4. New Buds. You may opt to be an independent traveler, or you may be terrified of a lonely trip. Either way you are going to make friends, sometimes even when you think you don’t need to. Backpacking and hostelling allows travelers to be surrounded in a like-minded community wherever you go. Seeing a couple of tanned, Chaco-clad folks with a huge pack stacked well above their heads at the train station (you will be sporting a similar look) is an invitation to say hello. Friendships are a part of travel than not only enhance your trip, but also allows you to relive the good times when you reconnect with your comrades via Facebook upon your return. I have made friends in one city and met up with them later in a new town on the same trip. You’ll never drink alone when you’ve got your new gang of fellow hostel buddies to join the pub-crawl.
3. Affordability. Backpacking is cheap. A good attitude and a decent pair of shoes will make this trip possible with less than you imagine in your bank account. Sure, you will likely be spending the night with strangers (aka Friends, read #4) but a pair of earplugs and an eye mask and you’ll never even know they’re there. Even Europe can easily be seen on a shoestring with a rail pass and a love for gyros and coke. I stayed in a unique beachside hostel-camp in the Greek Islands for $12/night and shared the beach and the same sunset view with tourists paying ten times the price.
2. Cultural Insight. No matter what you are sure to experience a new culture, and the more keen your senses the more you will uncover. Even a stroll through a mid-week street market will let you in on cultural secrets ethnographers spend PhDs trying to describe. Often times backpacking can get you deeper than the surface, if you are willing to give it a try. Websites such as couchsurfing.org, hospitalityclub.org, and wwoof.org allow you the experience of living with locals, eating their food, and meeting their friends for a drink at their favorite pub where no tourist has ever gone before. Priceless.
1. Adventure. You never know whom you’ll meet or what you’ll run into on your own backpacking adventure. Everyone’s experience is unique. The most important step is the one you take to board the plane and set your trip in motion. The adventure will take you from there!