Last Updated on November 28, 2020 by Camilla Gill
What is backpacking? Find out the definition and what it’s really like to backpack…Scroll down to find out why I hate backpacking
Often it can feel like everyone you know has either just returned from a backpacking trip or they are planning to embrace backpacker life for six months around South America.
From the school leavers to the career breakers, even your Auntie Debbie and her pet dog. It seems like everyone who’s anyone has experienced their share of backpacking.
A quick scroll through Instagram shows travel to be the holy grail for millennials.
The backpacker meaning leads you to believe that backpacking helps you to “find yourself.”
You will come back armed with a plan to start a whole new life. Eight months travelling around South East Asia teaches you what’s important in life – How to make memories not money. . . *eye roll*
Heck, you’ll probably end up retraining as a yoga teacher and spend your days drinking chai lattes while wearing Lululemon leggings.
OR . . . NOT?
BACKPACKING MEANING – WHAT IS BACKPACKING LIKE?
Officially, backpacking means an extended trip where you travel destination to destination, staying in hostels and living out of a big backpack.
Backpacking life is essentially a chance to escape your problems for a few months, an extended holiday.
A chance to run away from your responsibilities and stretch your overdraft to the max.
You see, while you’re backpacking you are FREE to forget your real life. You are FREE to enjoy life, drink endless cocktails on the beach.
However, the thing is, when you come back from your trip, all your problems will still be there. You won’t find yourself backpacking living the backpacking life you’ve seen in movies – full of spiritual experiences.
Instead, you will spend six months getting drunk four times a week.
You will meet people from all over the world but end up hanging out with people from your own country. Going to visit tourist attractions that you have no interest in but do it anyway because that’s what you DO.
Suddenly, six months have flashed by and you’re exactly the same. Albeit poorer and 15 lbs heavier.
WHY I HATE BACKPACKING
As much as I love traveling, there is a lot I don’t love about the concept of backpacking life.
Hang on, let’s be really honest here. I hate backpacking.
The thought of lugging around 17 kilos on my back, spending endless hours on a bus, sleeping in sweaty dormitories with drunk teenagers. Bleugh.
Let me outline just exactly why I hate backpacking and what backpacking life is really like . . .
1 The Bloody Backpack
It’s so big, so clumsy and so hard to walk around with.
NEWS FLASH – You don’t actually need a big backpack to be a backpacker.
Most backpackers nowadays arrive at their destination and hop in an Uber to the next hostel. I switched to a wheely suitcase and never looked back.
Trust me – It is far easier to pull 20kg than try and walk around with it in on my back.
Plus when you get to the hostel, a suitcase is so much easier to pack and unpack!
2 Packing Lists
First aid kits, torches, sewing kits, special laundry soap . Most packing lists are just a whole bunch of stuff you will eagerly pack before never using it once.
The first time I went backpacking was to Australia, why I felt the need to pack a first aid kit and a sewing kit I will never know. Did I think they wouldn’t sell plasters and iodine in Australia?!?
Nine times out of ten, most backpackers choose routes that are firmly established as popular travel trails. The chances of you being somewhere without access to plasters and a washing machine are very, very slim.
Therefore I can guarantee that you will find all the essentials you might need as and when accidents happen.
3 Visiting Churches
Why does everyone who goes backpacking suddenly magically develop an interest in architecture?
I NEVER go to look at churches back home so why do I suddenly want to go and look at them abroad.
Once, when I was 21 and backpacking around Mexico, I was in San Sebastian de las Casas . . . .and I woke up one morning with the decision to try and see all THIRTEEN churches in one day.
I think it was probably mainly to do with the whole idea that I SHOULD go see these beautiful examples of architecture. It didn’t seem to matter that I had no burgeoning desire to study architecture, more societal pressure telling me to be interested in something that I am not.
The backpacking meaning does not mean looking at castles, it means discovering cultures and experiencing new things.
Like cooking? Take a traditional cooking class of the country!
Love dancing? Find a dance school teaching the national dance!
Instead of doing what the guidebook tells you, do what you want to do!
4 Unpacking and Packing
Aside from taking showers and watching Newsnight, there is nothing I find more boring than unpacking and packing every three or four days.
It seems like such a pointless exercise to take all my stuff out of my suitcase before having to cram it all back in again. 80% of backpacking life seems to consist of trying to stuff 50 liters of clothes in a 30-litre space.
Especially when I seem to accumulate new clothes every three to four days! Packing is a nightmare!
5 I ‘DID’ South America
Can we clear this up for once and for all?
You didn’t do a country, you visited a country. The phrase ‘I did . . . X, Y and Z. . . countries’ is wrong.
When I hear someone tell me how they ‘did’ South America, I want to vomit in the first aid kit that they undoubtedly packed.
How can you do a country?
How can you possibly have gotten to know a whole country in 3.5 weeks?
All you did was visit tourist attractions with an English-speaking guide. You could have just popped down to your local museum in the morning visited a theme park in the afternoon and ordered a Chinese takeaway for dinner and you wouldn’t have known the difference.
If you’re planning on being an ‘I did’-Backpacker – then, please, just don’t bother. Find a good photoshop app for your phone and paste your picture next to Iguazu Falls.
Your work colleagues will never know the difference and you can save your money.
6 Not Meeting Locals
Hanging out with people from your country is an easy trap to fall into during your backpacking life. You’re alone in your country surrounded by people speaking a foreign language.
As soon as you find someone who speaks the same language as you, or even better, is from the same country as you, you become best mates. This is something I am guilty of 100%.
It is so much easier to form a bond with someone who shares the same culture as you, finds the same jokes funny, etc.
But this is such a waste of time if you are backpacking. Why?
Because you are staying in your comfort zone.
THE MEANING OF BACKPACKING IS MEETING PEOPLE
People who AREN’T like you.
Meeting locals, talking to them and listening to their story – THAT IS WHAT BACKPACKING IS. Sharing experiences with people who have a different view of life, a different way of thinking, a different moral code to you.
And to do that, I don’t need to find myself on a bus every 72 hours flitting from one exotic beach to another.
SLOW TRAVEL OVER BACKPACKING
For my purpose of travel. I can stay in one place for months on end. I love meeting people and making friendships. Love learning a new language to able to chat to the locals. I love finding the authentic places to eat, the secret spots to view a sunset.
These kinds of experiences require more than three days in a place. Other cultures think in ways different to me and help me open my mind to seeing things from an alternative point of view.
Learning from others and really getting to know a culture different from yours is priceless.
Forging connections with people is one of life’s great pleasures and to do that a relationship needs to be formed. And relationships take time to build. Months are needed.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS
There is nothing more I love than talking to different people and asking questions.
One can learn so much more by listening to others without interjecting your opinion every other sentence. Let the other person talk and stay silent.
When they realize that you are listening that is when they will open up.
At the start of this post, I told you that I hate backpacking. My intention with that was more to grab your attention than anything else. I still want you to go abroad and make crazy unforgettable memories.
But the most important memories come from the people you meet. That’s when the backpacking life becomes something worthwhile.
Otherwise, I hear Centerparcs has some great deals during term time?