Crisscrossing the world is no walk in the park. Don’t believe anyone who says it is. We’re all going to encounter all sorts of challenges during our trip across the world, from language barriers to getting our personal property together to getting lost. Backpacking across the world requires an immense amount of motivation and patience. It also requires certain skills that not all of us have to begin with. The best way to make backpacking a success without major disasters and stress is to get ourselves into order beforehand. That means knowing which skills will serve us throughout our trip.
When people think of backpacking skills, they tend to think of the packing part alone, but that’s only a tiny fraction of the journey. There are so many more things to consider before heading off with our rucksack and the clothes on our backs. These skills will serve us along the way and make everything a 100 times easier. That phrase, knowledge is power, couldn’t describe the process of backpacking better. In this article, we’re going to show readers the knowledge they need to embark on a backpacking adventure and how to put that knowledge into practice. In other words, take notes or star this page.
Successful backpackers don’t just wander into the wilderness without a plan, like we often see in the movies. In reality, all backpackers (all successful ones anyway) have at least a basic blueprint of where they are going and what they plan to do when they get there. We’re not saying we all need a rigid plan containing every single tiny detail of what we’ll be doing. It’s no fun when we know everything about our trip – spontaneity is always exciting!
At least a basic strategy of where we’re heading and basic plans will serve us far better than no strategy at all.
Although it’s nice to encounter surprises along the journey, the last thing anyone wants during a backpacking trip is to encounter unpleasant surprises. The best way to prevent that is by planning head and researching important things like transportation systems, where to sleep, where to eat, and distances to and from surrounding cities.
This will save us an immense amount of time and potential stress when we actually arrive. We also won’t have to worry about having a wifi connection to research these things because we’ll already have done it. A rigid plan isn’t necessary when research has been carried out beforehand.
It’s naive to believe that most people around the world speak English. They don’t. Sure, we’re going to find people in every country who can speak our language, but we also have to be prepared for when they don’t. That’s why it’s useful if we can learn at least a few important phrases of a country’s language before going so we know how to say certain things. It’s also more enjoyable if we are able to communicate in the local language.
Of course it’s not easy and learning a second language well takes time, but it isn’t impossible. Even just knowing a few basic phrases is better than nothing.
The good news is, learning a second language or phrases from a new language comes with a variety of options. We can use a phrasebook to carry around with us if we’re not planning on learning another language fluently. Alternatively, we can use apps, textbooks, or even pay for a few Skype lessons before we head off.
There are so many different ways we can learn these days. If we really want to improve our language skills, practicing with locals is a great way to brush up on them. A lot of people are shy when it comes to practicing a new language, but it’s the only way to learn and get better.
There are different kinds of backpacking journeys. There’s the wilderness type of backpacking adventure which involves trekking into the middle of nowhere, living off the land, and camping in the woods. That kind of thing! Or there’s the backpacking the world kind of backpacking, which involves living out of our rucksack while staying in hostels and using public transport to get around. For both it is important to possess basic survival skills. But more so for the wilderness, we need to know stuff like how to start a fire and find water. Without these skills, we are heading on the road to disaster.
It’s a tradition of the wild and also something that could save our lives in the wilderness. The question is, how does one build a campfire? First off, position the campfire 3-4 meters away from our tent, hanging trees or basically anything flammable. The area also shouldn’t be windy.
If we can find one, it’s best to use existing fire beds or dig away grass to expose dirt as a position. Create a ring of rocks around the fire before starting. Then gather wood – timber is the best fire starter – or use firelighters if you have them. Place the timber in the middle and build a tepee around it using the wood. Then use a lighter or a match to light the tinder right in the center.
Backpacking trips can be physically draining. Even short trips can be tiring, especially if we’re not the fittest versions of ourselves. Remember how much we packed in our backpacks? Well, we’ll be carrying all that weight around with us.
In other words, it requires a fair amount of physical energy and strength to do it successfully without needing a rest every ten minutes. That is why it’s good to train our bodies beforehand to ensure they are ready for the upcoming trip.
Many backpackers make the mistake of backpacking without practicing beforehand. Yet it’s absolutely crucial that we do at least a few practice runs before doing it for real.
Start by doing day hikes wearing a backpack loaded with around 30-40 pounds. This will give us a feel for how it’s going to be and also get us in shape, reading for the adventure ahead. In addition practice hikes, start getting physically fit by doing basic fitness training. That includes incorporating cardio and resistance training into our daily fitness routine. Thirty to sixty minutes per day for several weeks should be enough to get us prepared.
Depending on the kind of backpacking trip we’re going on, it is nonetheless crucial that we pack in the best, most efficient way possible. That includes getting rid of the unnecessary and packing only the necessary. Essential, versatile items are the best options.
Remember, we have limited space in our backpacks, which is why we should only take the stuff that we need. In fact, every item in our bag should be used at some point during the journey. If it isn’t used, then it’s a waste of space and can be disposed of. When it comes to backpacking, every bit of space is crucial.
