“I’d really like to get on a Greyhound bus and go backpacking across America.”
David Morrissey, Actor
Pros and Cons of Backpacking
Backpacking has become quite popular over the past decades. Especially young people love to travel with their backpacks around the world. While backpacking has many important advantages, there are still some issues related to it.
I have traveled the world with my backpack for half a year and show you all the pros and cons of backpacking in this article so that you can better decide whether backpacking is for you or not.
Advantages of Backpacking
- Rather cheap form of traveling
- Backpacking gives you a feeling of freedom
- You will meet many like-minded people
- You learn to organize yourself
- Backpacking shows you how little you actually need
- All your belongings are in one bag while you are traveling
- Backpacking is especially popular among young people
- You can make really good friends
- Backpacking allows you to improve your communication skills
- You can learn new languages
- You can learn how to deal with stress
- Backpacking teaches you patience
- You can learn to become independent
- Backpacking supports the local economy
- Can show you life from a different perspective
- You can grow in character
- You can experience things off the beaten track
- Backpacking can teach you humility
- You can find new hobbies during your journey
Rather cheap form of traveling
One advantage of backpacking is that it is a rather inexpensive way to see the world. Since you will often sleep in cheap hostels instead of staying in a fancy hotel, you can save plenty of money on accommodation. Moreover, while you are on your way, you will also often just get some food from the grocery store instead of eating out in restaurants.
Additionally, since you will often be off the beaten track and the tourist spots, you can also save a lot of money on several things for daily life since you will just buy your stuff as locals do instead of paying high tourist prices.
Consequently, if you are on a budget right now but still want to see the world, backpacking is probably the cheapest way to accomplish your goal.
Backpacking gives you a feeling of freedom
Backpacking is often associated with a high level of freedom. And that for a good reason! You can go whenever you want, wherever you want as long as you obey local laws.
In contrast to holiday packages, you don’t have a fixed itinerary, but can decide where you want to go next based on your individual preferences and your mood.
Hence, you don’t have to go to places you don’t want to right now and can also stay longer in one place if you like to.
You will meet many like-minded people
Another benefit of backpacking is that you will meet many like-minded people during your journey. In fact, many backpackers share similar values and also have similar goals. Most of them just want to have a good time and if you are a relaxed person who enjoys the company of others, backpacking can be great for you.
You might even meet people on your way with whom you want to travel around for longer. By doing so, you can not only deepen your connection with those people, you can also save plenty of money on gas or accommodation.
You learn to organize yourself
While I had been backpacking, I really learned how to organize myself. If you are on the road with only one backpack, you have to choose wisely what you really want to take with you and what you should leave behind. Moreover, you also learn how to pack your stuff so that you don’t have to search forever until you find it in your backpack.
You will also learn how to organize your travels. Since you will not have a car most of the time, you will have to rely on public transport to get from A to B and have to learn how to organize your travels in this regard to reach your destinations in time.
These organizational skills are not only important for backpacking, they can also be quite valuable for your future life. In fact, the better you learn to organize yourself, the more successful you will be at your job and also in your private life.
Backpacking shows you how little you actually need
Another upside of backpacking is that it shows you how little you actually need on your travels. Many people who go on vacation carry big pieces of luggage with them. However, most of the stuff will not be used on vacation anyway. Through traveling the world with my backpack, I really learned what things are important and what things I almost never used.
Therefore, I got a much better feeling over time in this regard and after a few months, I knew exactly what I can dispose of and what I will always need during my travels.
However, one thing is for sure. Happiness doesn’t depend on the number of things you carry with you, it depends on your attitude towards life and how you deal with issues.
All your belongings are in one bag while you are traveling
It can also be quite convenient to have everything you need during your travels in your backpack. This means that you can’t forget things on your journey, at least if you don’t forget your whole backpack which is rather uncommon 😉. In fact, I always liked having all my stuff with me since it just gave me quite a lot of flexibility.
