting tips. I should have asked you before I went camping last year for advice. But I pretty much go with Live and Learn. And have a tendency to jump in feet first. I did learn something though. Next trip Im going on is with the girls. No kids. No cooking. No cleaning and staying in a resort. Someone else can wait on me for a change. Sometimes dreams to come true!

  16. I want to read more. I don’t even care if you’re begging for comments.

  17. YES!!!! I want to hear more even if you are begging for comments!! I love your stories. Absolutely perfect post. You are an entertaining individual!! And I agree with the way that you pack tshirts. Always did mine that way!!

  18. Guys can pee standing up – so hitching and camping are so much easier. And they don’t have the cycle necessities to carry around either.

    Now I’m just feeling old and want to travel in comfort. You know.. heated seats, etc.

  19. Did you put the nylon drawstring bags in another bag? Carrying around three bags, brightly coloured though they be, would be kinda awkward I’dve thought.

    The thing that bothered me about lugging my stuff around foreign places, was if I’d had to run for my life I would have been seriously impeded. (Fortunately I didn’t have to run for my life). And while I think of it, as its been mentioned. Why is that when people say the world is a much more dangerous place than it was when they were young I find this hard to believe? I think our fearless leaders like us to think its really dangerous out there because fear is a great controller, but I seriously doubt that it is any more dangerous than it was thirty years ago (except of course if you happen to be in Baghdad or Khandahar). Its such a common thing to hear from people in the US the UK and Australia that the streets are much more unsafe then they were when they were kids. I don’t buy it. I think domestic life is possibly a lot more fraught, but not necessarily the streets any more or any less than they were thirty years ago. The way some people carry on you’d think there was paedophile lurking behind every lamp-post. And while I’m up here on the soapbox, I realise we’re discussing foreign countries and certainly there are places where you don’t venture or you wear a money belt or you cover up or whatever, but this has always been the case.

  20. This is so interesting. You really should write more about all your travels, I love listening and reading what people have to say about all their adventures while travelling. I haven’t had an opportunity to travel much yet so that’s probably why. And I’m sending my husband and three kids over here to read this because not only do I have three adventerous children who could learn something, but they can see for themselves that someone else on the planet rolls clothes to pack them. I swear by that method but my family constantly makes fun of me for it.

  21. I almost always learn something from your posts. I enjoyed reading your traveling tips. I patiently await the continuation of your trip around the world tale.

  22. Great post. I’m not sure why you need to hold your flashlight in your mouth, but I have invented some fabulous scenarios.

  23. You’ve travelled so much further than I ever have. Good on ya! Yeah… for touring-noobs such as I, those are positive practical tips. Thanks.

    Mal 🙂

  24. Hmmmm…..I could have sworn you told me about a different career…

    I wish I would have traveled a lot more when I was younger. Now it is near impossible with 6 of us. But, one day we would like to travel to Australia and if we do, I hope the kids are with us.

  25. I wish I’d read this a few days ago = we just got back from a quick trip down to Wanaka; we stayed overnight at a backpackers. It was so funny, because as usual I hauled far too much cr@p along with us; all clothes carefully (but unsuccessfully) packed to keep them smooth … and the place was filled with experienced, REAL backpackers who had one bag each and looked very “together” … sigh …

  26. Happy Easter WT!!

  27. So WHY are you flying to Moscow….no, just kidding!! I wish I would have traveled more in my youth, but I was too busy having babies! On the plus side, now that I’m old (nearly 40) I already have my babies, so I’m not forking out big bucks to try and fertilize my ancient eggs!! There’s always a silver lining!! Maybe my babies will travel and I can experience it vicariously through them!!

  28. You rank right up there with Bill Bryson.
    Now, how do you pronounce Moscow? Mos-cow as in bovine or some other way?

  29. ToB – The reason is pretty obvious,it’s to free up both hands. This is particularly helpful when you have a put a padlock on you door (which is also very advisable).

    Swampy – We say Mosc-oh, as in borrow, furrow and tomorrow.

  30. In Russia they say “mok-bah”

  31. I’m irritated that you keep moving me off of your MAIN FRIEND/BUDDY LIST.

    Don’t our late night chats mean ANYTHING TO YOU?


  32. Ughuuuu????

  33. Altaglow – actually, they write mokbah, or to be more precise Mockba (in Cyrillic it would be Москва), but they say Musk-va, and they call themselves Muskavites.

    Ree – Ha ha ha….no.

  34. ha ha I am loving the interpretations of Moscow, the pronunciation is quite obvious to me, mmmm do we not all speak the same English? Sorry but I am also laughing at Ree actually commenting over here! She is still a real person? LOL and she is worried that she is not on YOUR list anymore? Too funny! WT are you famous elsewhere? Is there something you are not telling us?

    Thats it! you are going to Have to visit me now! Just so I can take a picture of you! No seriously, if you do though! You will have to bring the dogs…..Mmmmm, people don’t impress me much, but your dogs…..now they are famous in my eyes!

  35. Did/do/will you put the nylon drawstring bags in another bag?

  36. You are beautiful WT.

  37. And intelligent.


  39. Heh heh! You say “universal plug” and I’m thinking “You bet! I’m sick of having to buy a new one for every country so I power my electronics.” How times (and priorities) can change a? Great post WT – thanks 🙂

  40. I truly loved this post, Willowtree…(and not a hint of sarcasm, I might add from either of us)….I did exactly what you are talking about about 20 years ago…I went hosteling by myself, and I made so many different people along the way…(Mostly Australians, but what the hell?)….I would love to do it again..thanks for the memories…

  41. I “made” so many people along the way…yeah, right…I’m in the Mafia, don’t ya know….

  42. Another thing I learned was that backpacks are like having a sign stapled to your forehead saying “Hi, I’m a Tourist! Please rip me off”, therefore I always used a leather barrel bag that allowed me to blend in on arrival. In addition, this time I also figured out a way to include a cut down version of my tool kit so that I could work along the way.”

    Caroline, I didn’t answer your question as I assumed that it was simply witty comment and wasn’t really asking a question, given that the preceding paragraph was in a previous Willover’s Travels post. Those bags in the picture were taken from the net, a) mine weren’t coloured they were white, and b) I actually had four of them. And yes they went INSIDE the leather barrel bag.

  43. Evenstar – I also carried a universal adaptor set, but only in latter trips, they are really handy! It’s funny, but I didn’t even think about you and your electronics as I wrote this, I wish I had been able to post a long the way like you’re doing!! Although, I’m not sure I’d like to carry anything of actual value with me, I’d be interested in hearing your take on it.

  44. Thanks for your concern WT, I am starting to think positive thoughts now the absolute shock has worn off.

  45. Thank-you.

  46. The main issue for us has been the weight. About half of what we’re carrying is computer and camera gear and I wouldn’t enjoy lugging it all around on my back for any length of time! We haven’t been anywhere where we’ve felt we have to worry about having stuff stolen and now that we’re on this group trip security’s not an issue. Finding net cafés where you can connect a laptop is a little more difficult than we expected, hence the sudden drop off in post frequency. Text only posts just don’t cut it for me as a photographer 😉

  47. Oh as is tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…forgive me, I’ve had too much coffow.

  48. Just seeing the words “backpacker hostels” got me all hot and bothered. ‘Twas my dream, twenty years ago. Glad you lived it out on my behalf!

  49. The “always carries” you suggested are great things to keep in your car, too.

    You’re full of crap, too…readers dwindling???

    And don’t think I didn’t notice your little “area” for your BWB…I’m snuggly nestled between Ree and Swampy and they make EXCELLENT bedfellows…;)

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