People will think you're crazy. Your parents will worry. You will miss your friends and you're friends will miss you. But everyone will be envious of you.
This can be good and bad. Its good in that people will encourage you to go, because they wish they did when they were younger. But it can be bad in that people will be jealous of you and try put down your plans. "Thailand? I heard only pedophiles go there."
Whatever. Your good friends will support you. Be sure to post your photos on a blog or Facebook so they can keep up with you're adventures.
Tyler Durden once said "Your possessions end up owning you." You will understand this all too well. If you're gone for an extended period, who's gonna look after all of your stuff? Who will feed the fish, the cat, or hamster? You will have to lend a lot of stuff to friends, keep some stuff at your parent's house, whatever. Be prepared for not getting this stuff back after you've been gone over a year.
You will need to have a good backpack. Yeah its a cliche and maybe you don't wanna be like everyone else, but its the easiest way to get your stuff from the airport to the hostel and back.
You need to think really hard about what stuff is necessary and what is just a luxury. Separate things into different two different piles: Need-to-have and Nice-to-have. Most of the Nice-to-have stuff you will just have to leave. It sucks but you have a hard limit on what you can bring: 15kg.
Why 15kg? Many airlines require that you are less than 15kg. Also do you really want to be carrying that much weight through god knows how many airports? Trust me, you will save time and energy if you keep it under 15kg.
Get a scale, weigh yourself. Add 15kg. Now weigh yourself while holding your backback. Are you over? Gotta take some stuff out. Look through the Nice-to-have stuff you're carrying. Do you really need that Spiderman 2 extra features DVD? Do you need so many pairs of socks if you're going to be in a tropical country? Trust me its a lot easier doing this at home than at the airport when you're already running late for your flight.
What do you Need?
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy tells us that the most important possession any traveller can have is his towel. Just as THGTTG is right about the meaning to life, the universe and everything, it is also right on this point. Many hostels will charge to hire a towel so its good to have your own. Also your towel you can use your towel as a pillow on long flights. It can be used as a blanket on the buses in Southeast Asia when they crank up they AC to the point of giving their passengers hypothermia.
For clothes you will need lots of changes of underwear. Maybe four t-shirts. A Jumper and a longsleeved shirt. Two pairs of pants. You can wear pants a few times. T-shirts maybe a couple of times. But I don't know about you, but I like to have clean underwear everyday. I may be a dirty backpacker, but I have a little bit of class.
Depending on your first stop you may want to carry even less clothes. You can buy clothing for cheap in Southeast Asia, so you can just buy some more shirts and pants when you get there.
I've heard of the hardcore travelers that only have two changes of clothes including what they are wearing. They wash one change in the morning, leave it to dry while they wear the other. Next day they clean the other, and repeat. But I'm a lazy bastard and so I only want to deal with my laundry once a week.
There is going to be some things you'll need in some countries but not in others. In Australia you are going to want some camping gear and a good saw for getting firewood. People will think you're crazy for having a saw, but at every campground, the easy to et firewood will have already been taken by the 50 people that have camped there that week.
A good knife is also something I find useful. The knives at the hostels are often dull and useless so having your own sharp knife makes cooking a hell of a lot easier.
Learn to cook. This will save you a lot of money and you will get a lot of satisfaction out of eating a great meal you cook yourself.
When you get to a hostel, check the kitchen for what is available. There is usually a free food shelf with stuff other backpackers left behind. I've seen people cook entire meals out of what was left on the free food shelf. But if you don't enjoy ketchup sandwiches you are probably going to have to spend a little money at the supermarket. But sometimes you can find some interesting spices or sauces that you'd otherwise not try on the free food shelf which will make for an interesting meal.
Cooking isn't really that hard. Its mostly just trial and error. Its not hard to throw a steak or some fish into a frying pan with some onions and peppers, put some rice or potatoes into a pot and you will get a great meal.
And it is not all that boring to cook. There's always other people around in the kitchen you can chat to while you're cooking and women are always impressed by a guy that can cook.
There is no such thing as traveling alone.
Many people don't travel because they don't have anyone to travel with. You will not be lonely when you are traveling. Half the reason why you travel is to meet interesting people. Your fellow backpackers will be as interested in talking to you as you are in talking to them. You will meet some of the most interesting people you've ever met while traveling. They will think you are the most interesting person they've ever met too.
You hear a group of people planning to go out for a drink? Just say "mind if I tag along?" The answer will always be "Of course! The more people the better!"
You will see a lot of Koreans and Japanese who might seem unfriendly at first. But its really that they are just shy. You'll see them quietly reading their book but peaking over it and wanting to talk with people but not sure how to approach them. Go and talk to them and they will be very grateful that you made the effort.
Its just a Karma thing: try to make sure everyone else is having a good time and everyone will make sure you have a good time too.
Not a problem. In Asia, take off your shoes before you go into someone's house. Don't drink in public places in Muslim areas.
Learn to accept people's generosity without protest. This is hard for a lot of western people because we are so used to everything having a hidden price somewhere and think that if someone is giving you something it has to be a scam of some sort. Sometimes someone is offering you something simply because they like you and it makes them feel good to give you something.
Cultures are more the same than they are different really. If you are a laid back and relaxed person, people will like you. If you get angry and blow up at someone, people will lose respect for you. Just be cool and you'll be alright.
Share your booze and cigarettes with people and they are going to like you no matter where you go. Well maybe forget about the booze in Muslim areas but even there many people will drink, but just in private. Sharing your vices with people is a fast way to make friends.
Eat all the food offered to you. I've had people drive miles out of their way to take me to their home to have a meal with them. Once again, you have to be willing to accept generosity.
I suppose the most important thing to realise is that we are more the same then we are different. If you have a "them and us" attitude people will see that and reflect that attitude back at you. If you have a "we are all people" attitude that will be reflected back at you.
There are of course people you shouldn't trust. You have to follow your instincts on this one. If someone seems really desperate to get you to go somewhere then that sets off alarm bells for me. Its always good to know what someone's occupation is and where they work before you accept any kind of invitation from them. If they don't have a job then there's a good chance that their job is taking money from you.
There are no set rules to identifying a scam. If it seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is. If a really hot woman wants you five seconds after you met her you are either a hell of a lot better looking than me or you're about to be rolled. If someone you just met offers to take you on a tour of where ever for free, you're probably going to get a tour of some back alley.
Beware of the scams, but don't get into some kind of bunker mentality so that you're afraid of trusting anyone. If you find some good people and trust them, your experiences traveling will be so much better. You'll see things most people don't get to and save a lot of money because you'll be getting away from the tourist spots.
As long as you have your health, some good food in your belly and somewhere to sleep, nothing else really matters. Just relax and enjoy the adventure.
When you travel you will see amazing things. You'll watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat. you will stare out the windows at Genkoan Temple and contemplate confusion and enlightenment. You'll camp under the stars in the Australian outback. Most importantly you will meet amazing people that you will share all of these experiences with.