That first backpacking adventure. It’s a life you never fully understood, but more importantly, one you never dreamed you would be a part of. But you are decided. This summer is going to be spontaneous, full of new experiences and, of course, new countries. But no matter how exciting this right of passage is, you can’t help but be a little bit scared.
Backpacking is a very special sort of travel. There’s this sort of unspoken admiration for those with a backpack on a trail. What seems ultimately like an easy life is often, at first, nerve-wrecking.
Don’t worry. Many have been in your shoes before and are now seasoned veterans. We’ve gathered some expert tips here to help you master the subtle art of backpacking.
1. Be Flexible.
“One thing we learned quickly during the first leg of our trip was not to plan too much. Whenever we arrived in a place that turned out to be fantastic and we had already made bookings for buses and accommodation at our next planned stop, we regretted not being able to spend more time there. You will fall in love with places unexpectedly or change your route according to what you hear from travelers along the way. Have a rough idea but keep exact plans to a minimum in order to maximize your experience.” – Dani and Jess, Globetrotter Girls
“It’s great to have a general idea of where you want to go and what you want to do there; that being said, sometimes you meet great people along the way and plans change. Be open to the surprises that come with not having plans set in stone.” – Audrey Bergner, That Backpacker
2. Bring a guidebook.
“We don’t suggest entirely relying on a guidebook, but bringing one will give a place to start from, a spring board into knowing about hotels, restaurants and sights to see. Sometimes you are just too tired after a long travel day that you just don’t want to walk around town and look for a decent place and guidebooks take that stress away. Guidebooks also make it easier to orientate yourself, with maps of cities and detailed travel info for getting from one place to the next, costs of bus/cab rides, border crossing info and possible safety issues. You might not agree with everything in them and you should definitely discover your own gems, but guidebooks can make travel easier.” – Dani and Jess, Globetrotter Girls
3. Travel slow.
“Firs-time backpackers often have the mentality that this is their first and last trip. This is rarely the case as travel is highly addictive. Instead of feeling the need to rush around visiting cities and countries as though they are on a to-do or bucket list, instead focus on spending more time in select destinations. Not only will you save money but you’ll have more time to connect with locals and other travelers.” – Samuel Jeffery, Nomadic Samuel
4. Travel with a friend.
“Traveling solo is a great idea. However, at some point it’s great to link up with a friend (somebody you already know or a backpacking acquaintance) to share the experience with. You can help each other out and provide support when morale sinks during travel lows. Furthermore, you’ll be able to save money on accommodations and transportation which will allow you to travel longer.” – Samuel Jeffery, Nomadic Samuel
5. Eat with locals.
“Get off the grid a little and instead of frequenting backpacker/traveler friendly restaurants, walk several blocks away and try eating with locals. You’ll save money by doing this and often eat more authentic food. Moreover, you’ll often have quirky encounters that will form some of your most vivid travel memories from conversations with curious locals.” – Samuel Jeffery, Nomadic Samuel
“Make sure you eat lots of diverse foods. Be open-minded and willing to try new things. Every culture/country has their own seasonings and Chinese food in the USA can be drastically different from what you’ll find in China.” – Adam Groffman, Travels of Adam
6. Take a business card from your guesthouse or hotel.
“You may get lost or become a little disoriented after a few local beers, and there’s nothing worse than wandering around a city at night when you don’t have a clue where you’re going. If you have a business card on you, you can hop in a taxi or ask for directions.” – Audrey Bergner, That Backpacker
7. Forget the sleeping bag.
“Most hostels provide free linens nowadays, and those that don’t, charge a very small fee for you to use theirs. You’ll save yourself the hassle of having to carry a bulky sleeping bag around wherever you go.” – Audrey Bergner, That Backpacker
8. Be in charge: that’s the point!
“Pack what you want to have with you – not just what people tell you that you’ll need. If you’ve got a favorite pair of jeans you can’t live without, bring them with you! You never know when you’ll feel homesick and that little bit of home can go a long way.” – Adam Groffman, Travels of Adam
“If you have plans on going to see or do something specific during your travels but then you hear from another backpacker that it isn’t worth it, go anyways. Never let someone else stop you from doing what you want to do.” – Melissa Shearer, The Mellyboo Project
9. Have faith.
“Being scared or nervous is completely normal – especially if you’re setting out on an adventure into the unknown – but put some faith out into the universe that when you jump off that ledge of security, it’ll be right there to catch you to make sure you’re alright. ” – Melissa Shearer, The Mellyboo Project
10. Take 25% less clothes and 25% more money.
“When getting ready to go – take 25% less clothes and 25% more money! And all those toiletries? Leave them at home. Chances are you’ll be able to find them or something similar once you get to your first destination abroad.” – Melissa Shearer, The Mellyboo Project
Be sure to also follow the Globetrotter Girls, Nomadic Samuel, That Backpacker, Travels of Adam and The Mellyboo Project, our backpacking experts above.
Are you going on your first backpacking adventure this summer? Where are you headed and what are some things you would like to know?