Frugal backpacking is more than just slinging a backpack over your shoulder, wearing the same shirt for a week, and doing laundry in sinks. It’s a way of living, of compromising with the worst imaginable situations, and yet, not complaining about them.
I remember during my early days of travelling, how a few habits or the little insecurities of my mind, made this lifestyle so difficult for me. Though I could easily travel in rickety buses and eat at someplace totally disgusting, I was still not a right fit.
Every time I left home (or even before leaving) to have that grand adventure, I made sure that I find a roof at night and a shit-hole in the morning. And these habits always only curbed me from living my perpetual backpacking dream. It moreover curbed me from stepping out of the fray and travelling off the beaten path, because if you’re going to places where you can find hotels and guesthouses, you’re never going anyplace new.
I often get emails from readers claiming that they want to travel to unknown places, explore the unexplored, and do crazy things like their hero Bear Grills does. And the next thing they ask, something as sillier as: Is it safe to ride solo to Spiti Valley? Would I easily find a hotel there? —and these little insecurities always play their part in stopping them, from being a careless backpacker.
The more I travel the more I realise that there’re apparently only two things that stop us from going wherever we wanted – our inability to sleep and shit anywhere. But if only we manage to conquer this two die-hard and born-out-of-comfortable-lives-in-cities habits, we can travel anywhere, and at any budget we wished.
I made camping a way to sustain this lifestyle for a while. And it is because of camping that I did some of the cheapest journeys in life – including my bike expedition to Spiti Valley in less than five thousand Rupees. Or wandering in the other parts of Himachal Pradesh, even in Northeast India, on a budget of less than 300 Rupees a day. And I did that for many months!
At places where camping didn’t work, I stayed with locals, not worrying about a home-like comfort.
In the age of digitization and an active backpacking community, you moreover, always, have the option of using hospitality networks and getting free or cheap accommodation. All you need to do is not care about whether you’ll be sleeping on a comfy bed or a tiny couch, whether the toilet seat in somebody’s home would be clean enough as yours.
Because backpacking, my friend, is no luxury travel! It’s a way of living!
And this mind, and those habits, well… they can be trained!
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