It’s not your appearance or your 70L travel backpack, but your habits that make you a real, frugal backpacker!
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 situations.
I remember during my early days of travelling, how a few habits or the little insecurities of my mind made backpacking so difficult for me. Though I could easily travel in rickety buses and eat at someplace totally disgusting, I was still not the 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 toilet 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 real-life hero Bear Grills. And the next thing they ask is: Is it safe to travel there? Would I easily find hotels? —and these little insecurities always play their part in stopping them from being careless backpackers.
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 these two 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 budget motorbiking trip to Spiti Valley that cost me less than five thousand Rupees, or wandering in the other parts of Himachal Pradesh, or even Northeast India on a budget of fewer than 500 Rupees a day!
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!
Further Reading: 7 Things I’d Tell A New Traveller | How to Travel The World Without Money
Good to know your views about backpacking and yes, definitely this is an art which is not possible for many. Especially as a girl, while travelling I can never dare (even not in my dreams) to pursue such life as there are too many risks associated to it.
Well yea some parts of India indeed makes it tough for women to go solo, but there’re so many places that are comparatively much safe, and women out there are doing it. But ofcourse, as a woman, you know better :/
I am a little spoiled now…not sure if I can be frugal anymore. But I always admire those who can. It sure is a different way of traveling.
OMG!!! you are amazing!! I totally agree with you about the hinderances of off the beaten path travel. I myself sub consciously stay away from wandering too much when I travel because of accommodation and food. I have to stay clean to the t and why you know what needs to have a good scrubbing every morning haha. I think if i stop thinking like this, I will be more carefree as a traveler. Awesome write up and lifestyle. If you ever visit Chicago, IL, you have a place to stay for free!
“a place to stay for free” I like the sound of that. I’ll write you if I even plan Chicago. Thanks 🙂
I think it does sound like an exciting way of life! But for a woman it is harder because sadly we have to take more care with our safety. For example it’s much more of a risk for us to decide to just crash with some locals. But perhaps if I am ever reincarnated as a man, I will try it.
Over the years I’ve definitely learned to forget all insecurities and, like you said, “sleep and shit anywhere”! You make some excellent points in this post although I will say I disagree with “if you’re going to places where you can find hotels and guesthouses, you’re never going anywhere new”. Only because I’m from the deepest depths of the South Wales Valleys – far from anything of particular interest and, dare I say it, where no tourist or visitor ever comes. Even so, we have a guesthouse! I’ve also stopped at random villages/towns far from the typical beaten path in various countries throughout S America, Europe and Asia and they too have at least an inn or something. So yeah, it’s not your Hilton or anything, but there’s a bed and a shithole at your disposal 😛
Funny how the second questions are usually on safety and stay. Quite understandable though, because those are the very reasons for which I am unable to step out solo to travel.
This is a great perspective, and so true! Getting over our comfort zones is the key to seeing and experiencing so many great things!
Great tips. I’ve done a couple of camping and slept in airports in some of my travels! I totally love your way of life and way of travelling!!! Awesome! Hats off!!!
I feel like this sort of lifestyle isn’t for everyone (definitely not me haha, I like a nice bed too much!), but for those that want to truly embrace this lifestyle you’ve provided some great tips. I think camping and staying with locals is a great way to get your budget down for backpacking trips!
You’re right, it requires a lot of effort to be a real backpacker. Ive also had to make some sacrafices, sleep in a shelter for homless etc. But then when you reach your destinations with all the adventures, nothing compares. It creates real memories for life unlike staying in luxurious hotels – they are all the same.
Super write-up and guide to the travelers. Thanks for sharing the wonderful tips.