Summer is almost here. Everybody, even introverts, adore the warm sun against the skin and the prospects of time-off from work. One of these days, your friends will be tagging you on Facebook: 101 Places To Go This Summer. You’ll get excited, until your BFF suggested backpacking. You’ve never done backpacking before. The prospects of putting up a tent, sleeping in the open, and slathering your body with insect repellant lotion have never appealed to you. Island hopping, sure. Backpacking? It’s just too “wild” for your taste.
Vacationing, especially near the water, resets the mood and promotes compassion, according to psychologist and book author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. Backpacking, with its inconvenient spontaneity, may just double the benefits of traveling. Here’s a beginner backpacker guide for you.
Backpacking = no planning?
Backpacking is typically linked to budget travel. It’s a no-frills and spontaneous activity. Does this mean that you’d need to suffer from back pains and other discomforts? No. As a matter of fact, you should be planning for a backpacking trip. What are your destinations? How will you get there? Where will you spend the night? What about your meals? Similar with planning an office project, it’s important to have a timeline of your vacation days including the corresponding cost for every activity. The challenge of backpacking is having impulsive fun while staying on course.
Mind where you eat
You may have heard of horror travel stories about going down with a stomach flu, cutting short a much-anticipated vacation because of a medical emergency. What to expect when you go backpacking? The risk of falling ill especially in relation to the food and drinks you consume. Beach destinations such as Boracay are abundant with fresh fruits and seafood. Check how your meals are prepared. If you have doubts, buy bottled water and sealed crackers. Pack these for when you get to a place with no food stall in sight. Always have a first-aid kit in your bag.
Protect yourself from intense sunlight
Sunscreen is a must-have for all backpackers. While sunlight is good for your immune system, exposing yourself to harmful ultraviolet rays can increase your risk to skin diseases including skin cancer. Get your beach tan between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., then go under a shade until the warm afternoon sun graces the sky. A large hat is both a UV shield and gorgeous accessory for your beach get-up. There’s nothing stylish about sunburns.
Keep yourself hydrated
Island hopping, trekking and even simply lounging by the sea can dehydrate your body. Dehydration dries up the skin, resulting to increased sensitivity, dull skin, fine lines, and wrinkles. It can also exhaust your energy and cause dizziness. Always have a jug of water with you. You can have fresh fruit juices, but clear drinking water is indispensable.
Pack your womanly essentials
One thing that puts off many females from the idea of backpacking is the risk of dealing with menstrual cramps and its inconveniences while on the road. “What if I run out of sanitary napkins, or there’s no toilet nearby when I need to?” Every menstruating woman know how valid these concerns are. If you’re on your red days, make sure you pack enough supply of sanitary napkins or tampons, wet wipes, and pain relievers. Go low with your caffeine and nicotine intake, which can intensify menstrual cramps.
Group backpacking? Delegate responsibilities
Photo by Garry Knight on Flickr, Creative Commons
If you’re vacationing with a group, pack a lot of patience. Surely, there’s one who moves too slow, another is a worry freak, and a couple who are too adventurous for their own good. This is one reason why some prefer to travel alone. But the more the merrier, right? A bonfire is not a bonfire without anybody to share stories with. Here’s a tip on how to manage group backpacking trips: delegate responsibilities. One person’s job is to make sure everybody’s on time for breakfast while another does arrangements for your accommodation. Alta Vista de Boracay is a top-notch travel accommodation you should visit. You can also delegate a person who will see to it that you enjoy regulated fun–moderate alcohol intake, wholesome beach party celebrations, etc.
Drop by the ATM machine before hitting the road
Every backpacker guide should include info on ATM machines. Withdraw just enough cash. You should know that some of your destinations such as secluded towns or islands may not even have banks. Exchange large bills for smaller ones and always have loose change.
Bond with the locals
Have a truly fulfilling vacation by getting to know the customs and lifestyle in your destinations. Wake up early and observe how locals prepare for their day. Enjoy your morning coffee with them. Have a chat. Filipinos in the countryside are more than happy to share their way of life with tourists. Just leave out the prying questions, and avoid talking about their finances.
Visit the police precinct
Backpacking exposes you to safety risks. If you’re exploring secluded areas, it’s advisable to drop by the police precinct just so authorities know that tourists are visiting their town. You can ask for directions, security guidelines, and assistance. Save their hotline in your mobile phone for emergency purposes.
Get to know other backpackers
The Philippines is a favorite backpacking destination. Expect to bump shoulders with travelers from East Asia, North America, and Europe. Extend assistance if requested and share safety tips with them. Meeting foreigners who could be lifetime friends is one of the best things about vacationing.
Don't forget to enjoy!
Photo from damien_p58 via Flickr, Creative Commons
Your first time vacationing as a backpacker may not be as smooth as you planned. Take note of your mishaps for your next journey. Stop stressing over the book you forgot to bring or the overpriced cocktail. These minor mistakes should not ruin your vacation. Take it easy! Have fun.
Having time out from the stressors in your life is essential for your well-being. Does backpacking sound troublesome? You’d never know until you try. Dip your toes into the water, so to speak, before backing out.