Travel Tips
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Travel With A Backpack Or A Suitcase?

A die-hard budget backpacker rolling a ‘pretty’ suitcase on the wild-west Kuala Lumpur-ian streets, sounds confusing right? That’s exactly how you’d have found me — struggling between the hard choices of lifting and rolling an 18 kg suitcase — had we met a month ago.

It all happened when I was invited by Selangor Tourism for a 5-day blogging trip in the Selangor region, in Malaysia, back in July, and an idea struck my mind that ‘I don’t want to look the odd one in the group, carrying a backpack.’ A quick phone call to another blogger, who was accompanying me on the trip, and my fear turned into reality. At least everybody else was attending the trip like a behaving gentleman. Reluctantly, I decided to put my hard-earned respect at stake, ditched my backpack behind, for the first time in my previous 2-year travel stint, and carried along a nice-looking suitcase.

An Easy Lesson, Learned The Hard Way

As soon as my FAM trip got finished, and I was left on my own, like a helpless solo traveller, with the choice of calling for a taxi or walking for a kilometer and saving a bit of money, things looked much more simplified, but less exciting. I realised what I was missing. My backpack.

I mean lifting 18 kg with just one arm as you step down an underpass, only to quickly climb the equal number of stairs again, is not an enjoyable experience. It makes you think, and think twice, with every conclusion coming down to… ‘a backpack would have made it so much easier.’

A Suitcase Is Meant For Tourists, And A Backpack For A Complete Traveller

Suitcases are just fine to travel with, if you’re going to follow a routine. In fact, it may just feel much more convenient to carry one. But if figuring out everything — right from airport shuttle to your backpacker hostel in a new city —  is what you’re going to do, consider carrying a backpack, and let your luggage rest on your shoulders. Because worrying about your luggage under such complex circumstances is the last thing you want to do.

This particularly applies to solo travellers who don’t have the luxury of asking their friend to keep an eye on their luggage, because they need to walk 200m to pee, or 400m to find the city-map. With a backpack resting on your shoulders, you don’t need to be worrying about that.

A Backpack Promises Freedom Of Movement

A backpack moreover promises free movement, and if you’re on a few weeks or a month-long travel, you will eventually need it, and need a lot of it. For example, after two weeks in Malaysia, when I finally landed in Western Australia to spend three weeks in the region, I found a major problem coming my way — of a restricted movement. Dragging a suitcase, in most of the world as we know it today, is not convenient, as so was the case with Western Australia. Though in big cities you can always easily manage, as soon as you leave the city and end up in a countryside (forget German countrysides, that country is developed to another level!) pedestrian paths disappear.
It was because of my suitcase that I couldn’t explore many offbeat places in the country, as I had to stick to a routemap where public transport — even if at a low frequency — functioned. With a backpack, such a thought never bothers you, particularly not in a country where hitchhiking is vaguely accepted.
And hitchhiking with a suitcase, well… it would have just made me look stupid to another level.

Other Reasons To Consider

And then there are other situations where a suitcase doesn’t compliments your travels, but a backpack does. Take a hostel dormitory for example, and imagine half a dozen bed stacked right next to each other, double storied. In a situation like this a backpack is easier to deal with because of a shortage of personal space. A backpack moreover promises quick packing and unpacking of your stuff. Opening a suitcase only to get your toothbrush out and then reopen again, to put it back again, however, may feel annoying.

A feel good factor as you walk with a backpack moreover adds up to the entire charm of travelling, forget the fact that it keeps you fitter. Yes, backpack makes you look adventurous, even if you’re not.

Still confused? Get a wheeled-backpack.

Though I’ve personally never used a wheeled-backpack and aren’t sure how useful they are, others people I met on the road, particularly in Europe, have always recommended one. This for example, is a good wheeled backpack, you may consider investing in, should you wanted to enjoy the perks of both— a backpack, as well as a suitcase!


Further Reading: Tips On Choosing A Perfect Backpack

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Filed under: Travel Tips

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Shortly after my first real nine-to-five job, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in my backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to stay in one place. I believe that with a little courage and inspiration, everyone has the power to follow their dreams. Just as I've followed mine!

2 Comments

  1. Hi, Dev! This is an interesting dilemma. Well, it seems like you had to learn on your own skin, so you can help other people not to make same mistakes. 🙂 I was wondering, do a backpack limit your packing on the essentials or you can overpack too? extra space in a suitcase can really make one overpack, right?

    • That’s true, when it comes to carrying those extra few things (and keeping them in shape) a suitcase comes in handy. But if you’re one of those travellers who like movement more than anything else while travelling, a backpack always wins the game.

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