Short Backpacker’s Guide to Travelling
‘Backpack’ is a word that derives from ‘back’ and ‘pack’, and it basically means pile your belongings in a bundle, throw it across your back and off you go. And that’s precisely what backpackers do. Backpacking is an umbrella term because travelling this way can range from a couple of weeks to a few years, from crossing one country to crossing continents, from ultralight backpacking to poshpacking. Regardless of the differences, it’s generally a very convenient form of travel and particularly popular among younger people in their 20s. It’s basically about moving away from mass tourist trails and experiencing something authentic, because backpacking by definition means adventure.
Plan your trip...
Backpacking is all about freely choosing where to go and whenever you feel like it. And planning the trip beforehand seemingly clashes with that idea, but, the truth is, no charm has to be lost in doing a bit of research before setting off. Here’s a few things you can note on your checklist when planning:
* Laws and regulations. After you roughly decide which country (-ies) you’d like to visit, check the legal stuff such as visa requirements, because surely you don’t want to be escorted out of the country with a ‘deported’ stamp in your passport. When it comes to citizens of EU countries, they have the advantage of travelling more freely at least in the EU member states.
* Attractions. Have a look at what the country on your travel route has to offer in terms of attractions and events you might like to see, maybe even book in advance a ticket for e.g. a festival, unless you prefer to go off the beaten (mass) track.
* Transportation. Decide on the preferred mode of transportation and look into the most convenient way to travel around the country. And even if you decide to hitch-hike, it would be a sound idea to have some kind of map. I guess if you’re heading towards the sea, you don’t want to end up in the mountains or vice versa, as exciting as it may turn out to be.
* What to pack. Once you’ve roughly planned your route, check the weather forecast and then decide what type of clothes would be best to take. And don’t forget to make a small hygiene kit - wherever you go, you’ll probably want to brush your teeth and have a shower whenever possible.
* Money. Make a rough estimation of your budget and balance it with what you want to do and see. If you have a student ID card, it might help you to travel cheaper. If you haven’t got one, it can’t hurt to try to use your charm to achieve the same.
* Accommodation. It would also be a good idea to check hostels and even book accommodation in advance, particularly if you’re travelling during peak season.
By roughly planning your trip, your only care will be to get from point A to point B. And the rest - whatever will be, will be.
… Or don’t plan
If your emphasis is on adventure and you don’t want to go with the flow, but rather wherever your trip may take you, you’ll probably have a lot less to think about before setting off, but rather more on the way. When you come to a crossroad, you’ll have full freedom to say ‘left!’ just cause you feel like it, even if nobody seems to be heading there. If you don’t do any research beforehand, it might happen you’ll lose more time on finding price-friendly mode of transportation. The same goes for accommodation - be sure to take a sleeping bag and be ready to spend a night or two outdoors, because even if you find hostels, during high season it’s extremely difficult to find a room. Apart from a sleeping bag, the next-thing that is an absolute must is excellent footwear. It would also be a good idea to travel light in general. You’ll probably have to rely a lot more on the kindness of a stranger, but, hey, that’s the best way to meet new people, isn’t it?
And don't forget ….
If you do your homework before starting your trip, leave an itinerary with your family or friends. Do call your mum every once in a while anyway, particularly if you’re travelling like a rolling stone. And whichever way you might go, do as the Romans do! It’s the best way to learn about new countries and customs and to stay out of trouble. So, pack your bundle and off you go!