Backpacking, unlike traveling first class, is a far less luxurious experience filled with hardships. There are several factors you need to compromise on and depending on your budget; you also need to keep an eye on the lodging and other expenses. This is so that you can spend most of your funds for visiting the sights you want to see and going to the places you want to go, rather than on your comfort.
It is true that backpacking is not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is also true that backpacking offers a fuller and complete grasp of the culture of the place than a regular trip. This backpacking guide will help you to decide on what you should focus more and what can be compensated.
Traveling on a Budget
Not all places are cheap. If you are, for example, backpacking through Europe there are a couple of compromises you can make to stick to your budget. For instance, instead of choosing a five-star hotel, you could always stay in a hostel. You could extend your stay in one place for long periods without worrying about draining your funds too much.
The same is true for your traveling expenses. There are cheaper options to everything and you could always go with that. Instead, you could spend your funds on trying out the local cuisine in every place or paying for the best sight-seeing or visiting tours. You could spend money on a little bit of shopping as long as you can carry it on your back comfortably.
How to Pack?
Backpacking is a minimalistic way of traveling and it is really not backpacking if you are lugging around two huge suitcases with a duffle bag on top. One backpack or rucksack is all you have to limit yourself to, and most of it will not be filled with clothes. Moreover, you can’t overstuff that either. Just because it can hold a lot does not mean that you can carry a lot as well.
Firstly, choose a backpack that does not weigh a lot all by itself. The heavier the backpack is, the less you can put in it.
Before you pack, make a list of things you absolutely cannot live without and leave space for later additions. After all, what is a trip without at least some shopping? Choose a couple of durable outfits and remember that you have to repeat them not just once or twice but several times.
Your medication and first aid kit take precedence and that is something you cannot compromise on. While you can always use hotel toiletries or buy shampoo from a local store, you might not always get the medicines you need everywhere.
Fancy clothes or jewelry might be irrelevant in most cases on backpacking trips. If you do not have any formal meetings planned, skip out on those. It would reduce a lot of space. And last but not the least, do not forget to put in a bottle of sunscreen if you are going somewhere with a lot of heat.
While everything else can be handled within a few days before you leave, your travel insurance cannot. Travel insurances take time to compare and if you are going for an expensive one, consider their worth first. Most travel insurances will just cover the bare minimum. In case you are scared of losing your valuables, you probably need to put in special provisions for it.
The same is true if you have any specific medical conditions. That is why you should go through the small print carefully and not just assume that because the price is high, it will be better. But that does not mean that a cheaper insurance is the better way to go. Just read through the policies carefully, consider all the possibilities and ask questions before you buy your travel insurance.
Gain More Information
When you are backpacking, you are on your own. While the freedom of it is intoxicating, if you are not prepared for any possible adversities, you might be in trouble. If you are traveling with a group, check all the details beforehand. Just paying them the amount is not the end of it. You need to know what your money is being spent on. Check with them regarding the lodging and the food and the sights and events that are being covered.
If you are not traveling with a group then you have to have a working knowledge of the place you are about to visit. Internet will feed you with a lot of scare stories that you should probably ignore. If you can, get hold of a brochure to identify yourself with the attractions of the place.
Talk with your travel agent about every single detail. If you know anyone who has been there, ask them about their trip. This will help you to prepare yourself to deal with the local people and the culture.
Maintaining your health is a major issue anywhere you go. If you have any specific medical disorders, consult your doctor first. In fact, even if you are perfectly healthy, do a health checkup beforehand. Use sanitizer and be careful of the water you are drinking.
It is better if you stick to bottled water all through. Local cuisine is a great experience and it can go both ways. If you order food that is not easily available in that place, the food might be stale or spoilt. In that case, the local food might have been the wiser way to go.
However, not all the ingredients in local cuisines will suit you. If you are allergic to anything, ask the staff about what goes into the preparation of the meal before you order.
When to Go
If you have planned on visiting a place during a celebration or any special event, be prepared to face the crowd. It might be the experience of a lifetime but it also will get tiresome easily. You probably won’t get to enjoy the trip as much as you planned to.
If your visit is not centered on any local celebration then choose a quieter season to visit. You will be able to get in touch with the people more and enjoy the sights and the places without waiting in queues for ages.
The Bottom Line
With all that taken care of, all you have left to decide is where to go. You can go on a trip to Africa or backpack through Europe. Or you could visit South-Asia. But the key is to not cover too many places in one trip. If you plan on covering a larger area, you are more prone to miss out on several attractions. You can make a separate trip later but stick to one state if you have a time limit.
Backpacking is all about letting go of your inhibitions. It won’t be home and you won’t get the comforts of home, but then, that’s the point, isn’t it?