Thinking of backpacking? The pros and cons from an expert

Backpacking Pros and Cons

We recently asked our Bluebird community ‘what kind of traveller are you?’ and one of our valued followers commented that they loved backpacking. We are not experts when it comes to backpacking however, our good friend Stuart John has years of experience. We invited Stuart to be a guest blogger on Bluebird to impart his advice on the pro and cons when it comes to backpacking. Enjoy the read!

What do you think of when I mention backpacking? For some, it’s a group of young people sitting around a dinghy dorm room with a badly tuned guitar singing Wonderwall. For others, it’s when they made hundreds of new friends while travelling and experiencing the world.

For some of us, it’s both.

Backpacking is undoubtedly a great way to see the world on the cheap. I spent six years working and travelling the world as a backpacker and highly recommend it. But before you start googling Barcelona hostels near the La Sagrada Familia, there are a few pros and cons you need to consider.

Backpacking pros

  • Backpacking is a very social form of travelling. While I travelled with friends on my first backpacking adventure, most travel after that was on my own. The nature of many dorm rooms meant that there generally wasn’t long between check-in and joining new friends in a local bar or restaurant. Want to join others living their best lives? Go backpacking.
  • Backpacking is the cheapest way to travel. A halfway-decent private room in London won’t leave much change from A$200; a dorm in a decent hostel may only set you back A$50 a night. Many hostels also have cheap meals and drinks, while others have self-catering kitchens.
  • Ever hear about that beautiful little place in the middle of nowhere? Chances are backpackers have, they’re already there, and they’re loving it. The backpacker news network may be about the only thing that matches the speed of light – which is fantastic if you’re backpacking. Many hostels will have their own travel desks, with suggestions for those on a backpacker budget.
  • There are some fantastic hostels and hostel chains out there. Do your research right and you can avoid the paper-thin mattresses and peeling paint of old, instead enjoying bunks with their own privacy curtains, individual lockers, and ensuite bathrooms. And the private rooms in some hostels? Better than a hotel.

Backpacking cons

  • You know that dorm room socialising I was talking about earlier? That’s great – up to a point. That point is generally reached at 3 am when a group staying in your dorm, along with 20 of their new best friends, decide to crack open that bottle of vin rouge they bought earlier. People bringing the party back, people turning on the lights at all hours, and people rustling through plastic bags are some of the things you simply can’t avoid in a dorm.
  • There’s a lot of theft in hostels. Put a whole group of people around unattended items and inevitably a few things go missing. Clothes, booze, electronics, even noodles from the communal kitchen – they’re all fair game for some people. Get used to locking up every time you leave the room.
  • Want a break? Yeah, good one! Travelling can be hard if you’re always on the move, and sometimes you just need to stop, have a break, enjoy a siesta etc. That’s pretty tough when you’re backpacking. For one, the cleaners want to get in right on checkout time so they can get beds ready for that afternoon, so a long sleep-in is out. Then, you have people checking in during peak siesta time – say around 2 pm or 3 pm – so that can be out as well.
  • Backpacking is predominantly a young person’s (<35s) game. That’s not to say you can’t be older and not enjoy backpacking; you just need to remember that the sector’s not really aimed at you.

So there you have it – a few pros and cons of backpacking. I genuinely enjoyed my years backpacking and would do it all again without hesitation. But as I say, it’s not for everyone; particularly if you don’t like Wonderwall.

Stuart John is a former travel guide, hostel manager, and hotel staffer that now works in sport. You can find his sports travel stories at This Sporting World and travel stories via Medium and Medium-Stuart John. One day he will get around to finishing the book he’s been threatening to.

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