Wanna Be a Backpacker? Let's Get Started

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What does it take to become a backpacker? This is a question I have heard a thousand times so I figured it’s time to give it a crack and offer some advice.

To start out, what is backpacking anyway? Backpacking is an adventurous style of traveling for people who are interested in discovering new places, activities, and people on a limited budget. Now, this is not to say that you have to be totally roughing it to be a backpacker as there are some fantastic low-cost options out there these days.

Backpackers arriving
Backpackers arriving

Backpacking is a great way to experience different countries, and cultures, meet new and interesting people. It’s not very difficult to be a backpacker, but you do need to possess some qualities before you start your journey.

A backpacker needs to be independent. Typically, backpacking is done either alone or with a partner. My personal suggestion is to backpack solo at least once as you will never get a better opportunity to learn about who you are and who you want to be.

You have to be willing to take some risks and take care of yourself. That includes booking a bed, seeking information, and sorting out your meals and transportation. It’s hard to succeed if you always depend on others to do the job.

Being prepared is essential for backpacking. You need to have a plan and research information (from the internet or travel guide) and plan your journey. Without planning, you might end up in northern Finland without knowing the way back. Plan your travel route and destinations wisely so that you can save time and money. Don’t forget to be smart in packing your stuff. You might want to save space and reduce the weight of your backpack.

Most importantly, you must be willing to sacrifice. Backpackers face hardship and challenges. They have to travel for long hours, endure bad weather, and cope with nasty local people with suspect intentions. This is not your honeymoon!!

How can you spot a fellow backpacker on the road?

Here are some funny, yet common stereotypical characteristics.

  1. If they look dirty and haggard, wearing casual clothes which they wouldn’t normally wear in their own country. You’ve got yourself a backpacker!
  2. While passing the local hostel on a Sunday morning you see them loitering around speaking jibberish about the random they picked up last night. You’ve got yourself a backpacker!
  3. If you are on the train to work and get bumped by someone carrying an oversized backpack. You’ve got yourself a backpacker!
dirty backpacker

Backpacking Tips

Don’t leave home without a journal

The scribbled stories from Singapore, tales from Thailand, and memories of amazing people and places will be what you treasure when you’re in your 50s. Think of it less as a journal or diary and more as the story of your travels. Your own little book!

Pack a deck of playing cards

One of your cheapest investments that are guaranteed fun is a pack of playing cards. It’s the best way to make friends and a lifesaver if you’re staying in a hostel with no TV on a rainy day.

playing cards

Purchase a local SIM card

If you are staying in a country for a while, purchase a local sim card for your mobile phone rather than switching your global roaming on. It’s a lot cheaper and you don’t need to pay for calls you receive.

Always wear a pair of cheap flip-flops while showering

Thousands of people use hostel showers and one of the most common travel complaints is a bad case of tinea.. ahhh the itchiness.

flip flops

Always carry a pack of tissues with you

It comes in so handy in so many ways, and not just a toilet paper replacement.

Check ahead for Cheaper Admission

Many cities have free admissions or cheaper ticket days to galleries, museums, and cinemas. Be aware though, that some attractions can be closed on certain days of the week.. this is especially true for museums and art galleries so plan ahead to avoid disappointment. Your best bet is to visit the local tourist info and pick up some flyers.

Go to the library

Most city libraries have free Internet access so you can brush up on your next destination or plan and book the next part of your trip.

Carry insect repellent

If you are traveling through a hot climate make sure you carry insect repellent. Those little bastards that bite will have you in bits before you even know it! We all know what it’s like to spend a sleepless night waving off those annoying little buggers.


So as you can see you don’t really have to have a lot of money to travel, contrary to what most people believe. Just stay in control of your budget and your time. If you really want to save, make friends with the locals of the countries you will visit as they will tell you how to go to the must-see places, where to eat cheaply and how to travel like a local. Stay with them if possible and get to know their culture. The friendships that you will gain are one of the most important things about backpacking.

Remember that every day is your free time – you have all the freedom to discover new things, new places, and new people. These are the times when you don’t have to worry about waking up early to go to work, no boss to deal with, no deadlines, and no responsibilities. Backpacking is an attitude, a carefree approach to traveling and most of all it is a life-changing experience.

Just think…you could be here!

Unbelievable beaches
Unbelievable beaches

There you have it, everything you need to know about becoming a backpacker! Click here for the best backpacking equipment.

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Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

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11 comments on “Wanna Be a Backpacker? Let's Get Started”

  1. I guess it’s always better to pack too little rather than too much. You can always buy extra clothes while you’re on the road as you need them, particularly in Asia where things like t-shirts are quite cheap, and you can discard the old clothes you don’t need.

    Dressing up in layers is the way to go. When I last backpacked my clothes consisted of 3 t-shirts, 1 jumper (sweater), 1 big waterproof jacket, one pair of jeans, one pair of lightweight waterproof pants, one pair of board shorts, and a few pairs of socks and underwear. You should be able to get your pack to weigh under 8-10kgs (18-22lbs) quite easily.

  2. hey, I am Alaf From Brazil and I am 18 years old, since I was 14 years old my dream is to travel that's why I learned English and German just by myself...Now that I am 18 years I want to go away in the world...

    I don't have much money and HAVE NO IDEIA how to travel and this article you wrote help me a little..and if u have suggestions this my E-mail; alafgab@hotmail.com

    see ya

  3. Hey,

    I am thinking about to start my first backpacking trip to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Hope I can leave home at the end of January or beginning of February.

  4. Wow! Thanks for the tips! I wish I was there already! Off to Mexico in less than 2 months for my first backpacking experience and I can't wait!!!!

  5. Hey!

    Nice article. Specially the way to spot your fellow backpackers. 🙂 Just got back backpacking to Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Totally missing the whole laid-back routine. Hate work now!!

  6. Great article! Packing light is also the issue when backpacking. What would you suggest when packing clothes? Maybe a few changes of pants, shirts, etc...I always get mixed reviews.

    1. Thanks for the comment.
      I would definitely recommend layers of clothing like t-shirts and sweaters. That way you can still stay warm if it gets cold but you keep the weight down. Keep an eye out as I will be posting an article about what to pack soon.

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