It’s all becoming very real.

Our interrail tickets arrived at Lauren’s house on Wednesday, which sent us both into a tailspin of excitement. We’ve booked all of our accommodation, too. We chose most of our hostels – except for our hostel in Ljubljana, which we saw in a supplement in a newspaper – through hostelworld, but booked most of them directly, to save money or just for a more personal booking experience. We’re also staying in an actual hotel in Berlin, because it’s my birthday, and also, hilariously, the Radisson at the airport the night before we fly, because it was genuinely the best option. We’ve got flights. I’ve written everything into the green holiday notebook, which makes me feel secure and prepared.

So now we’re into phase two of preparation, which is mostly about packing.

I like to have stuff. I’m not a terrible over-packer, but if I’m going away overnight I’ll take two pairs of pants and probably an extra top, just in case. This is far from ideal when it comes to planning a backpacking trip. I’ve read so many blogs and forums and articles about the right size bag to take, but nobody seems to agree, and there’s even less of a consensus about which brands are good or not. I narrowed my ideal volume down to 35-45l, but preferably no bigger than 40, but I still didn’t know which to choose. Finally, yesterday, blinded by choice, I took myself to Covent Garden to look at lots of backpacks. There are so many. But after a lot of circling, and sitting on the floor in shops with air conditioning so I could read reviews on the internet, I narrowed it down to a shortlist – going by pockets, mostly – and then a brilliant person in Ellis Brigham helped me to choose from those. Eventually, I went for an Osprey Farpoint 40l – it fitted me the best, and the weight felt well-distributed so I didn’t get tipped forward or back, and it didn’t put any strain on my lower back or shoulders. I was also drawn to the way the straps can be zipped away, but it wasn’t a priority – comfort while carrying it was top of that list. I think I’ve made a good choice, and now I can spend the next month and a bit (oh my god) working out what I want, what I need, and what I really need, and how best to fit it all in.

We’ve both also got packing cubes, so our bags don’t turn into disaster areas, and microfibre towels, which take up almost no space at all. Tip: if you’re looking at buying one, make sure it’s microfibre and not microtowelling – microfibre dries faster and takes up way less space. I did not make sure of this, so had to buy a second one in the right material.

I’m trialling Lush solid shampoo and conditioner bars, in the interests of minimising stuff that can leak or break or whatever, and also so that I can be sure I don’t run out – my hair generally needs washing every other day, and also gets dry really quickly, so I don’t want to risk that. The solid shampoo is Seanik, which is similar to Big – a salt shampoo which I use most of the time – and the conditioner is Sugar Daddy-o. They’re a bit strange at first, but I like the effect they have on my hair. The shampoo one takes a while to dry, so I need to work out the best way to transport it without it being permanently wet, so I’m glad I’ve got a while to test it.

There’s still a lot to do but, ultimately, the important stuff is out of the way. I’m so excited and also so nervous that I must just pop!

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4 thoughts on “An extra big adventure: choosing hostels, and a backpack

  1. I had the exact same experience in Covent Garden! I felt like crying, and ended up with a sales guy telling me I needed to just look on the internet, which was no help when I had no idea what I needed! I’m also a spare pants kind of girl, so took travel wash & string (to hang stuff) so I could wash things on the way instead of taking loads of spares 🙂

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