“Uhhhh…” I graciously mumble as the question comes my way. The guy asking stares at me expectedly.
“Well yes. Kind of…? I mean, Ihave a backpack but it’s also like a roll on which I mainly use it as especially in airports but this is sort of a gap year trip for me and I have a backpack.”
He blinks. “Sorry, what was that?”
Yeah so I do NOT have a way with words, contrary to what I like to think. But I’ve thought about this question quite a bit: am I backpacking?
This, of course, depends on your definition of backpacking. More accurately, on my definition. Am I using a backpack? Yes. Am I in hostels? Sometimes. On a budget? Of course I’m not made of money (one day. One day…).
So on the surface, wouldn’t it seem like I’m backpacking?
(You’re probably all wondering where I’m even going with this, but hold tight).
Were I to be asked this question again, I would say I’m travelling the world, but not as a backpacker.
A bit of detail on how I like travelling: I will gladly spend more money to stay in a hostel with amazing reviews, especially when it comes to location, safety, and the attitude of the staff. I am not the traveller that is trying to spend as little as possible and is more than happy to stay in $3 dorms. In fact, if I can work it in my budget, I’ll pay for a private room. I need to sleep; I’m not a night owl and if I don’t sleep I feel sick the next day. Over the years I’ve become a light sleeper (curses) and so not having to worry about dorm mates is a breath of relief sometimes. This isn’t to say I won’t stay in dorms; only that getting the cheapest deal is not my priority. Plus I am so picky about bathroom cleanliness so I could be down to my last penny and would find a way to scrape enough together for a place with a good bathroom.
When I was researching for this trip, I came across many blogs and sites that discussed how to travel on a budget. Most (not all, I admit) were able to travel on such a budget because of one important thing: they spent no money on outings. This is understandable, but not for what I want to experience on this trip. My day at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, out in the jungles of Chiang Rai with a hostel tour, and everything I have planned for Indonesia woud not be possible if I was on a budget of $20 a day or less.
Furthermore, my bag is too big to only be a carry on. I have to check it for each flight I take. Since I’m travelling across a range of climates (cool Scandinavia to humid Thailand and warm north Asia) I have a mix of clothes which can be layered or worn on their own. Important, especially I plan (and have already done) on doing some day hikes while travelling.
So are there actually any aspects where I am closely following a budget and not spending/spending minimal? Of course!
When and where I can, I walk. I plan my days so I can hit multiple attractions within walking distance within one another. This isn’t always possible, but it depends on the city. I eat cheaply. In Europe this meant cooking my own food as much as possible. In Asia this means convenience stores and street food. Just because I spend more to be comfortable and put my mind at ease in no way means I’m throwing cash out like a madwoman.
It’s a balance. I get stressed easily if getting from point A to B seems bit more complicated than expected. So if it means I pay a little more for a taxi, driver, or a more expensive form of transportation which takes away the guessing on my end, I’ll go for it (this applies more to Asia than Europe). My security and mental state are extremely important, and if I have to pay a little more to be less stressed, I will.
I’m not landing somewhere with my first few nights planned and winging it from there. Even the though of doing that makes me stressed. I’m planning the big things (flights, hostels, 3 weeks-1 month in advance. As far as wha I do each day, that I leave up to how I feel when I’m actually in the city. I know that for a lot of backpackers this takes away spontenaity and can make one feel boxed in. But not me. I like landing in the next place and not having to worry about where I’m staying and how I’m getting to my next destination. All that’s left for me to do is fill in my days with activities. Or not. I’ve spent a good amount of afternoons just lazing around at cafes people watching.
This isn’t everyone’s way of travelling, and that’s OK. Travel how and where you want to your own comfort level. This happens to be mine, and I hope someone reading it (who, like me, may be thinking that all these backpacking bloggers are out there to compete with who can spend the least amount of money) who sees that it’s OK to not backpack. Or whatever their definition of bacpacking is.
So am I backpacking? Well I’m on a half gap year and do have a backpack but it’s also a roll on but I also have a daypack and I’m staying in hostels but not all the time and sometimes in private rooms and I’m on a budget but nothing skin and bones where I only eat once a day (my nightmare).
Until next time!