From Bucket List to Been There Done That #2: Backpacking

A non-athletic, for sale non-competitive, order not-rich person’s guide to replacing excuses with plans.

Backpacking in Buenos Aires

Backpacking in Buenos Aires

Imagine that someone says to you, “I just got back from a 5-week backpacking trip in South America.”
Is your reply the following?
“I could never do that.”

Before you say never, look at what you’re saying never to:
I never want to travel with a flexible schedule that lets me pack up and be ready to go in minutes.
I never want to take a month-long or longer vacation by using the funds that would have only lasted for a few weeks in wheeled-luggage-friendly tourist places and saving a ton by moving off the beaten path to stretch my budget for a much longer trip.

What other excuses are popping into your head?

I don’t like to carry a backpack.
You’re thinking of the cheap backpack you filled with textbooks in university, and then wore on one shoulder to look cool. I know – my shoulders are still sore from looking so cool. Get a good pack, adjust it to fit you and don’t over-pack (I’m still learning how to do this.) Practice carrying it. The weight should be on your hips, not pulling on your shoulders. It’s actually more comfortable than trying to manhandle a suitcase. Plus you get to keep all the tips. If you carry it without complaining, you can tip yourself double.

I can’t fit everything.
I hear you. Packing is the hardest part. Think layers and double-duty pieces when planning your wardrobe. If you’ll be anywhere near a decent-sized city you’ll be able to replenish instead of lugging 5 weeks of contact lens solution from the start. If I didn’t have a Kindle it would be much harder – I NEED to have books with me. Many places have a book swap. Leave the paperback you finished and take something new.

I can’t walk far with a backpack.
The only time you need to carry the full pack is when you’re moving from one “base of operations” to the next. For day trips and overnighters you can carry a smaller bag. So really, you’re only carrying the full pack from a hostel or hotel to a bus station. Of course, this only works if you don’t start buying food, souvenirs and clothes for unexpected weather so that you have to use your big and small packs to fit everything, and then wear one on your front and one on your back like I did. Oops.

Backpacking is for 20-somethings.
Using your age as an excuse not to do things is a slippery slope. Don’t go there. Backpacking really is doable. Cram your stuff in, try to carry it, offload some stuff, re-adjust it and you’re good.
Have fun!

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