Friday, 18 February 2011

To all backpackers

I never fully understood the joy or necessity of backpacking, unless one is traveling via unpaved roads, like in a jungle, dessert or up in the mountains.
In numerous cities around the world I see backpackers often with bags where all my belongings could easily fit in two or three times. What do they toss around in those big bags, 30" flatscreen TV's?
I understand that if you bring a tent, you'll need perhaps more space than I do, but I see backbackers in countries where camping is either not allowed, considered too dangerous, too unconfortable because of the climate or where you can have a roof over your head for the price of two diet cokes in your own country.
Usually coming from overseas you will arrive at an airport whereby it's too far to walk to the nearest city, so again no need for a backpack.
Also backpackers seem to come standard with a one liter bottle of water, to cool themselves down from carrying their heavy load in the excotic sunshine, this doesn't help, since it will make you more thirsty, learn from the Arabs, they drink tiny cups of hot tea or coffee, this confuses the body and will stop it from sweating too much. Be honest, who should know better how to control heat than the Arabs do.

As I understand Buddha wrote: One should not possess/(take) more than one can carry, but backpackers stretch that concept to the max. Unlike in the times of Buddha most roads are paved now and we have clamshell suitcases which offer the following advantages:
1. Clamshell suitcases are more secure than backpacks, because they can be locked and not easily cut open with a knife.
2. The contents is safe from being damaged, eg. when being stacked in say a bus or getting soaked by heavy  rains.
3. The contents will consist for a large parts of clothes which have tiny air holes to keep you confortable and therefore can be squeezed, minimising the size to airplane handluggage standards.
4. When opening a suitcase one has a good overview and things are easy to find.
5. Although you can carry them if needed, clamshell suitcases have a very practical other asset: wheels.

Some hardcore backpackers even have a frontpack, the advantage is that this keeps them in balance and allows them to bring even more unnecessary items from home.
Why go around the world carrying such a heavy load? The most interesting countries have cheap laundry facilities to wash out the smell of your socks out of your shirts, shorts and fleece sweaters, and should your clothes be damaged or worn off, they sell (fake designer) wear for a fraction of the costs of your high-end travel clothing. Minimise what you really need to take with you.
Learn from former milkman Peter Korrel from the Netherlands; in 1983 he completed visiting 195 countries (including some not fully recognised nations) with nothing more than a handbag containing his passport, two spare underpants, two pairs of socks, a toothbrush and a spare T-shirt, which also functioned as a towel and finally a puzzle-magazine which co-functioned as toilet paper. 
OK this might be a bit spartanic, one could bring a good book instead of a magazine :)
Backpackers insist on walking around with their giant luggage-pack from accomodation to accomodation and coming out of blue, they expect to be welcomed, for a cheap place to stay. Well, nowadays we have internet complete with independent guest reviews and low-cost voip calls to landlines to make reservations. And accomodations are using this system to make sure they are fully booked all year around. If backpackers are so lucky to find a room, but are not sure they like it, book for one night and see, if not up to your standards, book another the next morning or go there, but please leave your hideous bags in the room, to keep low profile in order not to disturb the local urban habitat. And by the way dreadlocks only look cool on Jamaicans.

Or is it that backpackers want to belong to a special group of people to be found in hostels worldwide? I met such veteran backpackers, they often find themselves very interesting; they seen everything, done everything, been everywhere. If you tell them what you experienced, they always have far more interesting stories to tell, but according to my opinion, despite their cosmopolitan attitude, they seem to wear invisible clamshells on the both side of their ears and eyes.


  1. Dear i-Nomad,

    Since you find backpackers so offensive, can I suggest you frequent other locales and leave them in peace to support the local economy.

  2. @Anonymous: I try to, but it's very hard, if not impossible to avoid them, the're simply everywhere, hence my story.
    I sincerely wonder what you have stuffed in your bags. Also talking with other non BP travelers, including bikers, they also question the same..
    Can't you say something constructive like what motivates backpackers to travel in this fashion in the first place? Many people would like to know..

  3. I totally get this point, as I often wondered the same thing. There are some no-kidding folks who really do travel very light, are a part of the culture and know what they're doing...but these are few and far between. Typically you see 20 year olds trying their best to grasp the tie-dyed/ dreadlock fashion (not that there's anything wrong with that) but at the same time trudging down Khao San Road carrying a pack that looks as if they have everything to survive an Everest expedition (no exaggeration). At one point I too questioned this practice on Lonely Planet's thorn tree, and I tried (or so I thought) to simply pose a valid curious question. No real response received though...what came instead was a tirade of inane non-answers similar to the one "Anonymous" posted. When I traveled throughout Thailand I usually fit everything into a duffel bag small enough for carry-on. When I did carry an actual 'backpack' it was for longer trips (which usually entailed that I needed some additional clothes and shoes for work) I used a medium sized ALICE pack from my Army days (Google it for its size). Despite not having a 'backpack' per se, I actually considered myself more of a backpacker than the actual backpackers I saw. I arrived at this conclusion from reading some pro-backpack propaganda stating something like " get off the plane and casually slip you pack over your shoulder. As you walk past all the other passengers waiting for and struggling with their loggage you realize you are among the most free people in the world...". Well, that scene just isn't happening for most of those "backpackers". The kicker was, I was clean cut, no tattoos, typically wore khakis, a lightweight long sleeve loose cotton shirt, and hat for the sun- but somehow I received strange looks from the "backpackers" as if I were the wierd one...go figure.

  4. Hi Scoot, funny stuff. I like the part about "the most free people in the world.."
    Who would feel happier, a fully packed mule or a horse pulling a lightweight cart? Go figure.
    Pitty you didn't provide the lonely planet link, would love to see the comments.
    Isn't it funny that obviously some people seem to have such a low self-esteem that they need a particular bag to be identified as 'cool'.
    Isn't that the same reason some women will buy bags with Louis Vuitton or Gucci on it?
    When I went skiing I just wore jeans and a sweater. I mean who needs all this shit to conform to a certain group.
    How free are we if w're still slaves of clever marketeers?



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