My first experience staying in a backpacker hostel was in Washington, D.C. I traveled by bus from Ohio to attend a conference there and wanted to experience what it was like to live among other travelers even for just a few days. I arrived to find a city ripe with culture and history. Staying in a hostel showed me that I could travel affordably, be among friends, and do all the things I dreamed of doing that were fun, adventurous, and exciting.
What a Lightly Filled Backpack Affords You
Backpacking adventures can be had nearly everywhere you can think of on the globe. The challenge is packing the right amount of items for the duration of your trip. Pack too much and you run the risk of being bogged down and restricted by your possessions. Pack too little and you'll be forced to wash your clothes out in the hostel bathroom sink.
Backpacking Trips and a Minimalist Mindset
Backpacking trips encourage a minimalistic approach to living. Removing all of the obstacles that get in the way of a person seeing, feeling, and experiencing all an area of the globe has to offer is key. That's why backpackers live out of their backpack. They have fewer distractions keeping them from living their ultimate travel dreams.
They're not concerned about how many clothes they have to wear or whether or not they mastered an Instagram-worthy hairstyle. Instead, they are laser-focused on immersing themselves in the environment around them, so they can make the most of every moment they had while traveling. That is how they enrich their lives. They engage their senses, step out of their comfort zones, and go the extra mile to do something worthwhile with their lives.
Dreams of a Backpacking Adventure Around Europe
For the longest time, I wanted to backpack around Europe. I made friends who lived on that continent while working at a popular amusement park. I was told that I was always welcome to visit which I relished with glee. I never had the opportunity to take that backpacking trip, but I've had many adventures throughout the United States.
Some were good. Some were bad. All taught me some very important lessons I could share with family and friends. That's where a person's true power lies in their ability to educate others.
Lessons Learned While on Backpacking Trips and Traveling Long-Term
Some of the best experiences I've had have been spent backpacking. I've also learned valuable lessons along the way including the following advice. Less is more when it comes to stuff. More is better when it comes to financial matters.
If you pack too few shirts, you can pick up a couple inexpensively along the way. If you run out of toothpaste or shampoo, you can acquire the items rather easily. It's far better to travel with less stuff and more money. You'll probably find that you don't use half of what you packed anyway.
Here is some of the advice I lived by while backpacking solo nationwide:
- Don't wear cheap footwear. You'll pay the price in discomfort. If you're planning on walking everywhere you go, you'll need a good pair of tennis shoes with thick soles and arch support. Trust me when I say that it's absolutely essential that you take good care of your feet while you travel. If you don't your next backpacking experience will be cut short.
- Keep your skin protected from the elements. Outdoor company REI recommends thinking of the clothing that you carry with you as separate systems with different functions. The first is the next-to-skin base layers which protect in cold and cool temperatures. Next is the hiking layers which keep the rain and sun off of you. Think hat, T-shirt, nylon pants with zip-off legs, and a sun shirt. The insulation system usually consists of a vest or jacket, fleece pullover, hat, and gloves. Rainwear is waterproof. Pants and a jacket help add comfort. Sleep clothes allow you to sleep comfortably after moving around all day in the other clothing you've brought with you.
- Buy a backpack that your frame can support. This is an item that you're better off shopping for in person than online. Try on several different models to see which you like best. You may find that a framed rucksack is far better for your needs than a standard school book bag. If it has a reinforced bottom, it's even better because it provides a better structure. You'll be able to keep your items safer while traveling to your next destination.
- Book your backpacking hostels reservations early. Cheap lodging fills up fast, especially during the summer. If you want to ensure that you have somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep, make reservations early and do your best to keep them. Delays happen but it's always best to try to keep the schedule you planned for yourself. That way, you'll be where you intended to be and at the backpacking hostel on the date that you said you'd check in.
It's Worth It to Pay Extra to Have a Single Room and Private Bathroom
Backpacker hostels exist worldwide and provide cheap lodging options for travelers looking to save money. Some hostels are meant for youth while others are better suited for senior citizens who retire and decide to backpack around the globe. As a backpacker, I found the set-up relatively comfortable as I was used to sharing a room with roommates when I worked at an amusement park in my twenties. When single rooms were available, and I could afford them, I always made sure to reserve one.
That way I could get the rest and privacy that I need to recuperate after a long day of sightseeing and exploring an area by foot. Some come with a private bathroom, too, which is worth the added expense. You can take a long, hot shower without the concern of it holding up your roommates. Having a bathroom all to myself is always an added bonus to a single room in a hostel.