What does it take to become a backpacker? This is a question I have heard a thousand times so I figured it’s time to give it a crack and offer some advice.
To start out, what is backpacking anyway? Backpacking is an adventurous style of traveling for people who are interested in discovering new places, activities and people on a limited budget. Now this is not to say that you have to be totally roughing it to be a backpacker as there are some fantastic low cost options out there these days.
Backpacking is a great way to experience different countries, cultures, meet new and interesting people. It’s not very difficult to be a backpacker, but you do need to possess some qualities before you start your journey.
A backpacker needs to be independent. Typically, backpacking is done either alone or with a partner. My personal suggestion is to backpack solo at least once as you will never get a better opportunity to learn about who you are and who you want to be.
You have to be willing to take some risks and take care of yourself. That includes booking a bed, seeking information, and sorting out your meals and transportation. It’s hard to succeed if you always depend on others to do the job.
Being prepared is essential for backpacking. You need to have a plan and research information (from internet or travel guide) and plan your journey. Without planning, you might end up in northern Finland without knowing the way back. Plan your travel route and destinations wisely so that you can save time and money. Don’t forget to be smart in packing your stuff. You might want to save space and reduce the weight of your backpack.
Most importantly, you must be willing to sacrifice. Backpackers face hardship and challenges. They have to travel for long hours, endure bad weather, and cope with nasty local people with suspect intentions. This is not your honeymoon!!
How can you spot a fellow backpacker on the road?
Here are some funny, yet common stereotypical characteristics.
- If they look dirty and haggard, wearing casual clothes which they wouldn’t normally wear in their own country. You’ve got yourself a backpacker!
- While passing the local hostel on a Sunday morning you see them loitering around speaking jibberish about the random they picked up last night. You’ve got yourself a backpacker!
- If you are on the train to work and get bumped by someone carrying an oversized backpack. You’ve got yourself a backpacker!
Don’t leave home without a journal
The scribbled stories from Singapore, tales from Thailand and memories of amazing people and places will be what you treasure when you’re in your 50s. Think of it less as a journal or diary and more as the story of your travels. Your own little book!
Pack a deck of playing cards
One of your cheapest investments that is guaranteed fun is a pack of playing cards. It’s the best way to make friends and a lifesaver if you’re staying in a hostel with no TV on a rainy day.
Purchase a local SIM card
If you are staying in a country for a while, purchase a local sim card for your mobile phone rather than switching your global roaming on. It’s a lot cheaper and you don’t need to pay for calls you receive.
Always wear a pair of cheap flip-flops while showering
Thousands of people use hostel showers and one of the most common travel complaints is a bad case of tinea.. ahhh the itchiness.
Always carry a pack of tissues with you
It comes in so handy in so many ways, and not just a toilet paper replacement.
Check ahead for Cheaper Admission
Many cities have free admissions or cheaper ticket days to galleries, museums and cinemas. Be aware though, that some attractions can be closed on certain days of the week.. this is especially true for museums and art galleries so plan ahead to avoid disappointment. Your best bet is to visit the local tourist info and pick up some flyers.
Go to the library
Most city libraries have free Internet access so you can brush up on your next destination or plan and book the next part of your trip.
Carry insect repellent
If you are traveling through a hot climate make sure you carry insect repellent. Those little bastards that bite will have you in bits before you even know it! We all know what it’s like to spend a sleepless night waving off those annoying little buggers.
So as you can see you don’t really have to have a lot of money to travel, contrary to what most people believe. Just stay in control of your budget and your time. If you really want to save, make friends with the locals of the countries you will visit as they will tell you how to go to the must-see places, where to eat cheaply and how to travel like a local. Stay with them if possible and get to know their culture. The friendships that you will gain is one of the most important things about backpacking.
Remember that everyday is your free time – you have all the freedom to discover new things, new places and new people. These are the times when you don’t have to worry about waking up early to go to work, no boss to deal with, no deadlines and no responsibilities. Backpacking is an attitude, a carefree approach to traveling and most of all it is a life-changing experience.
Just think…you could be here!