I think many people have misconceptions about who backpackers are and what we do. The stereotype in America is that backpackers are a bunch of aimless, dirty hippies camping beachside in a Scooby Doo van. In reality, backpackers come from a myriad of different backgrounds–from kids taking time off before starting college to families doing an around-the-world trip to people taking a much needed vacation from their 9 to 5. In general, backpackers are people traveling for an extended period of time, with minimal provisions, staying at low budget accommodations like hostels or camping grounds.
I don’t backpack because I’m cheap. I backpack because it’s my favorite way to actually see a country in depth. By saving on overland travel and accommodation, I’m able to stretch my trips out for months at a time. I backpack nearly everywhere I go, including a six week trip from Chile to Peru and a five month trip from Singapore to Vietnam. Over the course of my SE Asia trip, I explored Angkor Watt in Cambodia, half-way mastered the Thai language and learned how to fire a rifle in Vietnam. I did all of this among many other things. It was amazing, and it cost me less than $3,000! In contrast, I have friends who have spent that much on a week-long trip!
So the next time someone tells you that they’ve backpacked across a continent, try not to give them the side eye. I’ve seen some amazing things crossing from border to border on the local bus. I will concede that we are a little bit dirty, but I guarantee that wearing the same three shirts for three months is a small concession to the overall experience. Backpacking allows for a unique and extensive glimpse into the culture of the country which you’re visiting. So the next time you’re planning out a vacation, take a minute to consider the backpacker option!