Beautiful, exciting, adventurous, educational, amazing, magical – that’s the words people usually use to describe backpacking. Yes, it’s a great thing to do, but the fact you grab your backpack and hit the road doesn’t guarantee from now on all your experiences will be marvelous. Backpackers face problems too and, from time to time, go through unpleasant situations. Many of them can be avoided if you keep yourself from making some common mistakes. Here’s a list of the things first-time backpackers tend to do wrong. Read it, remember it and, most importantly, don’t do it!
Taking too much stuff
Picture this: beautiful setting, spectacular mountains, a little river singing somewhere nearby, old trees, a dusty road, and you walk on it with a terrible ache in your back, barely breathing, utterly exhausted. That’s what happens when you pack too much stuff. Most of the things you think you need, well, you don’t. Take only essentials and leave the rest behind, together with stress, worries, and potential pain. Unless you’re going to some extreme places, you can always buy something in case it turns out you need it. Most countries around the world have shops that sell t-shirts, socks, and shampoos. Besides, you might feel tempted to get some souvenirs from your trip. Keep a bit of space in your backpack for a bottle of Porto, “I love NY” t-shirt or another gadget you’ll feel must be yours.
Choosing the wrong travel mate
The fact you love your friend, and this friend likes your back doesn’t mean you’ll get along on the road. You might have fun on the concerts, endless conversations with a cup of tea, you might share interests and passions, but you won’t work well as travel mates Even if you agree on most things in daily life, it might turn out your approach to traveling is entirely different. Backpacking with someone isn’t always easy, especially long-term. You need to compromise a lot and spend lots of time together, which may bring even the strongest friendship to a harsh crisis. Before you begin a long journey, make a small trip together somewhere nearby, you’ll see how it goes.
Spending money on unnecessary equipment
You’re going for your first backpacking trip and want to make it like a pro? This fabulous tent, fantastic backpack, professional trekking shoes, expensive camera and other electronic travel gadgets, they’re tempting, right? Think twice before you buy anything for your trip. You won’t need most of these things. A sleeping bag for extreme temperatures is made for people who’re going to sleep in the snow, and you won’t use it during your trip in Southeast Asia. You also won’t need trekking shoes that cost over $500 if you’re going to travel around European cities. Keep this money to do something fun during your journey.
Not taking care of yourself
Sure, backpacking isn’t about luxury, but it also doesn’t mean you should be hungry most of the time. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Even if you’re traveling on a budget you can get a healthy meal; it’s a matter of choice rather than price. If you can’t afford eating out in a restaurant (or don’t want to do it) go to a street market and buy some veggies. Don’t push your limits too much. Your body will finally pay off if you keep feeding it with sandwiches and nothing else. The same applies to sleep and many other things. Getting sick on a backpacking trip isn’t a pleasant experience, do everything you can to keep yourself healthy and full of energy.
Of course, it’s great to see many places, but only under one condition: you must have enough time to enjoy them. Running from point A to point B isn’t fun; it’s tiring and frustrating. Make a realistic plan for your trip. Remember it takes time to get from one city to another. Public transport is also time-consuming; don’t forget it’ll most likely take a while to reach your hostel from a train or bus station. If you’re flying between countries, consider the hours you’ll spend at the airports. Consider all of these things when you’re deciding for how long to stay in a city.
It’s also good to keep some extra time for spontaneous ideas. You think three days will be enough for France? Make it four, so that when your new Parisian friends invite you for a day-trip to the countryside, you won’t have to say no. Of course, it’s impossible always to do it, but it’s good to know you’ve got some extra days or hours to use in case you want to stay somewhere longer or go this gorgeous place you’ve just found out.
Visiting only the most popular, touristy places
It doesn’t always have to be a mistake – if you want to see only several places because you’ve read about them, dreamt and always hoped you’d see them, sure, it’s all right. In general, it’s fun to see something unexpected. Backpacking is all about exploring the unknown, about adventures, meeting people and experiencing as much as possible. Try to get off the beaten track, and you’ll see how fantastic traveling can be. You’ll meet locals, see their real life; you might also discover some hidden gems of art or nature. Let yourself and the journey be the guide.
Wearing brand new shoes
If you don’t have suitable shoes, you’ll most likely buy them right before the trip. Wrong! Remember to go for shopping earlier and try out your new purchase before hitting the road. Most of the shoes, especially the trekking kind, need a bit of adjusting before they get comfy. You might suffer if you take a pair of brand new shoes for your trip and on the first day of wearing them walk 30 kilometers.
Forgetting something important
Write down a packing list; it’ll come in very handy. Even if you hate lists, make an exception, you’ll thank yourself later. Before leaving the house always check if you took the most important things: money, phone, credit cards, tickets, documents, etc. Most of the things can be forgotten, and it’ll be okay. Don’t worry about not taking a toothbrush or flip-flops – you can always get new ones. You won’t get a new ID or a phone so easily, though. It’s a pity to stay on the border of an interesting country because you forgot the passport.
Being naïve (or overly suspicious)
Everybody’s saying how backpacking is a perfect chance to meet new people, how it teaches you to trust, how it proves people are right deeply inside etc. It’s all lovely. Charming. Fabulous. But: you can’t believe everyone and everything. Don’t be too naïve, because it can lead you to something even worse than disappointment. Always stay cautious, watch your stuff, don’t drink too much if you travel alone and party with people you’ve just met. There are lots of good souls out there, but not every single human being has a heart as pure as a newborn baby, keep it in mind.
That said, being overly suspicious isn’t good either. You must find a balanced way of dealing with people you meet on your travel. Be smart, but not closed. Backpacking is indeed an excellent chance to meet new people, and you should make the best out of it. It’s their smiles, words, and kindness that you’ll remember the most when you get back.
Now you’re ready to start the journey. Before going, share this list with your friends and travel mates, so that they too could learn from the mistakes of other backpackers instead of making their own. Enjoy the trip!