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Taking It Easy While Backpacking

2010 June 25

For those of you heading off for your backpacking adventures this summer, I want you to listen to this song:

Slow ride, take it easy. Slow ride, take it easy.

Hear that? Take it eaaaaaaasyyyyyyy.

Our everyday lives are hectic and fast-paced. Much too often, people think this is the way to go backpacking. A perfect example is the classic post-college Europe trip: an ambitious plan that attempts to cover 10 countries in 2 weeks while seeing every single church, castle and museum along the way. These are the type of trips where people spend more time on a bus than on their feet while the countries, cities and sights in front of them end up becoming a blurred mess.

My fellow backpackers, this is not the way to do it. Backpacking is about experiencing somewhere new, not going somewhere for the sake of saying you’ve been there. Although it can be very tempting to see all of the attractions, cramming your trip full of those sights will probably leave you burned out and pissed off; as awesome as a 500-year-old cathedral is, by the time you see your 20th one, you’ll be tempted to hurl yourself off the steeple (unless you really love cathedrals).

When planning, don’t overextend yourself. Seeing too many places in too little time will leave you feeling unsatisfied. Sure you’ve got the stamp in your passport but have you really been there? It took me a while to figure this out but in order to really appreciate a new city, you need to get a feel for its vibe. This means spending some time walking around and wandering into the alleys, side-streets and markets. Go sit at a cafe for a couple of hours and just people watch or climb on top of a hill and take in the view. If you’re crammed all day in a museum or church, you’re missing out on what makes a city unique. By getting out there and taking in the sights, sounds and smells you’ll have a much richer experience.

Chill times in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Taking a day off is also pretty clutch. They say “the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Truer words never spoken. More so on the longer trips, there will be days where you’ll be perfectly content with sitting on your ass and reading a book or watching a movie. Sometimes this is due to factors beyond your control such as being sick or hungover. Other times, though, it’s just a nice break from being constantly on the move. Don’t feel guilty because you aren’t seeing the attractions, sometimes a nice “sit” is just what the doc ordered.

At the end of your trip, all you’ll have are your pictures and your memories. You don’t want to look back and only remember where you went or what you saw. You want to remember what you felt and what you thought. Blowing through countries at 100mph will definitely not give you time to reflect. Life goes by fast (especially when backpacking) so chill out, relax and slow down.

Remember: Slow ride. Take it easy.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Samantha permalink
    July 8, 2010

    Love it. You speak the truth.

  2. August 8, 2010

    Couldn’t agree more! I just got back from South Africa and it was the first time I’d been in one place for two weeks. All my other trips have seen me cruising through places, stopping for two or three days at the most. But this time, I was volunteering just out of Durban so we stayed in one place for two weeks. It allowed me to hang up clothes in a cupboard, become a regular at local restaurants, hang out with new friends, become a bit of a local. Really loved it. Hopefully I will remember this for future trips!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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