About A Backpacker: What It Is To Be Backpacker

Although I am a traveller, I don’t like being called a backpacker because there are certain images that people get of backpackers that I don’t exactly feel I fit.  I don’t like to call myself a budget traveller either because everyone travels on a budget.  Some people have high budgets while others have low budgets.  I like to call myself an independent traveller.  Occasionally when I’ve been travelling, I have had people join me who are on holidays and I have felt clashes in the style of travelling that I have never felt when I link up with random travellers on my travels.  It has made me realize that I am a backpacker.  Being a backpacker is not about the type of luggage you use, the clothes you wear or how unkempt your hair is; it’s a state of mind.  The following are some points that define backpackers.

1. The journey is as important as the destination. It’s like being a treasure hunt. At the end of the hunt, you may not find the treasure but you enjoy the hunt.  In the literal sense, it can be likened to choosing independent travel over tours. It is much easier to have someone else organize your travels for you but we actually prefer to do it ourselves.  It’s part of the adventure.  Figuring out local transit, sitting on old rickety buses, being packed into buses beyond capacity, and dealing with awkward schedules is all part of the fun of travel.  In other instances, you may not have the ideal situation for visiting your destination but you can still have an amazing time because you enjoy the moment. Sihanoukville beach, Cambodia 2003, with two other travellers, raining and yet we still had an amazing time in the sea and crashing someone’s beach party.

2.  We form intimate connections with strangers very quickly.  It’s amazing how quickly travellers seek each other out and how quickly in a short amount of time we will divulge intimate details of our lives that normally would take time to reveal.  I think about the man I just recently sat beside on a plane who shared with me his disappointment that he had never been able to have children.  He even challenged me in some of my thoughts toward my future.  After this 1 hour and 20 minute plane ride, we both bid each other farewell and said good bye.  Amazing, how we do this.

3. We relish the hardships of travelling.  Being taking advantage of by a taxi driver, getting lost on your travels, losing your money- all horrible things that can go wrong, but somehow or other, these are the stories we thrive on.  These are the stories that get swapped among travellers.  When we encounter hardships, our emotions may get the better of us, but these are the memories that we take with us and the stories that we repeat to everyone.

4. We sometimes feel a bit superior.  We feel that we are better than tourists because we get to know the locals better.  The truth is that most backpackers stick together and seldom go off the beaten track.  We usually travel along networks and stick to touristy areas.

5. Probably the most defining feature, backpackers don’t convert money.  We may come off as cheap to many tourists, but we simply don’t convert prices back to our home currency.  We are aware of the conversion rate when we exchange money or make a big purchase but once we work out our limit for accommodation and food, we learn to function in that currency.  So yes, we will haggle over what converts to be 50cents.  We will bargain for better rates at hostels, and market stalls even if it’s only a dollar we are saving.  Once we know the basic price of certain things, we feel taken advantage of if a vendor is trying to take more money off of us, we are not walking ATMs!  We will spend precious time shopping around to get the best rates even if it converts to be an insignificant amount.  We are aware and okay with the fact that there are two pricing systems, one for locals and one for foreigners, but we don’t buy into the philosophy that locals have so little and we have so much- it’s not just about the material things. It’s not that we are cheap, by no means are we cheap.  We are enigmas because we somehow have money to travel forever, and when there is something meaningful to us, we cough up the money to spend.  We are just selective on what we spend our money on.

I embrace the fact that I’m a backpacker, the good and the bad of it. I wouldn’t do it any other way.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Christian Ekleberry
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 06:01:13

    Great article! I feel the same way. The mentality of an individual changes the way they travel. I love that you highlighted that we all have budgets or that some trips may be more luxurious than others. It’s so true. I don’t see anything wrong with roughing it one trip and then indulging in another. Thanks for a delightful post!


  2. Trackback: Madagascar: The Adventure to the Unreachable (Tsingy) | Marcia's Travels

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