Backpacking is especially popular among young people
Backpacking can also be a great experience once you are still young. Especially after finishing school or college, many people take a gap year and travel the world. In my opinion, the younger you are, the more you can profit from this experience since you will really grow in character and learn a lot about yourself.
Moreover, you will also meet many young people on your way and if you are young as well, you will have better chances to connect to them on an emotional and mental level.
However, this doesn’t mean that backpacking is not suitable for the older generation. It just means that you learn more from it when you are still younger.
You can make really good friends
You will also have the chance to make really good friends while you are backpacking. Since you will meet many people with similar interests like you, you will have an easy time connecting to those people and to build real friendships.
Moreover, you will meet some people over and over again in various different places since many backpackers have quite similar plans.
This will lead to a state where you will spend much time together and the more time you spend with someone, the stronger your bonds will get.
Backpacking allows you to improve your communication skills
Since you will travel to many different places and stay in many different beds during your journey, backpacking can also help you to improve your communication skills. Especially if you are a rather shy person who doesn’t like getting out of the comfort zone, backpacking can be quite a valuable experience for you since you will be forced to talk to many different people.
Over time, you will lose your fear and will really enjoy being more outgoing. This will not only benefit you for backpacking, it will also greatly increase your overall chances in life in general.
Communication is everything and how you communicate will be decisive for whether people will accept you or not.
You can learn new languages
Many backpackers also travel to numerous different countries during their journey. This also implies that they have to adjust to new cultures and also have to learn how to communicate in different languages.
While English can help you out in many countries to a certain extent, it will still help if you learn some words in the local language since locals will see that you make some efforts and will appreciate this quite a lot.
You can learn how to deal with stress
During your backpacking journey, you may also experience some rather difficult situations. Maybe your pocket will get stolen or you lose some other important documents. Either way, this can cause significant stress and you may feel quite bad about it.
However, learning how to deal with adversity is crucial to overcome difficult periods in life and the earlier you learn it, the better you will be able to deal with negative events in the future.
Backpacking teaches you patience
During my backpacking trip, I also really learned what the word “patience” really means. Quite often, I had to wait for the bus for quite a long time, sometimes even hours. In other countries, public transport schedules are not fixed and drivers can change their mind without prior notice.
Moreover, also people in other countries tend to be more relaxed and everything is slower compared to our hectic Western world. While this might be annoying first, it can really teach you how to slow down your own life and how to become more patient and happier in general.
You can learn to become independent
Backpacking after school or after college can also be a great way to become more independent. Many people who grow up in our Western world right now have never learned to stand on their own feet. Most of the time, their parents will tell them exactly what they should do, when they should do it and how they should do it.
However, this is not beneficial for the healthy development of a child at all since only if your kids figure out those things by themselves, they will really learn from their experiences.
Consequently, especially if you grew up in a household where you had no real responsibilities, backpacking can greatly help you to learn new skills and to become more independent in general.
Backpacking supports the local economy
Through backpacking, you can also support the local economy. Quite often, you will stay away from the main tourist attractions and will rather spend your time in areas where locals actually live their lives.
This also implies that you will buy your food directly from local shops or restaurants. It also implies that you will stay in hostels directly operated by locals.
In turn, you can greatly support locals since the money you spend will directly end up where it belongs.
Can show you life from a different perspective
In general, backpacking can also show you the relativity of life. What I mean by this is that we often take our own lifestyle for granted and think that this would be the normal and right way to go. However, by backpacking and traveling the world, you will soon realize how different cultural values and social norms are across the world.
In turn, you will also realize that what we call normal is actually just a set of local cultural values which is considered as dodgy in other remote parts of the world. Those experiences really let you mature and also teach you tolerance towards different ways of life.
You can grow in character
Backpacking also gives you the opportunity to really grow in character in various different ways. I have seen many cases where I met people on my journey that had been rather quiet and shy. However, after a few weeks, this completely changed. Those people really developed a relaxed and outdoing personality during this rather short period.
