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5 Reasons to Go Backpacking

Updated on March 31, 2014

Introduction

When the time comes to take a vacation most people start thinking of where they would like to go and then begin making plans and trying to see if they can afford the trip. There are many tools on the web to help book packages, like Kayak, Trivago, Travelocity, and independent travel agents that can help. Most Americans have very limited time that they can take off work and just want to find someplace where they can have some fun and relax. I can completely understand this, and sometimes kicking your feet up at a four star resort is a great option. However, there is another option that is easier on the budget, more fun and will leave you invigorated instead of just relaxed. Traveling as a backpacker is more rewarding, more interesting and just plain fun. I should probably explain that I’m not talking about wilderness backpacking (although there is nothing wrong with it), I’m talking about going on a vacation where everything you take fits in your backpack, you stopover in hostels, and you don’t stay in one place the whole time.

Typical excursion:  Bus filled to the brim with backpackers on an adventure.
Typical excursion: Bus filled to the brim with backpackers on an adventure. | Source

1) The people:

When backpacking through a country or multiple countries you get to meet a very diverse and interesting set of travelers and locals. Most of the travelers that you meet will have a passion for traveling and experiencing the different cultures of the world. You will be amazed and inspired by many of their experiences, and frequently they may have just left the place you will be heading next. You can get great advice for your next destination and frequently some great ideas for your next vacation. You may even become good enough friends that you’ll have a place to stay if you ever visit their home country.

The locals that run the hostels are always great resources of information on the town you are visiting. They usually speak English and while the service level might not be the same as a concierge at a fancy resort, neither are the prices. They have a different view on the town you are in and will know what attractions are tourist traps and what are great fun and a good value. Also, when you travel on the same busses or trains etc. as the locals do, you can usually strike up a conversation with someone that will speak candidly with you about their country. They are usually happy to share their culture with you and, as a backpacker, you are much less intimidating so they are almost always friendly.

Where do you want to go?

Where would you most like to go backpacking?

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2) Budget:

It is no secret that most of the world is less expensive to live in than the USA. However, companies that run large-scale resorts are very well versed in US incomes and have studied the demographics of the people that come to visit them. They know we will happily pay five dollars for a beer when we can drink it sitting by the beach so they charge it. Normal price at a local bar might be less than a dollar, but since they know what you are used to paying they price accordingly. When you stay at hostels, most of the travelers are on a tight budget so the rooms are less expensive along with everything else. Also, the Hostel will usually be located within walking distance to everything in town so you can get whatever you want at the normal market rates.

The Good old Ben Franklin T list

Reasons to go backpacking
Reasons not to go backpacking
The people
Fun sounds too engaging
Budget Friendly
 
Freedom to change plans
 
More Stories to tell
 
Really see the world
 
Make better friends
 
Meet the locals
 
Come Home Invigorated
 
It is always a good idea to make a list of pros and cons. I've taken the liberty of building one for you.
Want to hike up a volcano?  No reservations required.  Show up for the tour and pay your money and enjoy.
Want to hike up a volcano? No reservations required. Show up for the tour and pay your money and enjoy. | Source

3) Freedom:

I am a huge advocate of being able to do whatever I want whenever I want. I especially feel this way when I am on vacation, and if I decide I want to change my itinerary I want to be able to do it without a hassle. If you have booked a vacation package with a fancy resort, that might not be possible and if it is, it might require calls to the travel agent, the booking company etc., and you may have fees to pay. When traveling as a backpacker, staying at hostels, and using public transportation, you can generally pay one night at a time, buy your bus ticket right before getting on the bus, and change your plans on a whim. As long as you abide by local laws you can go wherever you want and do as you please with very little planning.

Study Scuba

In a place where the scuba is good? Take a class...Or don't, it's your vacation!
In a place where the scuba is good? Take a class...Or don't, it's your vacation! | Source

Jumpserve

Play a Sport? Challenge the locals to a game.
Play a Sport? Challenge the locals to a game. | Source

4) Stories:

Whenever I travel, I love to come home with stories of adventure. Very few people want to hear about lying on the deck of a cruise ship, or drinking in the casino of a fancy resort. For some reason, people’s ears perk up when you start talking about riding in a 50 year old school bus with an insane driver on a cliff road with no barrier on a Guatemalan mountain. Many of the activities that are targeted at the backpacker crowd are more adventurous by nature and frequently lower priced. More affordable activities mean you can do more of them and that means coming home with more stories. Even if you aren’t the story telling kind of person, it really comes down to having experiences for your own life. The stories you make on a backpacking adventure will stay with you even if you never tell anyone else about them.

Need a little help?

Travel guides are great to help you get around a place you have never been. They usually have some good info on the local culture, some phrases in the local language that can help and some budgeting guides. Some great book series are:

Lonely planet. www.lonelyplanet.com

Let's Go. www.letsgo.com

Rough Guides. www.roughguides.com


5) You see the world.

When you get outside of the conventional resort vacation box you get to be part of a larger world. Nice resorts and cruise ships frequently have a feeling of a nice American shopping mall that has been dropped into a completely different part of the world and isolated from the rest of the culture. When you travel like a backpacker you really get to see the place you came to see. You use the methods of transportation the locals use, eat in the local restaurants, drink at the local bars, and actually see the local culture in action. Isn’t that a big part of why we travel internationally in the first place?

A new perspective on the world

Sometimes the world just looks different when you are on a backpacking trip.  The camera saw it just as I did this time.
Sometimes the world just looks different when you are on a backpacking trip. The camera saw it just as I did this time. | Source

Conclusion:

Traveling as a backpacker is more fun and more fulfilling than going to an expensive and isolated resort. Getting to connect with like-minded hostel going travelers is fun and never pretentious. Meeting real locals that aren’t trained to keep to themselves like a hotel staff might be, lets you see glimpses of their city through their eyes. Because backpacking is almost synonymous with budget travel, you can do more, see more, and come home with more experiences without breaking the bank. And the freedom that comes with traveling this way lets you change on whim if something isn’t working for you. When your backpacking vacation is over you’ll have a better picture of the places you visited, the people who live there, and you might even make some great friends.

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