Backpacking On A Budget - Part 1
It’s that time of year again – young Neopians have finally finished their exams and the whoops of joy can be heard up and down the land. Many will already know what they want to do afterwards but some need a little time out before they come to a decision. A popular choice is to go travelling for a few months and see Neopia before settling down in a steady job. For the lucky ones this will be an all-expenses paid jaunt around the various lands, staying in the most luxurious accommodation, dining on exotic foods and taking part in all the activities on offer – no matter the cost. But for many the trip will be self-financed, perhaps paid for by a Saturday job at the local shop. This series of articles is for all those who wish to see as much of Neopia as possible – but on a shoestring budget. This first part sets out the preparations you’ll need to make and gives a useful starting point. Next time we’ll focus on the first set of Neopian places to visit that don’t require huge sums of Neopoints.
Now, before you start you will of course need some basic equipment. You could just head off with nothing but the clothes on your back and rely solely on the generosity of your fellow Neopians. This could make for an interesting adventure and you will be able to dine out on your stories for years to come. However for peace of mind it’s better to be prepared in case you do end up stranded without a place to stay. The items mentioned below are chosen with budget in mind but they should all last for at least the duration of your travels, if not for your next adventure as well.
One very important purchase is your backpack. This is going to contain all your possessions over the next few weeks or months so it needs to have plenty of pockets but also supportive straps. A bad back is not the kind of lasting memory of your trip you want to have. If you can borrow one an Explorer Backpack is ideal but I’ve found that the cheaper Koi Spelunker Backpack is comfy and durable.
Taking a tent with you does mean more weight to carry but at least you will always have somewhere to sleep that is sheltered from the wind and the rain (or snow or sand depending on your destination). The Tent In A Box is perfect for the budget-conscious traveller. It might not be flashy and impressive like the NeoQuest II Tent but it will do the job without taking up too much space in your backpack. You’ll also need a Cosy Sleeping Bag and, if you’ve room (or plan to travel up Terror Mountain), a Spotted Blanket will make the ground a little comfier.
Travelling is no excuse for looking scruffy so it’s a good idea to pack a Red Long Hair Brush, Pumpkin Spice Soap, a Yellow Yurble Toothbrush and Mint Flavoured Toothpaste. These will keep you looking and smelling approachable so your fellow Neopians are more likely to offer you a lift. It goes without saying that any traveller who wants to be taken seriously always has a towel with them. I recommend the Song Flower Print Beach Towel because it’s cheap and cheerful but also dries quickly and rolls up tightly, using less space. A couple of other essentials are some Healing Gauze Pads if you need First Aid, some chocolate in case of emergencies (Orange Chocolate Bar is nice and cheap), an Altador Cup Reusable Water Bottle and a Sun Hat. For navigating it’s worth picking up an Ancient Map of Neopia, a Star Map and a Handy Compass. A Green Lined Notebook and a Blue Pencil with Eraser will come in handy for keeping a diary of your adventures. Before you set off I also suggest borrowing a few books such as Map Reading, Cartography For Beginners and Backpacking Across Neopia. These will give you a few ideas of where to visit and teach you the basics of navigation if you stray from the path. Just don’t try to take them with you in your backpack.
It’s worthwhile planning out how long you are going to be away for and which places you most want to visit. It might seem like a good idea to visit everywhere but if you are constantly rushing from place to place you won’t have time to enjoy the experience. If you spend at least a few days exploring so you can visit more than just the usual tourist hotspots and will feel as though you’ve really got to know a place. You can always travel to the other lands on your next adventure. It’s also important to take your physical abilities into consideration. If you aren’t the active type don’t suddenly expect to be able to hike for miles everyday. You will rapidly get fitter but it’s far better to underestimate how many miles you can walk a day and then have more time to spend exploring. Otherwise you might find you only reach your destination just as everything is closing for the night.
Most Neopians start out from Neopia Central – you can spend a couple of days here getting used to being away from home as well as practicing putting your tent up and down. Of course there are also plenty of things to see and do whilst you are there. You can while away an afternoon window shopping in Neopia Central, the Bazaar and the Plaza as well as buying any last minute items. Here you will find the largest array of shops in Neopia – it’s quite a sight if you grew up in one of the outlying lands where you were lucky to have more than one food shop. Even if you can’t afford to do more than look this is a great opportunity to actually see rare items up close and watch the expert hagglers at work.
If the weather is mild it’s nice to camp out under the stars by the Money Tree. There is of course the added bonus of being nearby if any generous Neopians drop off donations. You should be able to pick up some food to last you a couple of days on the road. Just remember to be polite, don’t grab, and let those in the most need choose first. [Please note this campsite is not advisable if you are frightened by ghosts]. For good luck on your journey it is a tradition to throw your loose Neopoints into the Wishing Well before you set off. If you’ve already spent your last Neopoints there are two other places you shouldn’t leave without visiting, both are located in the Plaza. At the Soup Kitchen you can get a filling meal of delicious soup once a day for free. It may seem odd but stopping off here for breakfast before you head off elsewhere is well worth it. After all it may be the last hot meal you have for a while. The second place is the Second Hand Shoppe where you can take away all sorts of clothing and accessories that kind Neopians have given away. Just don’t be tempted to take too much or you’ll regret it a few miles down the road when the adrenaline wears off and you really just how heavy your pack is.
So now you’ve become an expert at putting your tent up and down, figured out how to use a compass and remembered to pack your towel. You’re ready to set off on a real adventure and it’s time to make a decision. Where should you go first? Look out for my next article where I put forward my ideal route around Neopia and give you the budget-conscious traveler's guide to the first group of destinations.