This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
There are some perfectly good reasons to go on an epic backpacking adventure. Perhaps you just graduated from university, or maybe you’re having a quarter-life crisis or have saved up for years to knock something off your bucket list. Alternately, you may have rage-quit a soul-sucking job and feel like you’re about to lose your damn mind. Naturally, you book a flight to Southeast Asia, stat.
Whichever path leads you to this point, on your travels, you will likely do that whole “finding yourself” thing. But before you do that, whether it’s by hiking famed mountain ranges or drinking ayahuasca along the way, you may want to figure out what kind of backpacker you want to be, or are already.
Person Who Packs the Wrong Stuff
Two pairs of denim (for a tropical climate), more than three pairs of shoes, and a blowdryer. You haven’t done this before, have you? Can be identified by the big-as-fuck backpack upended by the checked baggage area of the airport as its owner frantically tries to figure out which of their belongings they’ll be throwing out to make the regulatory weight. When you get where you’re going (wherever that is), you may figure out you omitted some key items—a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a charging pack. This type is prone to spend the first couple weeks of their travels with an ever-lingering feeling of regret about how heavy they packed, eventually ending in them throwing out perfectly good clothing, or burning said clothing in a fire with newfound friends.
You love meditation, healing crystals, astrology, and burning incense. Your ideal backpacking locations are India and Central America. You’re one with nature and really just want to use this trip to rediscover who you are as a human being, at your core. Your bag is packed full of flow-y, light clothing featuring psychedelic tribal prints, and your poi set. One of the intentions you set for your journey was to fearlessly make human connections with other free spirits. Might eventually join a commune or become a yoga instructor.
The Wannabe Local
You aren’t interested in making friends with other tourists and may have spent a year learning Portuguese before you went to Brazil. You scoff at tourist traps. You’ll only eat at establishments locals do. Staying at a resort would be blasphemous to you. You want to educate yourself about where you are, interact with the people from there, and find out the reality of what it’s like to live there. You’re more prone to becoming an “ex-pat”—though that word is probably already cancelled—especially if you’re from the US and have become more and more disillusioned lately.
The One Who Is Genuinely Into Climbing Mountains
This person uses their backpack for its intended purpose and knows exactly how much their bag weighs with all accompanying gear. You likely have experience and have conducted months of research by the time the plane lands at the starting point of the trip. You know about altitude adjustment. You’ve packed a rain-proof tent. You have walking sticks. You care less about meeting randoms at the hostel and way more about seeing all the natural wonders of the world on your hit list. Your Instagram is a collage of mountaintops, waterfalls, and enviable vistas from every place you’ve ever been.
You Really Didn’t Need a 70L Backpack to Go to a Resort
Looks can be deceiving. Just because you have huge backpacking gear you’re trying to shove in the overhead compartment, that doesn’t mean anything about the rest of your travel plans. You may seem like you’re about to spend months hopping from hostel to hostel, camping, hiking, and immersing in local culture, but you actually just thought backpacks were pretty cool for travel and might have a disposable income. Once you get through customs, you’ll get on an all-inclusive resort shuttle bus. No: Having a backpack doesn’t make you a backpacker.
The One Who Has No Chill
So, you and a few of your friends booked a trip to Europe together, one of those once-in-a-lifetime, only-in-your-20s-once kind. Having at least one person take the lead is usually a necessity in this kind of scenario. That’s you. You feel like you were born for it. But, you morph into a stress ball when things don’t go as planned. You may end up having a panic attack when you miss your bus to the other side of the country because your cab got stuck in early-morning traffic. Your friends keep looking at you like they’re concerned for your well-being and are exchanging glances with each other. When one of them tells you to chill out, you end up getting into a screaming match, and the group threatens to disband. Everyone should calm down after you get where you’re going, but make sure you offer a heartfelt apology to your co-travellers and try not to have another fit. Otherwise, you might end up travelling solo.
You have your dream job, perhaps at a tech company, and you’re on vacation. Alternately, you have a healthy amount of disposable cash because of some mysterious legal settlement. Either way, you’re here to get wasted on tequila shots, learn how to surf, and have weird threesomes. You chose to stay in a dorm room even though you could afford a single room. You make friends with ease like a cute, friendly puppy and enjoy doing cannonballs in the hostel pool. If you have to return to the grind of a city life after this trip, you’re doing your best to soak up as much authentic humanity as possible before returning to domestication. You’re down for any party invite you get, whether it’s a beach jam, a sketchy club night, or just some German girls swigging liquor in their dorm room. You'll probably go on a side trip to an island with someone you just met, ask everyone to follow your wanderlust-themed Instagram, and most definitely will have a whirlwind 24-hour romance with someone who has a flight home the next day.
Person Who Almost Ran Out of Money Weeks into Their Trip
You went out to eat every day for two weeks, bought a sheet of acid, and decided to rent a car even though it wasn’t a practical choice. Now, you’re living off of sliced bread and trail mix, and the only hostel you can afford in town has bedbugs. There’s only a few ways out of this: finding a way to make quick cash along the way (hopefully not by busking), living a life of frugality until your flight home and somehow not starving, or calling in a favour (or I guess contacting rich relatives if you have those).
The One with Expensive Gear But Not About That Life
Also known as the “poshpacker.” You may have a trust fund, or you’re just a self-made rich person. Either way, happy for you! You have the best backpack, tent, and camping stove money can buy, but you might not even know how to use this shit. You can definitely afford a swanky hotel but choose to stay in a hostel for the fun of it.
You have a tablet with a keyboard attachment, use bluetooth headphones, and can only stay at hostels with really good wifi. You work for a startup company, and the lifestyle you’re able to lead is the envy of everyone you meet (except other fellow digital nomads). You feel more creative outside an office and seeing new parts of the world gives you that extra motivation to develop apps, or whatever it is you do.
You go days without showering, hitchhike, and hustle your way through travelling. You’ll sleep on a beach, in a park, or wherever, tbh. Skip your flight home? Why not? Travel during off-season? Not a problem. Running out of cash? Whatever, I’ll figure something out. None of these are real concerns to you but could be a fucking nightmare to the average person. You can likely hunt or fish and probably own a machete you bought at a local market.
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