Dear baby sister,
You recently asked me how it is to backpack and if you would be able to do it too. How to answer those questions without putting you off… Backpacking. Is. Not. Easy. I love it and I do want you to love it too. What should I tell you? What would my traveller friends tell you?
Well to start with I am very happy that you decided to join us in Australia for your first backpacking adventure. For your ‘introductory’ trip, we are taking the easy way: Australian friends who can show us around, an easy language to understand, rental cars instead of dodgy public buses (though I am not sure Australia has those!) and several domestic flights to avoid countless hours of driving.
Backpacking is a passion of mine and I usually wonder where I will go next as soon as I am back from traveling. Apparently I am “suffering” from a disease called W.A.N.D.E.R.L.U.S.T. But I am fine with it, symptoms are well known and treatment can easily be administered. Some people plan a wedding, I plan trips. Some people buy a house, I buy plane tickets. Some people enjoy going to the same place again and over again, I make sure I pick a new country every time. After all, I still have 152 countries to cross off my list (According to some official sources, there are 193 UN recognized countries but this is somehow always a subject of debate).
I was very lucky to discover traveling when I was around your age. Since then, I have been accumulating the miles and I am now wondering which tip / heads up I should pass on to you. I will not tell you to be responsible, smart or respectful because you are already all of those and I trust you will take them along on your adventures.
So let’s see…
- Pack light – anything you pack will need to be carried. It might sound logical but you really don’t want to walk around looking for a cheap accommodation with the weight of the world on your shoulders. Luckily, I was saved from my overpacking by my friend Antje a few years ago (tho I do have some occasional relapses). This was definitely for me one of the hardest challenges: get rid off things I wouldn’t necessarily need on the road, my so called “what if” stuff.
- Be flexible because not everything goes to plan. Stress might be involved and the outcome will depend on how you handle it. Keep cool.
- There will be culture shocks (some minor and some pretty major) and there is nothing you can do to avoid them. You can decrease their intensity by, for instance, not comparing wherever you are to France and by leaving your pre-conceived ideas at home (easier said than done I know).
- Don’t promise your friends and family that you will be in touch every day. You never know what the wifi will be like wherever you decide to overnight. No promise, no (unnecessary extra) worry!
- But on the other hand, don’t forget home. Write postcards, email friends and family (create a distribution list – this will save you some time), create a blog… Even though you decided to leave home behind, they still love you!
I could go on and on (and on and on) about what to do or not to do. You are my baby sister, I love you to bits and I wish I could make sure you wouldn’t encounter any issue while backpacking. I wish I could protect you and pave your traveling roads so you wouldn’t get hurt (emotionally or physically). But we both know that this wouldn’t be fair to you. Through tough and happy times, this adventure is solely yours.
Somehow I am not worried, I might sound overprotective but I am merely, as you well know, a control freak. I have known you for 22 years now, you are open minded, tolerant and strong and I know for a fact that you were made to be a backpacker.
Letting you make your own experiences and mistakes does not mean that I will not be here for you along the way, au contraire! Whenever you need me, remember that I am only a what’s app (or Facebook or Skype or gmail) message away.
You have got this,
Your big sister who is super proud of you!
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!