The Backpacking Experience: Walking the World
Why Take a Backpacking Holiday?
There are many ways to travel, including cruises, guided tours and destination resorts. These can all be great choices. However, those seeking a more complete experience may find that a backpacking trip is just the ticket. The slower pace of walking will afford hikers the opportunity to truly savor local flavors and it gives them a chance for a much deeper cultural immersion.
Places to Go
The only real limits to choosing a hiking route are usually time and money. Once a general time-frame and budget have been established it is time to pick a location. Backpacking can be urban or rural in nature or it can be some combination of the two.
There are exotic locales around the world that lend themselves to everything that backpacking can offer. From wilderness excursions along America’s Appalachian Trail to walking tours of Amsterdam’s Golden Age Canals to hiking through the breathtaking Bavarian Alps. Foot-travel can be the best way to engage the senses. For city-lovers there is a veritable bevy of options. Walkers can try the back streets of the Parisian Latin Quarter to see the famous cathedrals and monuments, or they can hunt for bargains in the kiosks of the bouquinistes along the Seine. The medieval labyrinths of Barcelona are a wonderful place to “get lost”. Beer lovers can take in the great Munich Oktoberfest or tip a pint in ancient taverns while pub-crawling in London.
Nature lovers will find spectacular scenery on every continent. The world’s most popular hiking is on the famed Inca Trails of Peru, leading to Machu Picchu. In Europe, bridging the border between Italy and France is the highest point in the western Alps, Mont Blanc, which towers 4810 m above sea level.
What to Bring
That famous traveler, Anonymous, once said, “when preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then, take half the clothes and twice the money”.
It is a flip comment, but it contains more than a few grains of truth. Two key elements to maximizing backpacking enjoyment are research and preparation. Before taking off to go someplace it is imperative to have some knowledge of the destination. This knowledge helps to ensure against making bad arrangements for accommodations, travel and outfitting. Allow enough time to enjoy the sights. Have an idea about the food and water likely to be encountered. Pack what is needed and pack only what is needed. Many details can be addressed beforehand by using the internet. There are good sites for booking any air, boat or rail travel involved. You will certainly find the best combinations of utility and fashion. Take shoes that are both comfortable and durable. Tents need to be easy to pack and assemble and the weight should meet the requirements of various weather conditions to be expected on the trip.
Depending on whether domestic or international travel is involved it may be necessary to update passports, exchange currency and stock up on any prescription medications. Find out what has to be brought from home and what can be acquired on location. Power supplies can vary from country-to-country, so check for requirements regarding adapters, cords and converters for electronic devices such as computers, phones and cameras.
In some places language can be a barrier, so expedience may dictate the need for a phrase book. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in strange surroundings. Locals, particularly those in popular tourist spots, are good sources of information on area attractions and eateries.
Above all, be flexible. It is a real treat to just happen upon a local celebration or feast or to discover interesting restaurants or sites that didn’t show up in previous research. Enjoy the sense of adventure.
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