People are sometimes surprised when I’ve mentioned that I’ve gone backpacking through Europe and Thailand. I work in a job where the majority of the people wanted the job because they love to travel, and yet they are the ones expressing their surprise. I’ve heard comments regarding having to carry a backpack, rather than have a suitcase. Or concerns about safety and theft. One of my colleagues said she would be unwilling to share a bathroom with so many other people.
Travel is amazing no matter how you do it, but my weeks spent backpacking will be something I will always treasure, and it taught me a lot about travel. Here are a few of those things:
1) It’s fun talking to and meeting people from all over the world, and fellow travellers can be an excellent source of travel tips! No matter where you stay, the opportunity to meet people is always there, but staying in hostels does make it far easier. Hostels are far more social than hotels, between the common areas, shared bedrooms, and general environment, and the people who stay in hostels are more oriented towards meeting new people and making new friends. If you’re travelling solo, hostels are a great way to go. When you’re sharing a room with nine other people, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will have a conversation with most of the people in the room. I met a lot of solo travellers along the way, especially in Europe, who joined in with my friend and I on our adventures.
2) It’s possible to travel on a budget and still have amazing experiences. Let’s face it, usually a six-bedroom room in a hostel is much cheaper than a one or two person room in a hotel. Yes, you have to share a bathroom. Yes, you are sacrificing some comfort, as well as peace and quiet to save money. Sharing a bathroom isn’t the end of the world, and buying earplugs and an eye mask is a quick fix to prevent having your sleep disrupted in a hostel room. And that money you save? It can be spent on food, shopping, activities, etc. Or, save it and use it for a trip later on down the road.
3) Being low-maintenance can be fun and a refreshing change. I wouldn’t say that I’m high maintenance, but I will admit that I’m a girl who loves to get dressed up. It can be incredibly refreshing to go makeup-free and live in shorts, tank tops, bikinis and sandals, like I did in Thailand.
4) How to pack smart and efficiently. With a backpack, you have limited space to use. Give me a suitcase and I try to squeeze my entire closet into it. You should have seen the amount of shoes alone I tried to push into my suitcases when I did my big move. But give me a backpack, and I start questioning everything that I pack. Thankfully, backpacking taught me a lot about packing smart, and how important weight distribution is when you’re packing! I still tend to over pack when I have a suitcase, but I am far better now than I was pre-backpacking days.
5) The convenience of a backpack. You have two hands free to use, no suitcase to wheel around. And a lifesaver in a stairs-only hostel or hotel. The first hostel we stayed at in Europe had no lift, and we were on the top floor. I can assure you that walking up stairs with a backpack on is far easier than lifting a suitcase, a carry on, and a purse up multiple flights of stairs (which is something I have had to do as a flight attendant in some hotels). Travelling on a train was far easier with a backpack as well. Not to mention, try wheeling a suitcase on a cobbled street. Two feet and a backpack are quicker and easier. My travelling present (and future) will consist mostly of suitcases because of the nature of my job, and the fact that I left my backpack at home when I moved. I would definitely consider using my backpack again though, because the convenience of a backpack in some situations is hard to beat.
6) The world is your gym. No joke. Carrying a backpack is hard work. Especially up a hill or set of stairs. Not to mention lifting my backpack into overhead compartments, or onto bunk beds. And all the walking, or running when you realize you’re about to miss a train!
Backpacking was a fantastic experience, and it taught me a lot. It’s a great way to travel, and something I will never regret. Simply put, it’s fun!! I don’t know if I will ever use my backpack again, but I hope I do pull it out again one day (before it gets too dusty!). At the very least, I will use the knowledge I gained from my weeks spent backpacking for future travel. Before backpacking, I never would have thought about solo travel. Now? I wouldn’t hesitate to do it if it meant getting to travel rather than stay home.