Have you ever thought about just packing your bag and taking off for a few weeks/ months/ years? If you have, then you already have the mindset you need to be a backpacker. With a good sense of humour, a relaxed approach to travel and a desire to see the world, you could be up for an amazing adventure.
Backpacking is one of the best ways to get to experience everything the world has to offer. Carrying only what you need may not be the most luxurious way to travel, but it does give you a sense of perspective you wouldn’t find anywhere else. You get a chance to return to nature and figure out what it really means to be human.
Though you might initially be thinking exclusively of backpacking through wild landscapes, setting up camp each night, you can also try backpacking through cities, staying in the relative comfort of hostels instead. This is a good option for people who are new to backpackers as hostels don’t often require bookings but do always have showers.
So, now that you are persuaded to give it a try, here’s what you need to know…
Make No Plans and Follow Your Heart
Part of the romance of backpacking is that you don’t need any particular plans before you start. You might want to look at where you want to go and set out a vague route, but if you already have everything you need, there’s no hurry to get back to a certain destination or rush for a plane.
Many backpackers will try out hitchhiking as a way to get from destination to destination for free, but hitchhiking does come with a few rules: stay safe, be clear about where you want to go and be friendly. If you are getting a ride with a stranger, treat this as an opportunity to make friends and chat along the way. They might even be able to offer some advice about where you could go next or what you could get up to when you arrive.
If hitchhiking isn’t your thing, you can always book buses, trains and planes on the day of travel to get to your next destination. This can be a more expensive way to backpack, but it is also a good compromise between the freedom to travel and your own comfort.
Be prepared to change what plans you do have too. One of the most frustrating things about package holidays is that you only have a limited amount of time to do everything at your destination. But what if there is a great party tomorrow night? Or what about if you meet someone and they have suggested you visit another place together? Being open to suggestion is a great way to travel and pick up new experiences so don’t be afraid to follow your heart and say ‘yes’.
Adventure in the Wild
If you are planning to travel from town to town either interrailing (if you are in Europe) or getting buses or even planes, you won’t need to worry too much about what you take as long as you can carry it all. A good tip is to take a limited wardrobe that can be swapped about to make different outfits. Lots of thinner layers are usually better too, as you can be more comfortable as you travel.
Of course, most backpackers are traveling in order to get out of the city and experience the open countryside. This is great, though it can pose a few issues for making sure that you manage to carry everything you need. Knowing how to pack your backpack so that the weight is distributed properly is just as important as knowing what you will need to take.
If you are planning a wild hiking trip, then you will need to think about what you definitely need and where you can save on weight. So, for example, you might want to take a tent, but if you are confident about the weather, you could try a tent alternative like a camping hammock, which is much smaller and lighter.
Hiking is an amazing and thrilling experience that will have great impact on you. As your body gets used to carrying the weight of your pack and you get fitter, you will be able to enjoy the magnificent scenery and feel the stresses of your daily life pale into insignificance as you literally walk away.
Meet New Friends and Change Each Other
Lots of backpackers like to travel in groups but if you are planning to go solo, it is actually really easy to meet new people and make new friends. Most backpackers are of a similar mindset and are also looking to make new friends so if you meet up with new people as you hike or at a hostel, don’t be afraid to chat.
If you are willing to be flexible with your plans, making friends like this will also influence where you go and what you see. You might have decided that you have a set route to follow, but going off on a tangent is a good way to broaden your horizons and do something you hadn’t thought of. Plus, if you were nervous about going somewhere on your own, this is a good time to find a buddy to explore with. This is the ideal moment to break out of your bubble.
Backpacking might not sound like your cup of tea, but it is well worth giving it a go, even if you only travel for a week to begin with. Backpacking for the first time will test your nerve, bring you out socially and give you the freedom you need to enjoy your travel without any pressures. You get to see everything, go everywhere and take the time to get back in touch with yourself.
It might not be a spa holiday, there won’t be fancy restaurants or opportunities to glam up and hit the town, but there will be time to de-stress, find something new and find your way back to nature.