It always amazes me how much people can progress under the right conditions. Backpacking is great in this regard since it forces people out of their comfort zone and only if you get out of your comfort zone, you can develop yourself further in various different aspects.
You can experience things off the beaten track
Backpacking also means leaving the beaten track from time to time and trying new things. In fact, backpackers often try to stay away from crowded tourist spots and try to explore rather untouched natural environments instead.
Hence, backpacking can also be quite a lot of fun for you if you are a rather adventurous personality who loves to see many new things.
Backpacking can teach you humility
Don’t make the mistake to think that your whole backpacking journey will be easy. In fact, you will also experience hard times and have to push through them somehow.
While this might not sound fun at first, it teaches you great levels of humility and you will also become humbler once you have to deal with adversity.
You can find new hobbies during your journey
Since you will experience many different things during your backpacking journey, chances are that you will also find some new hobbies on your way.
This can be quite nice since you can also practice these hobbies once you are back home and can also remember the good old backpacking times by doing so.
Disadvantages of Backpacking
- Backpacking can be exhausting
- You will often not get enough sleep
- Your roommates may steal your stuff
- Your roommates may annoy you
- Comfort is rather limited
- You may get sick during your backpacking journey
- You have to live out of your backpack
- Harder if you already have a family
- You frequently have to change your bed
- High level of insecurity involved in backpacking
- Backpacking can be lonely
- Only possible if you have a certain physical strength
- Hygiene can be a problem
Backpacking can be exhausting
Even though backpacking can have many important advantages and can also be quite a lot of fun, there are still some issues related to it. For instance, one problem with backpacking for a longer period of time is that it can just be quite exhausting.
You often have to get up pretty early in the morning to change your hostel, you have to travel by public transport quite a lot and you often don’t even know where you should go next. Moreover, backpacking also requires a certain level of fitness.
My backpack had between 40 and 50 pounds while I had been traveling and carrying this kind of weight on your back is not always nice. All those factors combined can lead to a state where people simply lose their motivation for backpacking after a while.
You will often not get enough sleep
Another disadvantage of backpacking is that you will often get only insufficient amounts of sleep. Since you will often sleep in dorms with many other people, your quality of sleep can suffer quite a lot since people will be snoring and you may also not feel as comfortable as in a single room if you sleep in one room with strangers you haven’t known the day before.
Good sleep is important for our body and our brain and if you don’t get enough sleep for a longer period of time, your body will become more vulnerable to diseases. Moreover, also the risk of depression increases.
Hence, if you decide for backpacking, make sure that you get some earplugs since they can make your sleeping experience much better, especially if you plan to stay in dorm rooms.
Your roommates may steal your stuff
I also heard from some other backpackers that their stuff had been stolen from their dorm rooms. In fact, in some hostels, you will not even find lockers to store important things.
This means that you either have to take them with you and risk losing them or leaving them in the dorm and risk that someone steals your stuff.
Either way, this is not optimal and I therefore recommend you not to bring too many precious things with you for your backpacking trip.
Your roommates may annoy you
While you can meet many new people and can have a great time with them, there might also be times where you just want to spend a little bit of time alone. This can be hard in hostels since you will often have many people around you. Moreover, there will also be a significant lack of privacy.
Additionally, not all of your roommates will be great characters, some of them will just suck. Thus, you will sometimes also experience days where you will just get really annoyed with your roommates while backpacking.
Comfort is rather limited
Another downside of backpacking is that your level of comfort will be rather limited. In fact, you will only be able to take the most basic things with you since your backpack would become too heavy otherwise.
Moreover, also the hostels you will stay in are often rather simple and not comparable to a nice hotel. Hence, don’t expect any luxury during your backpacking trip.
Backpacking is not meant to give you a relaxed time, it is rather meant to provide you with many new experiences from which you can really learn.
Thus, if you are a person who needs plenty of luxury items and doesn’t feel comfortable without those things, backpacking might just not be for you.
