Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Became a Backpacker in my 30's

Okay, the title of this post is kind of pushing it. I now own a backpack, but I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a backpacker. By the way, many people use the term "backpacker" to refer to a certain way of traveling on a tight budget for long periods of time that usually means traveling light (hence, with just a backpack or very light luggage), staying in hostels, and trying to get away from mass tourism. I'm not going to really touch on that phenomenon in this post, as I've never considered myself a backpacker.

However, I now own a backpack!

A few hours before heading to the airport for my flight to Delhi. Our apartment was a mess with all of the packing. 

For the first two weeks of my trip to India, I was on the Classic Rajasthan tour with Intrepid Travel (more on that experience in another post). One of Intrepid's recommendations was to make sure that we could easily carry our luggage, and their pre-trip materials suggested that we either pack very light or carry a backpack. Pack light? That. Does. Not. Compute. :) Okay, fine. I can pack light to some degree, but for three weeks? 

I really didn't want to spend the money on a backpack. Ones that could hold what I needed for the length of trip I was going on were well over $100 USD. :(  Plus, I usually don't feel the need to carry one for the type of travel I tend to do. I can pack a 20 inch carry-on for almost two weeks worth of travel depending on my destination (warmer places are easier to pack for me).

In the end, I decided to buy a backpack. Here's what I bought:

REI Tour 60 Women's Travel Pack. The smaller day backpack is missing from this picture. 

Did I fit everything into my backpack? Of course not. Especially since I brought an arsenal of products with me, which I will tell you about later. I did have one small additional bag with "stuff" that I probably could have done without but ended up using that bag to fit souvenirs. I also carried my travel purse/daypack (remember that?) to keep important items close to me, like my electronics. 

Was it worth it to have a backpack? Here's what I think:

What I liked about the backpack

-My backpack kept me honest about packing clothes. I only packed 10 days' worth of clothing for three weeks. That was a challenge for me. I did have my laundry done at one point during the three weeks, but I found a way to make do with what I had. I wore many things multiple times; and, unlike some destinations, I didn't feel the need to look fashionable in India. ;)

-I will say that I always felt like I could carry my stuff myself when I wanted to. While we often had help with our bags, my backpack definitely made it easier to get through extremely crowded and frenzied train stations (especially ones with lots of stairs) and other places.  

-We traveled on so many different modes of transportation that I'm glad I had something that I didn't mind taking a beating. It's not like I baby my luggage, but I do want it to last as long as possible. This backpack seemed to do okay getting hit from all sides and enduring Rajasthan's never-ending dust.

Our luggage being packed on top of a jeep. I used to say a little prayer when our stuff was on top of moving vehicles in India. You would, too. Trust me. 

What I didn't like about the backpack

-Sometimes the backpack just felt bulky and cumbersome, although I will be the first to admit that mine was packed to the gills by the end of the three weeks. 

-I felt that it was hard to find some items in the bag when I wanted them. Again, this is probably just my lack of experience efficiently packing a backpack, but sometimes I felt like I had to take out too many things just to find what I needed. I probably should have gotten a bigger bag, but I couldn't justify the money. 

Either way, I feel like I got an understanding of what many travelers experience just by carrying a backpack, even if it's not my usual travel style. I didn't get to backpack through Europe, Latin America, or South East Asia, as many travel bloggers do, but at least I can say I actually own one. :) 

Have you ever used a backpack while traveling? Do/did you like using one? Do you have particular type of luggage that you like to use? 


Lauren said...

I have not used a backpack while traveling other than as a carry on when I studied abroad. I asked my husband and he used one when he backpacked in Europe for 2 weeks after he graduated from high school. He said it was a lot easier for the type of travel that he was doing.

BigAppleNosh said...

I used a backpack for Europe and Africa, but I wouldn't necessarily call myself a "backpacker" - didn't do the hostel thing. It was nice to have everything you need on your back though!

Oneika the Traveller said...

I use backpacks regularly, I find them really necessary when you are moving from place to place! Packing skill comes with time. I separate all pants, tops, underwear etc and put them in separate plastic bags within my pack... So they are easy to get out. Definitely a strategy to it!

The Duo Dishes said...

Rough and tumble traveler, you are. I've never backpacked anywhere, but these are great tips. Maybe I'll go away for 6 months and just trek my way through the world!

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said...

I love that you became a backpacker in your 30s!!! You look better than the 20 year olds too! ;-)

Esme said...

I backpacked after undergrad and it worked great for that-otherwise at 40 something I could never see myself living out of a backpack again. Kudos to you that you can get 3 weeks worth of clothes into a carry on-I have yet to master that despite all the traveling I have done. Did you enjoy India-Rahjastan is so colourful.

Chinye said...

I'm leaving for a few months in Uganda, and as of now am planning to use a mid-size rolling suitcase and a small backpack. I really wanted to just use a backpack, but didn't want to spend the money on it now. Maybe when I do shorter or more multi-stop traveling, I will purchase one.

Kudos to you!

Anonymous said...

There you go, living up to your blog name again. Kudos to you, because I don't know if I could do the backpack thing.

Ekua said...

Haha, I agree with Andi that you look better than most 20-something backpackers... I feel confident in saying this since I'm almost 30 :P

My first time using a backpack was also with a tour. I really saw the benefits of it when someone who joined the tour later brought a gigantic suitcase. I never fit in the storage compartments on the Vietnam trains and she struggled to carry it up stairs at hotels with no elevator. Backpacks can be cumbersome, and I hated mine at first, but now I appreciate the way it gets me around!


Try Anything Once All rights reserved © 2010
I am a HowJoyful Design