Admit it, you’ve been dreaming of so many adventures abroad, like a backpacking trip to a faraway destination, since you were five years old, sneaking down the driveway with a tiny toy-filled backpack. Now’s the time to make that childhood dream a reality! Whether you aspire to trek through jungles in Southeast Asia or scout historical landmarks across Europe, a backpacking adventure abroad is one of the best ways to do a lot of traveling in a short amount of time. So throw that pack on and grab your guidebook, because a trip filled with cultural attractions and outdoor adventures is just around the corner!
The very premise of a backpacking trip implies freedom and movement. You won’t be staying in one place for too long, but there are some decisions to make before stepping onto the plane. Namely, where are you going? With hundreds of options to choose from, the world is your oyster, but narrowing it down to one country or region can be tricky.
Want to backpack through Europe? This allows you to visit many different countries in a short period of time, gaining insight on a variety of cultures, languages, and cuisines. Check out backpacking opportunities in Italy or other nearby countries, such as France or Switzerland. A continent of gelato, castles, and half-naked sculptures awaits your arrival!
If you’re more inspired by tropical beaches, consider a backpacking adventure in Thailand. Many backpacking programs in Southeast Asia include visits to temples, surf lessons, and learning about traditional arts while traveling around. Thailand is also the jumping off point for many regional tours, which can allow you to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos as well.
For travelers looking to go off the beaten track, Ecuador can be an exciting location for a backpacking adventure abroad. You’ll get your fill of outdoor adventure as you visit beaches and mountains, ancient ruins, and thriving seaports, and you can practice your Spanish skills with locals along the way too. If one South American country isn’t enough for you, many backpacking trips incorporate travel to nearby countries, such as Peru, as well.
If the thought of communicating through hand gestures is a bit too stressful, backpackers can opt for trips around Australia, where English is the lingua franca. This doesn’t mean there will be no new slang to be learned, but it won’t be long until you’re asking your new mates to come round for a barbie in the arvo. Backpacking trips in Australia will include a lot of time spent exploring the Outback, surfing, and learning about Aboriginal cultures.
The great thing about backpacking trips is the variety of travel options offered. Whether you prefer a strict travel itinerary with a small group of peers or you’d rather go with the flow and move on when you’re ready, there’s a backpacking adventure for you. Once you’ve decided on your location and what kind of backpacking experience you want, you’re ready to narrow down your choices.
Most short-term backpacking trips, those that last for two to eight weeks, are structured trips that involve group travel. This type of backpacking trip is perfect for travelers who want to maximize their experience, but don’t want to plan things like transportation and lodging on their own. These types of trips offer backpackers a taste of a specific country, with a curated selection of activities, accommodations, and adventure opportunities. Generally, these group backpacking trips have 15 to 20 participants traveling together; so, in addition to that three-day rainforest trek, you’ll probably make some good friends during your time abroad too.
Other backpacking adventures offer more flexible itineraries, allowing you to stay in a location as long as you’d like and move on to the next location when you’re ready for a change. One benefit of these types of backpacking trips is that you can stay as long you’d like if you find something or some place that inspires you; however, you’ll have to do more solo planning in terms of your accommodations and daily activities.
Backpacking trips take place throughout the year, but it’s important to consider the climate when you’re choosing your location. Seasons in the southern hemisphere are the reverse, and equatorial countries have fairly consistent year round temperatures. That being said, be sure to check the weather for several locations on your itinerary. If you’ll be visiting the beach and the mountains, you may need to bring clothing for a variety of climates.
Some travelers may be able to get away with throwing a couple t-shirts and a camera in a bag and heading out, but for most people, an enjoyable backpacking trip requires some advance planning. There are tons of resources online with sample packing lists for various backpacking trips, but in case your Google skills fail you, keep these key points in mind:
Don’t Bring Too Much Stuff. Many travelers before you have survived for eight weeks with only the clothes in their backpack (and you can too!). Make a pile of everything you want to take and then start removing items that aren’t necessary. Pack layers and make sure that each piece works with multiple outfits. You may be doing laundry by hand, so synthetic materials that dry quickly are nice to have. Finally, take your pack on a walk down the street. If you’re having trouble carrying it, imagine running through a train station in Vienna with that same pack; do you miss your train because your bag is too heavy? Downsize now before that happens! Pros know to save space in their pack for all the souvenirs you’ll be buying on the road.
Avoid Burnout. Backpacking trips can be exhilarating, but with the constant movement, new sights, and the steady stream of new adventures, they can also be a bit overwhelming. For a successful trip, make sure you practice self-care strategies. Take time to exercise and eat nutritious foods. Get enough sleep, even when it means hitting the sheets before that final samba dance. Make some time for yourself in order to stay happy and healthy. Some backpacking trips can be a constant flow of interaction, and for those introverts in the group, finding time to be alone and reflect on what you’ve seen can be priceless.
Research Costs. Aspiring backpackers will also need to do some research into costs prior to departure. Before you leave, verify with your trip organizer what expenses will be covered. Some backpacking adventures only provide transportation, while others also cover lodging, meals, and activity fees. Having this information in advance will allow you to properly budget and know what you can afford. You may also incur some expenses when preparing for your backpacking trip; if you don’t already have a large backpack, a sturdy bag can be invaluable, but also an investment. In addition, you may need to purchase things like travel-sized toiletry items, portable electronics, or travel insurance.
Worry-Free Travel Planning. One of the best parts about a backpacking trip is that everything can be planned for you. You won’t need to worry about catching the wrong train or the hostel being full when you arrive. All of these details can be arranged by a trip organizer or tour provider, leaving you with more time to enjoy the experience!
Meet New People. You’ll likely be traveling with a group of other travelers, and after weeks on the road bonding over cultural faux pas and interesting new cuisine, you’ll surely return home with some new friends. Nothing cements a friendship like shared travel experiences!
Less Cultural Integration. Backpacking trips can be perfect for some travelers, but for those looking to get an in-depth look into one culture or really learn a foreign language, another type of international program may be a better fit. Backpacking adventures can expose you to many different sights, sounds, and cultures, but sometimes the constant movement can detract from gaining a deeper understanding of a specific place.
A backpacking trip is sure to inspire you to hit the road again and again. Use your experience to get a taste of what travel can offer you, meet other travelers, and connect with local cultures. While there’s no wrong way to go see the world, backpacking is a great jumping off point for a lifetime of travel.