Before I dare to venture into this topic, I should put out a disclaimer that I am in no way a backpacking expert. I love to travel and I do it as often as I can, but my backpacking days consisted of me just winging it and learning stuff along the way. As a total amateur, I figured there are more clumsy ones out there like myself who don’t bother to research much and learn along the way.
That’s why I decided to write this blog post, to share the main important things I came to learn, which any backpacker, amateur or expert might find useful. I may be wrong, I may be right, but these are some things I found useful, when I became a backpacker:
1. Pack light
Backpacking also means a lot of travel on foot with a bag on your back. If that bag is filled with souvenirs, pots and pans, and a different out fit for each day of the week, you might look good but you sure as hell won’t feel good. Packing as light as possible, and then picking up things you need on the way is a much better option and will leave space for all the cool things you’ll find on the way which you’ll want to take with you. I can’t count the amount of times I had to leave some really amazing things behind just because I was too over packed and didn’t have space in my bag anymore. I’ve learned my lesson. Take heed friends.
2. Dont plan too much, and wing it just a little bit.
Okay maybe don’t wing EVERYTHING (like you should know where you’re gonna be sleeping that night) but spontaneity ends up being so much more fun than intensive planning (in my opinion). Oftentimes, it’s harder to navigate travel with a huge backpack on your back, and it’s simpler to just accept what comes and go with the flow.
The lack of expectations also means lack of disappointment, and you’ll save yourself from the stress of ‘things not going the way you planned’.
3. Hostels vs. hotels, what’s the better choice?
Hostels. Are. A. blessing. They’re cheap, they’re cool and they’re filled with other travelers with awesome stories. Every hostel I’ve stepped foot in has welcomed me with the hustle and chatter of travellers from all over the world, aromas of various foods being cooked by travellers in the kitchen, and a safe place to leave my fatigue without worrying about how much money I’ll have left to take the train or bus the next day.
It is of course important to be cautious, even hostels differ on levels of safety depending on location, price, who it’s run by and etc… but usually a quick looks at the reviews and comments on google will identify whether it is stay-worthy or not. People tend to leave reviews and comments more often when they are upset or unsatisfied, so if that seems to be a pattern that I see, I move on to search for a safer alternative.
(p.s couchsurfing is also a budget travel option, but I’ve never explored it as of yet, so use at your own risk…)
4. Socialize (people are cool)
Backpacking will definitely mean socialization (sorry introverts). You’ll have to ask questions, ask for help, ask for guidance, and sometimes, just ask about the people you meet. Everyone has their own story and it’s a fascinating experience to learn about others. I think the most useful tip I could give for people who want to backpack is to talk to other people. It makes the journey more enriching and leaves a trail of precious memories to look back on.
5. Document as much as you can!
One of the things I am extremely grateful for is the fact that I thoroughly documented every trip I’ve gone to. Even the mediocre moments, the small things which have no significance in the moment will come to mean a lot when looking back. This is true for any travel, but in the case of backpacking, you tend to cover more ground and take longer to reach your destination, but I’m gonna go the cliché way and tell you that the journey tends to be more beautiful than the destination itself.
6. Know your limits. And don’t push them.
While I’ve heard the sky is the limit, that isn’t often the case in travel. There are always limits regarding safety, well-being, energy and finance that could make or break your experience. This is especially relevant for backpacking trips because you’re carrying all your stuff on your back… and walking… for long periods of time. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and experiencing things you normally wouldn’t is always great, but it can become harmful after a certain point.
Some people will hitchhike and set up tents in the middle of nowhere. Others use couchsurfing and other budget friendly homestay apps. Some rent cute cabins and go glamping. Others combine backpacking with luxury stays. Whatever your style may be, no one travel style is ‘wrong’. As long as your heart is happy, that’s the thing that matters the most.
Limits are different for everyone. Know yours, and make sure you’re enjoying your backpacking experience.
7. Souvenirs: Dos and Don’ts
A tendency that most people tend to have on travels is to buy a bunch of souvenirs for their loved ones. Their suitcase or bag that goes back with them is filled with little gifts for other people. It’s a cute gesture, but for a backpacker, souvenirs will be the death of you. Besides packing as light as possible, you should make sure you’re only buying things on the road which you ABSOLUTELY NEED.
It’s really hard to resist the temptation of buying the cute little trinkets which roadside vendors dangle in front of you everywhere, but I promise you’ll forget about them the next week. if you absolutely want to get souvenirs, make sure they’re meaningful or at least very small. Everyone has access to keychains with landmarks on them, but a collection of stones or stamps or bills from other countries is more interesting.
Personally, I keep the ticket stubs of trains, restaurant meals, admission tickets to landmarks and other significant places as a memory of the experiences I have. It saves space but holds all the memories of that specific experience which I want to remember.
Have you ever been backpacking? What kind of tips would you give to beginners? Share your thoughts in the comments below!