Backpackers explain why their preferred way of traveling can be a great way to see the world
Backpacking means much more than just the way you carry your luggage, though the backpack is ubiquitous among those adept at this style of travel. And while there are no rules to be followed, there are some common points among backpackers.
The first one is dismissing the idea that you need to spend a lot of money to travel around the globe. “When I was 18, I went on my first backpacking trip because I wanted to visit a lot of countries without spending too much,” says Brazilian Raquel Furtado.
She bought a plane ticket and traveled to Scotland, England, France, and Spain. She found the experience so enriching that she decided to make it her lifestyle. With over 35 stamps on her passport, Raquel is a full-time traveler who’s turned her trips into a business. She created an Instagram account and a travel tips’ website, both called Vamos Pra Onde, and, while she does receive invitations to luxury vacations, she always goes back to the old habit of backpacking. “You connect more with people when you stay at hostels or at people’s homes”, she says.
Colombian national Paula Carrillo follows the same path. In 2017, the journalist left her job and stable life in Bogotá and bought a one-way ticket to Asia. Her vacation days weren’t enough to satisfy her yearning to see the world.
With the little cash she had, she traveled to Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Then, she worked as an English teacher and saved enough money to continue on to Russia, China, Mongolia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and France. Her experiences can be viewed on her Instagram page and website, Vieja Que Viaja.
No need to give it all up
Being a backpacker also doesn’t mean just dropping everything and throwing yourself into the world. Brazilians Marcelo Magano and Thamyra de Araújo, for example, work all year long in order to travel afterwards. The husband and wife live in Complexo do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro, and they always travel on a tight budget. During the five years they have been together they have been to New York, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Angola, and many places in Brazil. Their travels gave way to a website, an Instagram account, and a YouTube channel titled Favelados Pelo Mundo.
“We don’t buy name-brand clothes. We don’t go out every week. We usually stay home and watch movies while others are out on the town. Traveling is our priority,” assures Marcelo. “Anyone can travel the world. It’s just a matter of getting organized.”
And organizing doesn’t mean planning everything. Extending your stay at a destination you liked, cutting short one at a place that failed to surprise you, staying over at alternative places, taking public transportation, living the way locals do. It is this flexibility – and freedom, surely – what allows backpackers to interact more with people.
“Hotels are more comfortable, but they make the trip revolve more around you. The secret is to not be afraid of making friends,” says Raquel. Holding a degree in computer science, she was once quite timid, but her backpacking trips helped her overcome her fears of talking to strangers. On one of these trips, incidentally, she met her boyfriend, Leo, with whom she’s been for over 10 years.
Anyone can be a backpacker
Backpacking also provided 64-year-old Spaniard Jorge Sánchez with a companion: his second wife. “The first one left me when she realized that my first love was traveling,” he jokingly says.
At the age of 18, Jorge hit the road and he hasn’t stopped ever since. He’s been to 193 UN-recognized countries, gone around the world seven times (so far), and written 25 books about his travels. You could say he’s one of the most experienced travelers on the planet.
“I’m not rich, but with perseverance and passion I made this dream a reality,” recalls Jorge. When he was younger, he spent as long as three years on the road at a time, working in the countries he traveled in exchange for money, lodging, and food. Life has changed since then, but not that much: his current wife had to understand that Jorge spends half the year on the road, and often embarks on adventures with him.
“For me, traveling means learning. Planet Earth is my university. Getting to know other cultures teaches me to be more respectful and understanding. It helps me to grow inside,” says the Spanish native.
Like-minded, Marcelo, from Favelados Pelo Mundo, states that backpacking reminds us that travel is a right. “The world is marvelous. And it’s for all of us.”
What you need in your backpack
By Raquel Furtado, @vamospraonde
“Earbuds (music can be your best travel companion), an e-book reader, and a pair of flip flops – essential for anyone who’s going to share bathrooms.”
By Marcelo and Thamyra, @faveladospelomundo
“Hygiene products and a basic first-aid kit. It’s important to take care of your body, since it’s the one doing the traveling.”
By Paula Carrillo, @viejaqueviaja
“My camera and my computer. They are quite heavy, but I take them with me to share my experience and encourage others to hit the road.”
By Jorge Sanchez, jorgesanchez.es
“A sleeping bag, light clothing, a pen, and a notepad. I keep a diary to publish a new book about my travels.”