Here in the US a lot of people (though certainly not all) would cringe at the idea of “backpacking.” Walk through any European country and you’ll see tourist struggling with rolling bags while others with backpacks move with ease. Backpacking gives you more freedom then other forms of travel – just slip everything on your back and go!
Constantly on the move. Only a few days worth of clothes. You spend minimal time in your hotel (but why would you want to, your room is probably just a bed and a sink!). Constant movement and discovery. Rather than a sigh of relief (boring), backpacking is a breath of fresh air!
Traveling is a big deal in most other developed countries in the world. Its a “rite of passage” for a lot of young people all over the world to travel for months at a time to see the world (especially Australians and English/UK’s). The call it a “gap year”, save up money after high-school to travel for an extended period before college, or, after finishing college work enough to afford a big trip before starting the search for a “real” job. This doesn’t just apply to kids either – I’ve met many adults who have real jobs back home (in IT, finance, public sectors, etc.) on extended travel.
I find a bit of irony in this situation: when I tell fellow (foreign) travelers I’m only traveling for 2 or 3 weeks they can’t believe I’m taking such little time off – since most other developed countries get 3-4 times the paid vacation we do. Then, back at home, people here are amazed that I went 2 whole weeks without working! Wasn’t I worried about getting homesick? Getting lost? Getting killed? Or forgetting my American-ness!?
Embrace the backpack (or basically the 1 carry on bag and 1 personal item rule). You’ll be surprised with how little you can get by with. I normally only pack a weeks worth of underwear, two t-shirts, a few button downs, a pair of shorts, a pair of pants and some jeans. Most hostels (and a lot of hotels) have laundry and if you forgot something you can always buy it – I’ve never met someone that said “I wish I packed more.”
This post was written (with modifications) by Erik. Check out his running blog!