It starts by making a checklist of the things we need and ticking them off as we add them to our backpacks. We firstly need to decide what we’re going to need on the journey in different parts of our lives. For clothes, think practical attire and shoes that work with the climate.
Then of course there are the essential smalls like our passport, cell phone, chargers, wallet and medication. We’re also going to need a laundry bag and a department in our backpacks where we keep it. What we need will also depend on the destination. Think wisely when we pack and we’ll pack well.
All backpacking requires stepping outside our comfort zone – but solo backpacking is especially so. It’s not always going to be easy being alone 24/7, which is why talking to strangers is a skill we all need on the road. We need to be able to communicate with strangers if we want to make our experience a success.
While it’s okay to go our own way, it’s far more enjoyable if we have people to speak to along the way. Not only will it keep us company, we can also learn from others. Plus, if we have any problems along the way, we need to push our shyness aside and just ask.
Not good at making the first move and initiating conversation with strangers? Don’t worry, not everyone is. Many people struggle with speaking to strangers, but it’s a skill we need travelling. Start by making a comment or a light joke instead of delving straight into asking questions. It’s also better if we choose groups instead of individuals, because the chance of awkward silences is a lot less.
Talking to strangers really doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. The more we practice, the easier and more natural it will become. Eventually, speaking to strangers will become second nature.
Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with a patient personality. In the busy world that is life, we all loathe waiting and having to deal with unpleasant things. That’s one thing we’ll soon learn when travelling because patience really is a virtue when backpacking. We need it – like, all the time.
That’s because in some countries they have a much more relaxed way of life than us. They are happy to wait in life for 20 minutes or deal with a chaotic bus journey. Maybe they’re not happy about it, but they accept it. That is something we need to learn how to do.
First of all, always prepare for the good and the bad. Don’t expect everything to be smooth sailing, because it won’t be. Once we create this mindset, it will be much easier to tell with any problems that arise. Also, be prepared to try a range of different foods. Not everything is going to be similar to what we have at home, but isn’t that the fun of travelling? Enjoy it, try the craziest dishes you can find, and just have fun.
At the end of the day, we’re all going to face challenges on the road but this is our dream.
Sure, a guidebook will show us where to find the best landmarks, hotels, and restaurants. But a real life local or traveller in the area will be able to provide us with far more information and advice. They’ll be able to tell us where to eat at half the price of the recommendations in the guidebook. We’ll get inside tips and advice from locals and local traveller because they have the experience and the know-how.
Networking is one of the best ways to get to know a culture and its amenities. The locals are able to tell us about hidden gems that we cannot find in our guidebooks.
Online is the best way and the most common way of all. These aren’t the kind of people we’re going to meet easily, so it’s easier and faster if we join networking communities online to find them. We can strike a conversation online and ask for recommendations. Alternatively, we can ask to meet up with them face to face so we can get a tour of the city.
It’s way more fun to network with locals and other travellers than it is getting all our information and facts from a guidebook. We get the most true and up to date information from locals.
These days, everywhere we look we see someone attached to their cell phone. It would be more bizarre to see someone without a phone than with one. But when we travel, we should be appreciating our surroundings and taking a break from checking social media updates and timelines.
We’ll enjoy it far more when we can just enjoy the moment of admiring the Taj Mahal rather than looking at everything through a lens – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s better if we can enjoy the moment. We can see the pictures any time we like but we only see it in real life once.
We don’t have to disconnect completely, but taking more breaks away from checking Facebook or Instagram will really clear our mind and help us feel more present. Or, take the more extreme step by deleting your social apps and turning off notifications.
There is no point in giving our cell phone away because we are going to need it from time to time. We just don’t need to remain fixated on it day and night because, well, we could have done that at home. Now we’re somewhere new and foreign and we should start paying more attention to the now rather than to what’s on our phone.
A universal communicator is action. If we don’t speak the language, we can always rely on hand actions and movements to express ourselves. This isn’t always successful, but often it can help us get our point across.
Sign and body language can be invaluable when we travel and do not speak the language, because let’s face it, how many of us are going to learn the language of every single country we visit? Especially in urgent situations, it’s sometimes better just to use our hands instead of struggling to find someone who speaks our language. Some hand actions we use already, while others are there to be learned.
For starters, we have the universal sign for ‘’ok’’ – the upwards thumb. Sometimes we’ll also make a circle with our thumb and index finger with the rest of the fingers pointing up to make the same signal. But what about the less obvious signals?
For instance, crossing our arms over our head while in the water is something swimmers and divers do to signal ‘’I need help!’’ And we really need to be careful what we do with our hands in Italy. A simple flap of the wrist can mean several things including, ‘’I’m not interested’’ and ‘’Go away!’’ It is really important that we know these things before we offend someone.
References: atlasandboots.com, rei.com, cnn.com