Tuesday, May 15, 2012

{Backpacking 101}

One's destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things...

The time is finally here! AHHH! I have been craving this trip for awhile and am overwhelmingly excited for the adventures in Europe that await me! Having backpacked before, I know that one must prepare for the good, the bad and the ugly...because let's be honest, sometimes life likes to throw us lemons. BUT, no matter what the circumstance, there are always good stories to be told after the fact ;) Backpacking, in any capacity, can be a tricky feat. In my case, I won't exactly be roughing it too much...but there are some essentials to keep in mind for when you go on your own European adventure! Therefore, I share with you...

Victoria's Backpack Breakdown
Backpaking 101
{Big Ticket Item}
The number one decision you need to make when thinking about backpacking (aside from what destinations you will be visiting) is what kind of backpack you need! Sure, if you want to go from city to city with a supersized luggage carrier...be my guest. I promise to be the first person laughing my arse off at your overly confident ridiculousness. Backpacking is a much easier and efficient way to travel if you are going to multiple places. Then again, maybe you should hit the weight room for a little while before going on such an endeavour, as you will be carrying everything you need. A backpack for traveling Europe might be a little different than, say, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Think wisely. How long is your trip going to be? How much space do you really need? What size will best fit your body type? Is this backpack going to draw a lot of attention over other options?

{Personal Items}
A money bag is something that will house your most important items (passport, license, cash, medical card, tickets, etc.) and can be worn close to the body. Make sure you don't choose something overly large or bulky, as you will constantly be wearing it...and possibly sleeping with it on. This is not meant to be a fashion statement; the goal here is not to get robbed. You'll have enough trouble trying not to get pickpocketed as it is. And that's not a joke.

Unless you are going to be using Google Maps via smartphone the entire time you travel, grab a map of the city you're in and familiarize yourself with where you are and where you might want to go. Marking it up with a pen or highlighter won't hurt...especially when you're 5 beers in and you really want to find that hostel you're supposed to pass out at. I'm not saying map out your entire stay, but get familiar with your location. I like collecting maps from my favorite cities, and sometimes the locals come up with some real winners! Also, a journal is a fabulous idea. It keeps track of your day-to-day experiences, serves as a way to keep in contact with friends you meet along the way, records your daily expenses (or maybe that's just me), and is a good idea overall for when you need to write down information. You'll thank yourself later. Trust me.

{Safety First}
Small locks are always a plus when backpacking. No, they probably won't keep someone from breaking into your stuff, but they can be quite a deterrent. If it's either you or the guy next to you without locks...well, I think you know where I'm going with this. Also, one should never travel without a first-aid kit. Whether it's a need for band aids to mend a blister or ointment to calm a burn, they almost always come in handy for one reason or another. Sewing kits (like the ones from hotels) are also wonderful in emergency situations; a tear in clothing can be a dire situation if you have a small amount of it! And always, always, always bring a small roll of duct tape. It's one of the best inventions of the 21st century. You'll see why.

{Body Essentials}
Feed your body with H2O. Keep a water bottle handy and make sure to stay hydrated. Protect your skin as well; make sure you buy a sunscreen that you like (I prefer dry-touch sunblock) and avoid sunburn; protect your lips with chapstick. You're also going to want to shield your eyes as often as possible, so bring a pair of legit sunglasses (you might want to leave the designer shades at home) with you on your trip. Additionally, you're going to need a towel that can serve multiple purposes; bathing, as a blanket or a pillow, etc. I have a microfiber towel that is just enough to cover my body but is super lightweight and dries easily. In the event of colder weather, or a possible chilly night, a light blanket will make a huge difference; take note that some places might not provide bedding/sheets so be prepared. Similarly, a small pillow might come in handy!

I wish I could pay someone to pack for me. But I'd probably just end up re-packing myself. The hardest part of this whole process is what to wear, especially if you're only bringing a few days worth of clothing for an extended period of time. Familiarize yourself with the weather forecast for where you're going and stick to the basics. Solid colors are always a good choice because you can change an outfit at the drop of a hat by adding a scarf or other accessories. Scarves are awesome because they can serve as a head covering, shawl, top (yes, I've done it) or other accent. You will get sick of seeing the same patterned clothing in all of your photographs...and though you might not have a lot of options to choose from, you need to remember that this is about comfort and practicality over fashion. I do try my best to balance both. Whatever you pack, you want it to be as light as possible and easily washable. If you're going to need a dryer or iron, don't bring it! And remember, you can always shop while traveling as long as you can carry it ;)

Again, just as hard as packing clothes. It really all depends on the weather. My experience has been warmer weather, so a good pair of walking sandals and tennis shoes were my options. If you're backpacking, chances are high you will be a movin' and a shakin' often, so take this part of the packing process seriously. Yes, we all want our shoes to match our outfits (again, maybe that's just me) but I can promise you...when you're hanging out with backpackers, the last thing they care about is what you're wearing on your feet. However, they might notice the funky discoloration that is a direct result of bathing in public places without wearing shower shoes (urban myth?)...so perhaps a cheap pair of shower flip flops would be a good addition to your travel wardrobe!

All this talk about what to wear, you want to be mindful of the lovely task of washing your own clothes on a consistent basis...often in a sink. I can tell you I've never been more excited about a sink stopper before in my life. The reality is, you might not have a washer available...and spending the time at a laundry mat (if there even is one) while traveling is not really the best use of time. So having a clothesline or rope to hang clothes on (preferably overnight) is essential. Little packets of laundry detergent are great since you will probably only need a little at a time. Also, stick a few dryer sheets in your backpack. You might not ever use them for dryer purposes, but they keep your stuff smelling clean...and could potentially be an aroma lifesaver.

Besides a few pieces of cheap statement jewelry to take an outfit from a day-to-night look, a day bag might be a good idea. Again, it shouldn't take the place or function of a money bag, but you may want to carry maps, snacks, water, etc. around during the day when your backpack is in a safe place. A rain poncho is a must-have item, no matter what the weather forecast says; better to be safe than sorry. An ipod/earphones or other source of music/podcasts is going to be great for flights, train rides, bus trips or just hanging out. However, be mindful that you should never take anything you can't afford to lose. That said, you should definitely bring a camera...but try to back up your photos to an online account every once in awhile (at an internet cafe, perhaps) so that in the event you lose it, at least you don't lose everything. This might sound obvious, but a book is also great to have during during down time (layovers, long lines) and you can usually leave them behind at hostels. Only Chelsea Handler could have brought me the joy I experienced in what could have been the most tragic of travel mishaps...

In the words of my mother...
...make good choices!

I am so excited for the memories that are waiting to be made and for the adventures that will impact my life in a very special way. I am a firm believer that when you discover your ability to find pure joy in the simple things, the big things will always be an added bonus. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I embark on my European journey for the next few weeks! 

::Ciao::Farewell::Au Revoir::Namaste::

Images via Pinterest


  1. Oh my my my... I'm jealous. This is on my bucketlist to do. Are you going with friends you know already? We definitely have to be blog friends now. I need to be filled in on everything! :)

  2. AG - So sorry for taking so long to respond! I went with my little sister and met friends along the way :) IT WAS AWESOME.