5 Top Tips for the Ultimate Backpacking Odyssey

23rd Oct 2017

The flights are booked, and you have just gotten back from the camping supplies store with what will be the backpack in question on your backpacking adventure. There is a specific pleasure in the type of travel experience that backpacking can give you, and it can arguably be more memorable than other types of trips. There are a few ways to ensure that your backpacking adventure runs as smoothly as possible.

1. Avoid the Over Packing Trap

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Overpacking is such an annoyingly easy trap to fall into when getting ready for an overseas trip. The weight of your baggage is something that can become a significant bother when the airline staff check in your bag and inform you that it's overweight, meaning you'll need to pay an excess baggage fee that is more than your ticket in some cases. Pack light when backpacking. This cannot be stressed enough, but since you will be carrying everything quite literally on your back, you need to ensure that you don't take on more than you can handle. Be ruthless in your packing and only take what you will conceivably need. This means that heavy items such as shoes, books, and bulky jackets should be kept to an absolute minimum. Some items (like toiletries) can even be bought on the road and discarded when no longer needed. If in doubt, put on your full backpack while packing and test its weight. If you can't fathom the thought of carrying that weight around for weeks (if not months), then you haven't been ruthless enough.

2. Where to Rest Your Head

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Hostels are the general accommodation choice when it comes to a backpacking odyssey. They're inexpensive and are usually fairly central in their location. But of course, the cheapest option is not always the best. You need to consider whether you will be comfortable sleeping in a dormitory room with 20 other people, and their various noises. Backpacking or not, you might not relish the thought of being woken up each morning at 4am when those noisy Greek guys stumble in, drunk. Consider paying a little extra for a smaller dorm room where you are less likely to be disturbed. You might also want to look for hostels that have single sex accommodation options if that's going to make you feel safer. Hostels aren't the only cost effective option either. Before you book, also look at AirBnb and other comparable websites. Some people rent out a single room in their apartment at very reasonable rates. You'll have privacy, and will be able to get some great tips from a local.

3. Beware the Needy New Friend

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If you happen to be backpacking by yourself, you might find yourself in need of some occasional social interaction, since it can be nice to have someone to go for a beer with. Chances are you will encounter some suitable candidates when you're staying in a hostel, and yet you need to be a little wary. For some people the idea of being alone is as foreign as the foreign land in which they find themselves. You might make a new friend, someone to hang out with in the days or weeks in which you'll be at a particular destination, but you should be wary of people who try to latch onto you and include themselves in each and every thing you plan to do during your stay. It does happen in the world of backpacking, and while you might be happy with their company, don't be afraid to say no.

4. Be Smart

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It's exceptionally wise to have some idea about what is considered to be safe (and indeed, legal) in your destination. You don't want to get into trouble with the authorities, or by doing something that the locals would never dream of doing. This can be as simple as knowing whether it's legal to drink outdoors at your destination. Many backpackers in Australia have had their beers confiscated by police officers who probably have better things to do. Hitchhiking is only legal in 44 out of the 50 states that make up the United States, if you wanted to make thumbing a ride part of your backpacking adventure. But then you contrast this with Cuba, where government vehicles are required to pick up hitchhikers, and where many towns have a designated waiting area for this practise, another reason why, in many ways, Cuba is very safe. It's really about doing a little bit of research to determine what is appropriate and safe.

5. Surrender to the Flexibility

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Part of the main appeal of backpacking is it flexibility and the mobility it offers. You're not a slave to reservations and a minutely determined schedule. So revel in the flexibility and don't plan everything down to the last detail. You can need to force yourself to overcome this trepidation, but by surrendering to the fact that you have a freedom unavailable in most types of travel, you will in fact get the most out of your travels.