THERE’S a big world out there and whatever your budget, one way to see the world is backpacking.
Whether it’s because you want your money to go a long way or just because it’s a pretty incredible experience, there’s no time like the present to start planning an adventure.
However, whether you’re heading for the luxurious beaches of Thailand or the wilderness of the Amazon rainforest, it’s not going to be a smooth ride.
Here, Pillow writer Mamie Hamshere gives you the skinny on how to Backpack Like A Boss.
“What should I take?”, I hear you panicking; “very little,” I reply. “What should I do out there?”, I hear you wonder; “Everything!” I want to shout. “And how am I going to put up with my travelling buddy, even if she’s my best friend, for many, many months, I hear you worry”; “Easy.” Though I may hesitate this time.
To start with – from my own experience – I really must insist; take the smallest backpack you can find.
It shall require skilful packing and if you’ve got a soft-spot for shopping the last of your money away in your final few days, you may, like me, have to buy a new bag for the flight home, but a small backpack makes travelling very easy. Perhaps one third of your time will be spent on public transport and a small (try 35 or 40 litre) backpack will fit almost anywhere- particularly useful if you are worried about theft. I also suggest a combination padlock with a long cable that can wrap in and about your backpack for overnight sleeper journeys and other general security. To pack, try a rolling technique and then force your belongings into every nook and cranny. Your bag will indeed look 8 months pregnant, but this is why you should avoid a backpack with a zipper.
And now what to put in this little teensy, tiny backpack of yours? Well don’t forget the mosquito repellent and sunscreen of course, as required for any holiday. In terms of other useful items, I pretty much worshipped the protective cover for my toothbrush and my head torch came in handy more than I had forecasted. Don’t forget a camera- you won’t want to forget a single moment and you might even discover that you’re an undiscovered, budding photographer.
You’ll find as you travel that style takes on a new form. The get up which you parade in at London Fashion Week or swagger through town in just isn’t going to cut it if you’re backpacking.
Instead, I’m talking harems and scarves in India or long sleeved hippy tops in Laos. Ultimately, you’re going to be following what used to be known in the 1960s and 70s as the Hippie Trail, which pretty much dictates what you should wear. I’m sorry to crush your fashion fancies but don’t worry, you can still look pretty damn cool.
Remember though, that your wardrobe should be practicable; you need clothes which can breathe in the heat, that cover up in Temples and that can endure physical exercise otherwise known as trekking. Just trekking boots and a pair of cheap Primark lace ups will make the cut for shoes, but if you’re heading straight for the beaches the flip-flops are an understandable necessity (warning, it is possible to get very drunk and lose your flip flops in the sand; you may then have to rely upon your poor friend to rescue you and find those very flip flops).
A fellow traveller once told me to think in the local money which is advice I must insist on passing to any fellow budgeter. However, you have to find a balance here. Once, my friend and I decided not to do the Zip Line because we were thinking in the local currency and it seemed far too expensive. We then regretted this decision, but we later used this as a mark in our travels; from that point onwards we seized every opportunity that presented itself. This is what I mean by, ‘do everything!’.
Aim for a journey without regrets whether you Zip Line naked or eat an entire chilli pepper.
True, with this enthusiasm you will certainly put yourself to the test; it might push your funds but hey, haggle for a bargain at your next cheap guesthouse. And, yes, maybe you end up leaping off a bridge, towering high over a 160m canyon, with only a bit of bungee rope to save your life, but I promise you it will be worth every absolutely terrifying second.
And finally, how to cope with your friend and other difficulties that will undoubtedly encounter on your trip. It’s pretty simple; acknowledge at the very beginning that you will face these difficulties.
When you do arrive at trouble, just take a deep breath and move on. Quarrels will be unavoidable but it is easier to accept that you will not agree with each other and that you may not forgive each other.
Enjoy your travelling and live in the present. In ‘The Lion King’ this concept is referred to as ‘Hakuna Matata’; in India, they say ‘Shanti Shanti’.
If we want to get all backpacker and cultural on this I could ramble on about Buddhist teachings which guide people to live life “without suffering”. Instead, I’m going to wish you luck on your travels and I hope that you enjoy learning about things like Buddhist teachings while backpacking like a boss.