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Backpacking as a form of travel in underdeveloped countries

Updated on March 18, 2013

Backpacking in underdeveloped countries

I’ve spent two years backpacking through Central America, India, Nepal, and Thailand. Backpacking as a form of travel is an incredible experience. Mostly, this form of travel is suited to those on a shoestring budget. If you are young, perhaps finishing college, and you have even the slightest desire to see the world outside your own country, I encourage you to take yourself on an adventure you’ll never forget! Anyone can enjoy an experience of traveling this way, you just need to have time on your side. Backpacking for a month can be done but it isn’t the same thing as wandering the world without a concrete itinerary for a longer period of time. Couples or single adults with an indefinite period of time on their hands can travel cheaply and see much more than vacationing couples or families.

Backpacking basically means that you travel light, carrying only a large backpack that holds all your belongings. Traveling this way enables a sort of freedom of movement that can be a natural high. The ability to pack up and move to a new location on your trip in 15 minutes can make you feel freer than you’ve ever felt before. I myself felt that living “off the grid” and away from modern society as I backpacked through underdeveloped countries, was an experience that made me feel more alive. The ease with which I moved from one Central American country to the next was empowering and gratifying.

Backpackers should be aware of a few things when planning their trip. One is that you can always buy things “on the road” as you travel. Bottled water doesn’t need to be brought from home. It can be purchased anywhere along the road, such as at any bus station on your route. In fact, all things you might run out of can be purchased, such as toothpaste or toiletries, or even shirts and clothing. You will want to leave room for things you buy along the road such as souvenirs. I encourage you to bring a book or e-reader to read as you may plan to go on many bus or train rides, depending on where in the world you are traveling. Traveling in underdeveloped countries means the sanitation isn’t always the best. Thus, you want to brush your teeth with bottled water, don’t drink from a soda bottle or can that isn’t clean, and when eating choose food that you can see being cooked. In many underdeveloped countries, there are food stalls on the side of the road. Some people think that those are the “restaurants” that should be avoided because they are on the street. However, these are the preferable places to eat because you can see the meat being cooked in front of you. If you go to a restaurant with the kitchen in the back, unseen, there may be hygienic issues; you can’t see the food being cooked and it may be contaminated and may make you sick.

Another interesting thing about backpacking is that you aren’t alone. At any given time there are thousands of other backpackers traveling on a low budget like yourself. The best thing to do is to talk to other travelers. They have been places you’re heading to, can give advice on where the best places to stay are, the food, things to avoid, and sights to see. Their intel is valuable because it is more up to date than your guidebook, and you may even make a few friends along the way. I myself met an Israeli woman friend while traveling in India and we still keep in touch many years later. There is also a movement, or a traveling circuit, in many places. That means that there is a sort of navigation to the way people travel, a direction. My plan for traveling in India was to start in New Delhi, then move clockwise towards Benares and then Calcutta. However, because of India’s magic and my interaction with other travelers, I changed my direction and went with the flow of backpackers towards Rajasthan and then south to Goa in time for New Years. The parties in Goa had so many backpackers from all over the world; it was a great experience to interact with so many travelers in one place, all having fun.

In underdeveloped countries, there are often many cheap hotels. You don’t need to book in advance if you’re willing to stay in a hotel with a common bathroom and shower. Some places will have private bathrooms attached to your room, but if you’re on a shoestring budget, and you can handle basic accommodation, you will easily find places to stay. This was at least the case in the countries I traveled to. This enhances your freedom of movement because you don’t need to plan in advance where you are going. You are, in a literal sense, able to wander. That wanderlust feeling might arise and you will be free to go anywhere you want, any time you want, and be ready to do so at the drop of a hat.

Backpacking as a form of travel is best in underdeveloped countries because it is possible and cheap to do so. Backpacking in Europe is very different from doing so in underdeveloped countries. Europe is more expensive and there are many hostels that aren’t that cheap and require advance reservations. Traveling in Central America, or South Asia, there is no need to book hotels in advance. Traveling on a shoestring budget can be fun, and because underdeveloped countries are cheaper to travel in, you’ll be able to do more and see more for less money.

I encourage you to try it. Backpacking is a rewarding experience that you’ll never forget. Email is available in many locations and you should bring a camera to upload photos to your facebook account! Good luck and happy travels!

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      Josen 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      Good questions. My favorite country by far was India. It is rich in culture, the people are friendly, very little risk to yourself except for possible theft and I met many friends along the way. The most enjoyable thing I did was party in Goa at trance parties/raves. The advice I'd give to wannabe travelers is to not be afraid. It may seem scary to go off backpacking through countries you've never been to, but it is a very heart opening experience and you'll be able to navigate it much better than you might expect. You'll develop new skills at taking care of yourself and will figure out how to do it.

      Happy travels!

    • Jason Vigil profile image

      Jason Vigil 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Well i'm jealous. Backpacking is one of the things i've been wanting to do for as long as I can remember. Never quite been able to muster up the money or courage to drop everything and go for it, though. :(

      I have so many question! What was your favourite country? Where did you make the most friends? What was the most enjoyable thing you did? What advice would you give to wannabe travellers?

      Awesome article, by the way. I'll be sure to follow what you write ;)