The backpacking travel number one thing conveyed is in no way esoteric, and in pretty much all countries, very easy. It is not really difficult at all. Frustrating at times, yes – difficult, no. All you really need is a measure of gumption and you are away. Of course travelling and place names like Istanbul and Cappadocia sound adventurous, but my grandmother could find her way round most of them (backpackers don’t have to be young) and would not be alone in doing so. And all but a very, very few places (normally the ones of no real interest or recently struck by war or a natural disaster) are well on the beaten track with the subsequent support industries plentiful. The information on this site is not what you would normally come across in often ambiguous guidebooks. It consists mainly of tips, backpacker relevant information and details on more alternative subjects avoided by published guides. Anyway, trying to duplicate information that is found easily in guidebooks would be rather pointless.
Second to that, demonstrated is just how accessible the world has become – perhaps heading solely to Europe to work for a year with a stop-off in Turkeyon the way back is not exactly travelling and a little bit of a cop-out. It’s your choice but those who do so are missing out on so much. Let’s face it – how often in your life are you going to have the chance, time or money to do this? Did you want to travel or have a holiday? Please, please, still do that (Oz, Turkey and India are great places) but be aware that so much more is available to you and there is no reason why you should not give it a go. Even if it is not for you, at least try getting to some interesting places, talk to some interesting people and do some interesting things. At worst you will save some money and leave early. The world really is your oyster: you can go pretty much anywhere you like. Try to understand that repeatedly the less appealing a place seems at home, the more appealing it often is there – because you are doing something unique for yourself and have limited expectations.
And the independent thing? So often abroad, you see groups on tours – and they are always a certain type of people – sure Turkey sounded really exotic at home, but now you’re here its not exactly the wilderness – and maybe you think why did they bother? Well the succinct answer is either that a tour really is right for them (for whatever reason), that they are a little lazy or that they didn’t know what is being shared here! This is the essential, no holds barred information you need to get going – so hit the subject title links to the left, read on and be enlightened….
Here’s what you need to take backpacking, where to get it from, how to pack it and how to keep size/weight down. Quite frankly, there’s so much crap written on what to pack and a lot of scare mongering about taking this or that essential for fear that if left behind it could not be bought abroad. Many packing lists are aimed at mid-range travellers or are featured in travelogues as examples of ‘I took this’ whether or not it was useful/necessary. Stores that sell equipment, who of course want you to buy as much as possible (how often have you seen items like survival bivvi bag and stoves on their so-called travel packing lists) are also a big part of this problem. Anyone who has travelled before will feel nothing but disdain at short, ambiguous lists in travel mags, guidebooks and charlatan websites. For the record, you will have to think very hard of something not recommended on the list below that could not be bought abroad and normally much cheaper. Mosquito coils for instance appear on many lists: these are almost always available abroad and always at a fraction of the cost compared to Western countries, leaving aside that there are much better ways to tackle mosquitoes.
This page may look like a very long list (comprehensive is a better word), but is well and truly meant to inspire travelling light; read on for why. You might have read that the happiest traveller will be one who can fit their bag/pack under the seat of a bus or take it as hand luggage on a flight. You may not believe this is possible, especially when first throwing a few things in a bag. However, after learning the hard way with 70-90 litre packs, every subsequent trip you always try to take less and less and still lament having too much. Then at last you manage to get everything (with a few secrets that are shared here) into a 30-40 litre pack that fits neatly under a bus seat or overhead bin and are truly a free and happy traveller who would never ever even consider taking a ‘standard’ backpack again to a developing country. A small portable backpack really is the difference when it comes to independent travel. The freedom it offers and hassle it removes is worth what you sacrifice in not taking ten times over. Not to mention the fact that you will be the envy of everyone you meet! Don’t believe it? Skeptical? Read on for some reasons why you should, if nothing else, pack light.
The famous saying goes, everything is essential, only some things more than others. You will have no idea of what you actually need and how little you use when you are away when sitting at home. Everyone says pack light, but the vast majority of backpackers don’t until they have learnt the hard way – ten reasons why you really should:
- Your bag is your life. The smaller it is the less it sticks outs and the less vulnerable you feel. The closer you can stick to it and less cumbersome it is the happier you will be.
- A large, bulky, full bag gives less room to fill with souvenirs, becomes a nightmare when using motorcycle-taxis/rickshaws and has to be checked in and waited for, when taking flights.
- The thought of wearing the same thing day in, day out may seem terrible now, but it gets easy with the right clothes, and is always preferable to unpacking your entire bag. There is no need to take too many clothes as they can be easily washed and dried, normally overnight.
- You will need to walk with your pack on freely (sometimes quickly avoiding touts), sometimes right across town or from hotel to hotel and it’s often very hot. When you do take transport, you can swing a small bag over your front and jump in a taxi/rickshaw with ease, quickly and without having to separate yourself from it. In addition, leaving your pack in lockers can be a problem if it is huge.
- Carrying a large, heavy, bulky bag onto a bus may sound alright, but when it is crowded you cannot and are therefore normally separated from it (it goes on the roof, underneath or is left at the back next to god knows what). It is normally okay there, but this can make you a little paranoid about theft as it does happen. When you do get on little buses that stop at the side of the road – the most common way of getting around in many countries – they are normally crowded and have no luggage holds so while you get on and off you whack everyone in the face with your pack as you go past and sometimes need to buy a seat for your bag.
- If your pack is full it is difficult to get to things without pulling other stuff out, so you don’t use what’s at the bottom, it being easier to wear what you had on yesterday or what is at the top.
- In some regions you may also have to pay a surcharge or buy an extra ticket for a large bag. The same can be said for some metro/underground/tram systems.
- You will be uncomfortable moving from town to town (short hops) not being able to jump on and off small buses/taxis. Not to mention that a giant oversize bag does not exactly make you the most confident as you will always feel like you are sticking out.
- You will not believe what an advantage it is to be able to travel from A to C with a quick stop off to see a sight at B carrying your bag, rather than having to do it in a separate day trip, wasting time and money.
- Quite simply you’ll spend a good deal of time on the road thinking, ‘if I had a huge pack or one like that girl/guy we saw at xyz I could not do this’ – of course you need some bulky items, but there is no need to have a 60 plus litre bag.