Thursday, September 1, 2011

8 Backpacker Resolutions I Am Making Here and Now

So last week, I finally made the announcement that I am going on a six-month backpacking trip around Asia staring next month. I have informed my family and the people at work. I have also started to make the necessary preparations: finances, gear, documents, visas, work, etc. But before all that starts rolling into one big stressful mess, let me take one step back and ask myself: Is backpacking really for me? Is this the kind of travel lifestyle I want?

I know. Really bad time to even be questioning myself about this. But it has to be asked. I think, the question is not that easy to answer. Contrary to what many are inclined to believe, backpacking is not like going on vacation. Unless you have a trust fund from your millionaire parents, backpacking will be an exercise in frugality. You don't really think about that when you're on a trip lasting a few days to a week. The trip won't last that long so you tend to be generous with your spending. With backpacking, you're on the road longer. Thus, you find ways to spend less so you can travel more. Needless to say, there are a few sacrifices to be made to stretch out your budget and generally make this backpacking thing work.

So to usher in this lifestyle I will be adopting even if only for a few months, let me make a few resolutions—backpacker resolutions—here and now.

1. I resolve to let go of my privacy and share rooms with total strangers.

Accommodation tends to occupy the biggest chunk on any traveler's budget. One way to stretch out that fund is to sleep on the cheap. That usually means hostels, dormitories, bunk beds, etc. All forms of privacy go out the window as I share a single room, and bathrooms, too, with four to 10 people. An altogether messy, crowded affair. Yikes. But I will be ready for that. (Lord, give me strength.)

Photo by Flashpacking Life / CC BY
2. I resolve to eat what's available and go local.

When I went to China early this year, I noticed that the kind of food there I was familiar with were international brands. So yes, they were more on the expensive side. I suppose this is the case if I visit other countries, too. It's not that I hate Chinese food or any other foreign food for that matter. It's just that eating familiar foods tends to fill me up more. But if I'm to make my funds last for as long as I want, I have to eat cheap and go local. Cambodian crickets, bring it on!

3. I resolve to take mass transit and other public transportation.

When on vacation, we tend to avoid public transport. We include taxi cab fares in our budget because hey, we're on vacation! We don't want any form of stress, thankyouverymuch. With backpacking, that may not be possible. Because you know there is always a cheaper alternative: buses, metro, motorbikes, tuktuks, songthaews, etc. In preparation, I have been working out my elbows, arms and upper body. Let's do this!

Photo by kholkute / CC BY-SA

4. I resolve to ready my butt for traveling long hours from one city to another.

Flights, while they may be cheap nowadays what with budget airlines and all, are still relatively expensive. So to get from one province to another, one region to another, one city to another, I will take land transport in the form of inter-city buses and national railways. Twelve, sixteen, eighteen-hour train rides? Pfhhsh.

Photo by Claire à Taiwan / CC BY-SA
5. I resolve to pack what I need and only what I need.

There is a reason why they call this backpacking. That's because everything you own will be inside your backpack. You discard all personal luxury and strip yourself down to your bare necessities. You pack multi-purpose clothes, even if we all agree convertible cargo pants make you look like a hobo. I will be ready for that. Let me just say that I will not let go of my personal hygiene and I will bring at least one pair of jeans. I mean, let's not start talking crazy here. I am not a hobo and I like jeans.

6. I resolve to not grumble at the need to pack and unpack every few days or so.

The backpacking lifestyle will never have you in one place long enough to feel settled in. Just when you feel you have, you realize it's time to leave. So you put your nest back inside your bags only to unpack them all a few hours later in your next destination. The process repeats so often that it can become tiresome and painful. I promise not to grumble when it becomes unbearable. I cannot promise to keep that promise though. So that's that.

7. I resolve to take all necessary precautions and remain calm and collected for when emergencies happen on the road.

Now, this is serious. No matter how careful I am, bad things can happen while traveling. Like the vehicle accident that happened when we went to Mt. Pinatubo last year. Thankfully, no one got seriously injured. The point is, some things on the road can become a bummer and may ultimately ruin a destination for you. Worse, you need to cut your trip short and come home. That I do not want to happen. So yes, I am taking all necessary precautions, i.e., travel insurance. I promise to take it easy while on the road and remain calm and collected when dealing with difficult and/or emergency situations.

8. I resolve to let go of the comfort of my own bed and my own home.

This is perhaps the hardest for me. Everything is so easy, so comfortable, when you're at home. You have your bed and you know it's always there waiting for you when you come home at the end of your tiring day. And if you're lucky, your family will be at home, too, waiting for you. For six months starting October, I will practically be homeless for the first time in my life. I resolve to be ready for that.

Come to think of it, I am ready for all these. I mean, in comparison to all the amazing experiences I am about to have in this six-month trip, these sacrifices are nothing. I will be willing to make them many times over just to fulfill my travel dreams. I mean, there are just some sacrifices in this world worth suffering through. Right?

Have you ever made a resolution or a promise before a trip that you did? What were some of them? Were you able to keep them?

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