1. I Could Never Do It
Without a doubt the biggest backpacking myth out there. Whenever I speak to people about my travels the most common remarks I hear back are “you’re brave” or “I could never do it”, which frankly is absolute nonsense, if I can do it, then anyone can do it.
People that say they can’t, simply lack the will or desire to go travelling - there really is no difficulty to it; it’s as simple as booking a ticket and leaving. You just need to be willing to leave your comfort zone. Once you have done that and decided to go, the hardest part is over.
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
2. You Need To Be Young
When I went backpacking for the first time I was 24, and thought I was going to be in a sea of 18 to 21 year olds. However it soon became apparent that I was actually one of the youngest and that the average age of people was about 26.
Of course there are many people on a their gap year before or after university, but there are equally as many people over 30 as there are under 20. The oldest person I’ve shared a dorm with was 66.
There is no reason why age should be a limit to backpacking, it’s just common that people go when they are young and have no commitments.
3. It’s Unsafe
The media are to blame for this myth, because if one bad thing happens to a backpacker it becomes front page news and a countrywide debate is started about travel safety.
These occurrences are extremely rare - hundreds of thousands of people go backpacking every year without incidence and go onto have the times of their life.
Of course there are unsafe destinations, but you should always check your destination is safe before travelling. Travelling overseas is just as safe as travelling in your local area – I’m sure there are places in your local town or city that you avoid. Just like at home, when abroad you should avoid places you have been advised not to go to.
You do need to be more prepared and take extra precaution, after all you are in a foreign land and you should never forget about that, but all developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and EU countries are just as safe as your own country.
South East Asian countries get a particularly bad rap in the press, but they are very safe countries to travel to, primarily because of the Buddhist influence within the region that teaches nonviolent confrontation.
Read here for more Safety and Security Tips While Backpacking.
4. I Can’t Afford It
Many people say that they would love to go travelling if only they could afford it, and consequently never end up going. However in reality it is not money that people lack, but again it’s the lack of will or desire to go travelling. Don't let money dissuade you into not going, you really don't need too much to travel with after the obvious start-up costs, and saving up enough money is much easier than you think. Read here for tips on How To Fund Your Trip or here for Money Saving Tips Whilst Travelling.
5. It Will Be Bad For My Career
A gap year or even just a few months of travelling will certainly pause your career, but should in the long term improve your career prospects.
You will learn plenty of life and soft skills whilst travelling, such as organisation, independence, patience, flexibility, adaptability, and communication - consider how they can improve your CV and how they can be applied to a job.
Your travels will make an interesting topic of conversation in interviews and something you should definitely bring up - people want to work with fun and interesting colleagues.
If you are really concerned a working holiday, volunteer program, or even just learning a new language whilst travelling means you will still be developing new and different experiences to add to your portfolio, whilst on the move.
6. You Have To Stay In Horrible Hostels
Whilst it is true there are some nasty hostels, nobody is forcing you to stay in them, and there are plenty of good hostels out there.
Check out sites like Hostelworld for reviews – I personally don’t stay in any hostel that has a less than 80% rating. A good hostel is better than a bad hotel.
You don’t necessarily have to stay in dorms. If you are travelling with others, a private room between you will probably be cheaper than individual dorm beds. Even if you are travelling alone, getting a private room in a developing country, or just once in a while, really won’t damage your budget too much.
Also, there are many other places to stay the night, besides hostels.
7. “You’re Not A Proper Traveller...”
This phrase is one of my pet hates – I am sure you will meet/ have met someone that says things like:
“You’re not a proper traveller, if you have only been to Thailand”
“You’re not a proper traveller, if you only go to developed countries”
“You’re not a proper traveller, if you don’t eat the local food”
The examples go on and get even more ridiculous, people that say things like this clearly think their better than you in some way, but really they're just pathetic. You don’t have to go hitchhiking through Uzbekistan to be a proper traveller, and if after 2 months in Asia you are sick of eating rice every night and go for a McDonalds, you don’t suddenly lose your traveller status.
There is no such thing as a proper traveller, don’t let other people define your trip of a lifetime, do exactly what you want to do! So long as you are in foreign country and not stuck in one place, you are a traveller. Scrap that, you don’t even need to be in a foreign country to be a traveller!
8. Book In Advance To Get The Best Deals
There are certain things like flights and popular tours that you may need to book in advance to secure a place or get a cheaper deal, but you certainly shouldn't book everything in advance. Many things can be cheaper, especially accommodation - often when arriving in new places you will be greeted by hostel workers trying to sell you a bed for the cheapest price. Tours can also be sold cheaper at the last minute as they're looking to fill them up.
Furthermore, if you book in advance you will probably end up cancelling things and paying fees for the service, as when travelling your plans can often change.
9. Your Hygiene Will Suffer
Many people believe their hygiene levels whilst backpacking will become akin to that of a vagrant, but actually your personal hygiene really won't differ too much from when you are back home - it goes without saying all hostels have showers. The only real problem in regards to your personal hygiene will be when camping or on long journeys. Prepare yourself and you will be fine - take a change of clothing, wash cloth, and deodorant to freshen up.
10. It’s Non-Stop Fun
Whilst travelling is the time of your life, it’s not all good times.
It is important to know this before you go so that you can deal with it when it happens to you. Whilst it only happens occasionally, and lasts for a very short period of time, the majority of people will at some point feel a form of homesickness, loneliness or culture shock. Things such as basic food and accommodation, long journeys, living out of backpack and even saying goodbye can be very tough both physically and mentally.
However remember that these experiences build character, and it is still fun about 90% of the time! So don’t let the bad parts get you down – stay positive; be excited about your trip and what you have planned.
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