Backpacking, it’s no longer just for hippies or pre-university students. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s even 60s are packing their worldly possessions into one bag and heading off on a mission of exploration both of the world and of themselves.
Career breaks, sabbaticals, unemployment and retirement are used as excuses but really we all know what it boils down to, we just need a break. Life is stressful and it’s a big world out there, so why not take some time off for a little R&R and see the world at the same time?
In the last decade or so, there has been a massive explosion in the number of people taking gap years and going backpacking. Australia and New Zealand have been the biggest recipients of this new bred of travellers.
In the 1960s and 1970s, India and Thailand were top of the list thanks to the peace and love hippy movement. But now they are appealing to a wider audience thanks to increased safety and awareness of the indigenous population of travellers, giving Aus and NZ a run for their travel money.
Countries in Asia have a huge amount to offer your standard backpacker. Living costs are cheap, people are friendly and culturally they are a massive shock to the system, but Western ways aren’t too hard to find if you need a reminder on home.
Asia, being made up of mostly developing countries needs to devour our pounds, euros and dollars with an insatiable appetite if they are to greatly benefit from tourism. Many companies are now doing so. Tour opps offer some amazing, once in a lifetime tours that help provide work for the local people and will also transform your trip from something memorable to something truly magical.
For instance, a trip to India can include a walk with tigers as well as a cruise along the Ganges passing through rural villages packed full of smiling yet poor children. Thailand can be more than just a fake-tastic shopping trip with sleazy ping-pong dancers and tourist-laden beaches. Head to Koh Tao or Koh Lanta for fresher-than-fresh coconut smoothies whilst watching a sunset that can make even strangers fall in love.
If you need any more excuses to go backpacking other than the life-changing experience, relaxation, cultural exploration and utter fun, then value for money is another good reason to pack 20kg of stuff and head to Heathrow. You can get round the world tickets for around £1000 and then live off a few hundred a month. A six month trip can cost as little as £2500 and even if you push the boat out, you will struggle to spend more than £5000.
One thing every backpacker needs to have though is insurance. AA Travel Insurance offer travel insurance specific for backpackers at backpacker-friendly prices, so don’t leave home without it.