Historically, backpacking was an infamous travel concept for only the free-spirited nonconformists. As the term itself implies, backpacking involves travelling with everything you’ll ever need in a backpack. With the emergence of smartphones and mobile data, backpacking has become as popular as ever, a concept now considered by almost every traveller. Now, many preconceived notions about backpacking have arisen. If you’re planning to go on a backpacking trip any time soon, it would be best to have a reality check before you let your ideas ruin your experience. Here are a few expectations backpackers should let go of before setting foot in their journey.
1. You’re healthy, so it will be easy
You go to the gym regularly, jog every day, drink those fancy protein shakes, and take the stairs instead of the elevator to work. While fitness and a healthy lifestyle will definitely build up your stamina, backpacking will always be a daunting task. You may be used to carrying weights, but try having a 30-pound bag on your back as you trek for hours. Heck, hiking without a bag is difficult in itself!
Tip: To make sure you won’t strain yourself too much, pack lightly. As much as possible, don’t let your backpack exceed 20% of your body weight.
2. You’ll have more time to relax
Yes, you’ll definitely spend more time with nature. But, nature doesn’t always equate to relaxation. If you’re backpacking, you’ll most likely have to come up with plans as you go. Instead of spending your free time reflecting about life, you’ll find yourself contemplating on where you’ll stay the night, how much money you have left, where you’ll eat, and how you’ll get from point A to point B. While spontaneity is certainly a great part of backpacking, it may drive you crazy from time to time.
3. You’ll be carrying a backpack everywhere
While this is a possibility, most backpackers actually leave their big bags at a hostel or tent. So, make sure to bring a small bag for your day trips. However, you’ll still have to consider the weight of your bag as you’ll be carrying it around once you’re checked out of your lodging.
4. There’s plenty of alone time
People have excessively romanticised backpacking as a trip that will allow you to have a lot of time to reflect and see the world alone. But the truth is, backpacking forces you to mingle with other travellers. In a hostel, you’ll have roommates. If you’re hiking, you’ll find other campers. In a world where backpacking has become a trend, you’ll see that privacy with nature rarely exists anymore.
5. It helps you with decisions
Films depict backpacking as an activity that will lead you to the right direction. In reality, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, backpacking creates even more confusion as you’ll learn more about yourself and the world during the trip.
6. It’s cheap
While hostels or tents are definitely cheaper than luxury resorts, backpacking still requires some saving up on your part. Because the trip is mostly spontaneous, there will be a lot of emergency situations where you’ll have to shell out money that’s out of your budget. Sometimes, you’ll realise the only way you can get to your next destination is by riding a cab. Other times, you’ll find yourself homeless and book a room in a hotel out of desperation. Worst, you’ll get sick from exhaustion and the nearest drugstore or clinic is miles away from where you are. It’s good to do your research to estimate how much you’ll be spending, but be prepared for a lot more expenses.
7. You’ll be eating local food daily
Like any other part of travelling, supporting local is a choice. In some parts of the world, you might find fast food chains cheaper and more convenient than local food. Sometimes, you’ll have to hurry and can’t afford to look around for local eateries. Alas, there will also be days you’ll crave for food that reminds you of home — and hey, that’s fine.
8. You’re invincible to dangers
Feeling empowered, fearless and strong are just part of the beauty of solo backpacking. However, those feelings cannot ward off the inherent dangers of travelling. Backpackers need to be extra wary of people who take advantage of travellers looking lost and confused.
9. It’s exciting all the time
True, backpacking is thrilling. It’s definitely more heart-racing than your day job. Still, there will be dull moments when you’re running on low energy and all you want to do is lie in bed all day.
10. It’s JUST a trip
Backpacking brings about an incredible amount of changes for those brave enough to try it. You may think that a weekend backpacking getaway won’t alter your life, but believe me, it will. After your trip, you’ll find yourself seeing the world from a different point of view. With fresh perceptions and new priorities, your life will drastically change. Most of the time, the changes are only for the better.
Also read: Why Backpacking is the Best Way to Travel
There are a lot more expectations backpackers have that may not align with reality. It’s okay, because expectations don’t hurt if you’re ready to accept change. Flexibility and adaptability make a good backpacker, after all.