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Is Backpacking for You?

Photo by Paxson Woelber via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Backpacking isn’t always a great idea. Despite its popularity, especially with young travelers, backpacking is a mode of traveling that doesn’t suit just anyone. For some, the mobility and convenience of packing light, sticking to a shoestring budget and throwing reservations to the wind is more appealing than booking a more reliable travel route and bringing your belongings in a blessedly wheeled suitcase. If you are thinking a wandering style of trip is appealing, before you load up your pack get a reality check of what life might be like on the road and of the challenges you might encounter once your trip is over.

You Can Cut Costs…

Price is a big factor, but one that some people choose to ignore, thinking backpacking is the ‘cheap way to travel.’ That can be true, but it isn’t not always. You can cut many of the costs of travel, but there are some that will be similar no matter how you slice it: the cost of contacting loved ones from abroad may be unaffordable to you, for example. Although there are myriad ways to contact family and friends back home, staying in touch isn’t always easy. Most of your friends and family will understand if you go slightly off the radar while you’re away, but the downside of being out of touch is the nasty surprise of how much things may have changed once you are back from your trip. (Here’s one way to circumvent that: To get around this, sign up for a mobile broadband package from the MobiData website, which offers you a free SIM card with 100MB of complementary data. It’ll work in 40 countries and there are no long-term contracts, meaning you can use your smartphone as much as you’d like.)

…But Do You Want to Cut Costs?

The whole ethos of traveling as a backpacker is to cut down your travel costs until they are quite minimal. For example, backpackers need to be ready to stay in very basic accommodation in order to stick within their budget. Accommodation is one thing, but what if you are in this scenario: You might be in a city like Paris, famous for its culinary delights, but you can only afford to eat instant noodles. No “bon appetit” there! That is to say, there are some destinations that are better for backpacking than others. So, before you decide on your itinerary, carry out some research on websites like Price of Travel to see if your destinations are actually affordable.
If you’re planning a lengthy trip, as many of the best backpacking trips are, don’t forget the potential cost to your future job prospects that an extended unemployment might have on you. The difficulty of getting a job once you return from your trip is nothing to ignore. It is no secret that youth unemployment is a big issue in many countries, and delaying your job hunt could prove costly to your career ambitions. Plan out your five-year and 10-year goals and make sure that taking time off now is the smart thing to do.

Backpacking is an Extrovert’s Game


We’ve met backpackers of all kinds, but if you’re an introvert who’s planning on doing an extended backpacking trip, remember that hostels and “the backpacker scene” are often an extrovert’s game. As a backpacker, you will no doubt be sharing a dorm in hostels wherever you go. This means you may feel great pressure to socialize with the other travelers. If you like that, that’s great! But, if you know that you need a lot of personal time, also know that it might get awkward when you choose to ignore the fellow backpackers at the hostel.

Are you a germophobe? Well, depending on where you’re traveling to, cleanliness can be an issue when staying in bottom-dollar backpacker-biased basic hostels. Unfortunately, people many people’s cleanliness and hygiene went on vacation when they did, and they “forget” to clean up after themselves, even in the common areas of your shared hostels. Dirty bathrooms and messy kitchens might be okay for one or two days, but living under such conditions for months or even years might test anyone’s sanity. Again, how well you handle this will depend on your own needs as a person and your tolerance as a traveler. But it’s one of those “little things” that veteran backpackers cite as ultimately being a major annoyance. Another one of those things? Noise. Hostels can be noisy places—loud music, chatting…and sometimes private moments between other travelers that you’ll wish you never heard.

Travel is awesome. The world has so much to explore! And, just as there are many places to go, ther are many different styles of traveling that will enable you to get to those places. If you’re considering backpacking for your next trip, do some research about your destination, weigh up the pros and cons and evaluate your own personal tolerance for other people.

Whatever you decide, have a good trip!

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