7 Things I Learned on My First Backpacking Trip

So, you wanna go backpacking? That is great. That is fantastic in fact. It’s pretty badass to walk out there and see the world with nothing more than a backpack. You are doing a good thing. Back in 2015, I dived head first into my first trip to Thailand. I learned a lot about myself but also some things about backpacking. So, here are

7 Things I Learned on My First Backpacking Trip

There Are Different Kinds of Backpackers

Backpacking doesn’t say too much about how you’re going to travel. It just means you carry a backpack. What comes to mind when you hear backpacking? Khao San Road, Peru, Cambodia young people schlepping huge backpacks on and off buses? These are definitely terms that come to my mind.

But there is a different kind of backpacker out there. The one that actually carries a backpack. While I carried a backpack (two actually) to Thailand I barely had it on my back. I carried it from buses to hostels, from hostels to taxis and from taxis to ferries. I don’t think I ever walked much further with my backpack than 2 kilometers. But some people do. They are the ones who really go off the beaten path. They are the kind of travelers you won’t meet in a hostel because they are camping far away from “normal” backpacker trails.

What You Need vs. What You Want

It can be hard to decide what items you really need to bring on your trip and which ones you won’t need. I advise you to pack a few days in advance and then go over the things you packed again and really think if you are going to need it. That way you can keep your pack as light as possible. If you have some items that you really want to bring though, bring them anyway. If they make you happy or help you in some way, you shouldn’t leave them at home. For me, it’s my Kindle. Having a book on the plane or on long bus rides can be a lifesaver! Time passes so much more quickly with a good book in your hands.

Choose a Great Destination

backpacking on top of mountain

There are thousands of backpacking trips you could take around the world. If you want to start small you can even start with a weekend trip starting from home. If it is your first time it can be a good idea to choose a more popular route. This way you will meet a lot of other travelers doing a similar thing. They might have more experience with you and can always help you if you run into any problems. If you need some inspiration, National Geographic has a great list of their favorite backpacking destinations.

Don’t Overplan

hiker jumping in the air

A classic mistake that many travelers make on their first few trips. I went on my trip so spontaneous that I couldn’t even plan which isn’t ideal either. It’s good to know about a few places that you want to see, maybe even have a route that you more or less want to stick to but I can’t recommend booking hostels in advance for example. You never know how much you will like a place until you arrive. Maybe it’s absolutely amazing and you want to stay longer or it’s absolutely horrible and you want to get out of there as fast as possible. Or maybe you meet some other travelers along the way that you would like to join. You can’t plan ahead because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Keep Your Gadgets at Home

You will realize how unnecessary your gadgets are and how little you actually need them. I took my laptop to Thailand for whatever reason and not once took it out of my backpack. Besides cameras and a smartphone, you don’t really need to carry around any electronics. They are heavy and you will just worry about them getting lost or stolen.

Travel Overland

Use ground transportation as much as you can. First, it’s much cheaper than flying. While a $50 plane ticket in South East Asia might sound like a bargain now, it is very expensive once you get used to the prices in the region. Second, you can actually see something of the country you are traveling in from a bus or a train.

Take It Slow

girl in kayak
Photo by Lukas Robertson on Unsplash

Don’t rush it. Don’t race your trip just because you want to see everything. You can’t see everything. Much rather take your time with the places and things you can see and really enjoy them.

My next, way longer backpacking trip is actually just two months away. Stay tuned for more information on that trip.

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Comments

  1. Michael Finkle

    I’ve never been on a cross country backpacking trip per say. It’s always been in the wilderness on a trail somewhere such as the AT. The unfortunate side to the USA is that it doesn’t offer the same modes of transportation as overseas. A friend in Germany takes weekend excursions for very cheap…I never realized how cheap. But overall, I wish people would take the time out and experience the freedom and good health that comes from exploring their world. Moreover, it’s a relatively cheap holiday once you have the gear. Maybe it’s time to visit my family in Germany and Ireland.

    Best regards,
    Michael

    1. Raphael

      Public transportation is indeed very good in Europe. I’d love to explore it a bit more. I’ve lived here all my life but still have lots to see.

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