You may get sick during your backpacking journey
Many people also get sick during their backpacking trips, especially if those trips last for longer and people travel to rather exotic places of our planet. For instance, if you travel to remote parts in the Amazon rainforest, overall conditions are rather exotic and also medical treatment is not comparable to what you are used to back home.
While this might not be a problem for minor health issues, it can become a problem if you catch a serious disease and don’t get proper medical treatment in the region of the world you currently travel around.
You have to live out of your backpack
While it can be quite interesting at the beginning, living out of your backpack soon loses its charm since you will often have to search for quite a long time for your stuff, especially if you are a rather unorganized person. Over time, many people get really tired of living out of their backpack and just wish to have more comfort.
Hence, while backpacking can be quite nice for a few months, doing it for several years is a real challenge and many people lose their motivation for it pretty soon.
Harder if you already have a family
Backpacking may also not be suitable for you in case you already have kids. In fact, having children makes many things much harder since you have to organize much more and don’t have the luxury to be as flexible and spontaneous.
Consequently, backpacking also becomes much harder since backpacking hostels and other locations are often not equipped for families.
You frequently have to change your bed
Many people also don’t like changing their beds on a regular basis. While you often stay in one place for a few weeks during a conventional vacation, you will change your bed within a few days most of the time while backpacking. This is due to the fact that you will just travel to many different locations to see as many things as possible.
However, changing your bed that frequently can not only be exhausting, it can also lead to sleeping problems since your body and your brain have to adapt to these new conditions all the time.
High level of insecurity involved in backpacking
In general, many backpackers just don’t know what they should expect during their journey and rather make plans in a spontaneous manner. Moreover, you will also have to rely on public transport quite often and especially in countries with rather bad public transportation, not everything will work out the way you wanted it to be.
Consequently, there is a significant level of insecurity involved in backpacking and if you are a person who wants to plan everything from the beginning to the end, you will probably not get happy with backpacking.
Backpacking can be lonely
Even though you will meet many new people during your journey, many of them will leave sooner or later. This means that you will also have to spend plenty of time alone. While this had never been a problem for me since I can deal with loneliness in a healthy manner, other people may struggle more with it and if you just can’t be alone for a while, backpacking may also not be the right thing to do for you.
Only possible if you have a certain physical strength
Backpacking may also not feasible for you if you don’t have sufficient physical strength or if you suffer from a disability that prevents you from carrying a heavy backpack.
In fact, a certain minimum physical strengths and fitness is required for backpacking since you will often have to move your backpack when you move to a different location and when you change your hostel.
Hygiene can be a problem
You will also stay in many hostels where hygiene is a real problem. Since many people will be accommodated in rather small dorm rooms, you can imagine that the rooms will not be clean most of the time.
Moreover, also the bathroom may suffer from that and if you are a rather sensitive person who wants to have a very clean environment around you, backpacking may also not be the way to go for you in this regard.
Top 10 Backpacking Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Backpacking Pros||Backpacking Cons|
|Backpacking can help you to grow in character||Backpacking can be exhausting|
|You can become more independent||Hygiene may be a problem|
|You can go travel to remote parts of our world||Backpacking can lead to sleeping problems|
|You can meet many new people||Some people don’t like living out of their backpack|
|You can learn new languages||High level of insecurity related to backpacking|
|Backpacking changes your perspective on life||You need a minimum physical strength|
|You learn how to organize yourself||Problematic in case you have a family|
|Backpacking can make you fit||Comfort will be rather limited|
|You learn how to deal with adversity||You will sleep in dorms with strangers|
|Backpacking helps to improve communication||Roommates may steal your stuff|
Should You Go Backpacking?
While I really loved my backpacking trip, it is just not for everyone and you should evaluate all the advantages and disadvantages of backpacking carefully to make a profound decision about whether backpacking will be the right way to go for you.
If you are not sure yet, you should just try a short backpacking trip before deciding for a more extensive one.
However, I highly recommend you get a good backpack right now so that you can start your first backpacking trip as soon as possible. Make sure to get it here on Amazon.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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