Warning, this is probably going to get very cheesy, very fast! I can't help it when I think about all the great memories I have from backpacking.
Here goes, proceed at your own risk :P
1) The feeling of freedom
I think this is by far the main reason why I love backpacking. You have nothing to worry about, but what will be your next meal, your next destination, your next activity. you can forget all about your responsibilities at home, your daily routine, work, school, etc.
|Sunset over the Mekong river aboard a two day slow boat ride to Luang Prabang|
|Enjoying the cool ocean air on a secluded beach in Bocas Del Toro|
I love that anything can happen, that I can try a bunch of new things and that there is no planning involved. You never know what's going to happen next or where you will be, it's a constantly exciting and stimulating experience.
|Huge bug we found while journeying to Tortuguero in Costa Rica|
|Almost at the top of Panama's highest peak after a really hard hike. I'm not very fit, I'm still not sure how I made it up there :P I probably wouldn't have without my trusty walking stick.|
There are tons of budget options when backpacking. The whole idea of this kind of travel is, in my opinion, to rough it up a little, to carry all your belongings in one bag and travel around with no other expectations than enjoying another country, another culture.
4) Guest houses
Backpacking simply would'nt be the same if you stayed in fancy hotels. I love the rugged, laid back feel of cheap guest houses. It's a great place to meet other travelers and hang out.
5) Practically no planning necessary
Usually, you just make up your itinerary as you go, from other travelers' recommendations and what seems the most fun and exciting. There is no precise, time consuming planning needed to enjoy a backpacking trip. In fact, I'm convinced that if you take the spontaneity out of it, it wouldn't be as fun and rewarding.
|One day in El Salvador, we wanted to see the Parque Nacional El Impossible. We found the site a pretty long cab ride from our guest house and hired a guide right then and there to bring us on a trek.|
Now, there isn't much planning involved in backpacking as I mentionned earlier. However, when you do decide to book a tour or a bus ticket to go onwards, it most of time won't turn out how you thought it would.
Even the simplest bus or train journey can turn out to be something to write home about when you are backpacking. for instance, when I visited Thailand a couple years back, I remember taking a combined bus and boat ticket from bangkok to Koh Samui. It seemed like it would be a perfectly eventless journey to the south at first. Turns out the bus left us quite far from the boat itself and we needed to continue crammed aboard a tiny minivan with a crazed driver and our luggage strapped to the roof top. To make it worse, our driver was racing another mini bus to get there as quickly as possible and was being quite reckless in the process. He kept passing other vehicles using the reverse lane at a much higher speed than I reckon his mini bus could handle. At one point, he turned so abruptly that one of the backpacker's backpack went flying and landed in the middle of the road. Let me tell you, we were all glad we were alive after this. Anyhow, that's just one example of how surprising the most simple experiences can be.
While this might be somewhat of a bad experience, most of the time it's just something funny to tell later.
Normally, that would be pretty annoying to me, but it's one of the things that make budget traveling so exciting and different.
|We hiked 7 km in the jungle in Malaysia to find that our destination, a tea plantation was already closed to the public. Luckily, our friends showed up in the back of a pick up and we all hitched hiked back to town before dark.|
I always find myself doing stuff I would have been much too intimidated to try at home while backpacking. I feel more adventurous, ready to take on pretty much anything. Also, most of the time, even small simple things are mile apart from what you're used to. The food, the way of life, the mentality, the surrounding. You get to experience it all at once.
|Second try at rock climbing :)|
|Ever since I first tried it in Utila Honduras, I love scuba diving! This is me taking my advanced licence classes in Bocas Del Toro|
|Meal provided by guides during a rock climbing expedition in Vang Vieng, Laos. Tasty fried rice in banana leaf with baguette bread (Laos used to be a french colony, some of the older folks there still speak a little french)|
For me, staying in luxurious hotels has always been more something you do during a vacation, not while travelling . It doesn't feel to me like you discover the culture as much when you have all of your home luxuries while travelling. Now, there nothing wrong with pampering yourself a little while you travel, but I feel like I'm missing out on the real vibe of a place when i'm staying at a resort or a fancy hotel.
It all feels very confined and limited to me, like I'm staying in a country without really experiencing it. I went to cuba and stayed in a resort many years ago, and to this day, I can't say that I feel like I've really been there. I've seen the beaches and the palm trees, i've felt the warm tropical sun and the cool ocean water, but I spent a week with other tourists in a secluded area, devoid of any of the culture of cuba. It was nice and relaxing, but for me, to really enjoy a country, I have to be meeting the locals, eating in the same restaurants and traveling the same way that they do.
|Very inexpensive meal in Bocas Del Toro, from a small restaurant largely frequented by locals. This was my boyfriend's meal, I've never been one for rice and beans! The fried chicken is great though.|
|Egg and rice empanada, lovely!|
|Sunset over a Buddhist temple somewhere in Bangkok.|
|Gorgeous colonial architecture from Granada, Nicaragua.|
This one might not seem like much, but it feels great to never cook or clean and to try out all the restaurants you want, all the time for the full duration of your trip.
You can't really feel guilty about it either, what other option do you have? :P Obviously, this one applies to travel in general as well.
|Fish with blue cheese sauce in a tiny restaurant in Panama|
|Simple,but comfy room in Tortuguero|
Admitedly, I get tired of constantly reorganising my pack after a while, but I love the challenge of living with limited resources while I travel. I love to plan what I'll bring, how I will make it fit in my pack, what I could really use and what I could get away without.
Also, it means that there is no heavy suitcases to lug around. Packing lightly is a benediction when traveling. You can always keep all your belongings at your side and don't have to worry about a suitcase so heavy you can barely carry it. If you organise your pack well, it's easy, convenient and fun to live off a backpack.
11) Travelling by boat, train, buses, etc.
Most budget backpackers can't afford to pay for flights in between destinations. This often mean that you wind up taking long bus or train rides, often combined with boat to get where you want to go.
To me, that is actually a good thing. It forces you not only to travel more slowly and enjoy every region a little longer, but it gives me time to write about my trip, read books or on my upcoming destination, listen to music, etc. It's true that it might not always be the most comfortable option and often I end up bored with nothing to do, but I still prefer it to travelling by air constantly. I love random bus stops in the middle of nowhere with questionnable food (but often tasty nonetheless) and vendors that come up on the bus or train to sell you water, drinks or fruit.I also love being able to see the scenery as we travel to a new place, something that wouldn't be possible by train.
Also being a diver, it's not recommended to fly shortly after diving. That means that I would need to plan around that in order to go from place to place which is kind of a hassle.
|A secluded island in Panama. There is literally nothing on this island but sand and palm threes. We actually got there by a 45 minutes boat ride. (our boat is the tiny boat on the picture)|