When you think of backpacking, the first image that usually comes to mind is probably that of scruffy looking college students with dreadlocks dressed in harem pants, a threadbare t-shirt, beaded bracelets, and in possession of limitless endurance. But backpacking is about so much more than that! It’s about adventure and independence — of taking the road less travelled and discovering unique experiences that you just can’t get from staying at an upscale hotel.
It’s totally understandable why some people might find backpacking intimidating, but as they say; ‘carpe diem’. You only live once, so we decided to address 8 misconceptions you might have about backpacking that might be holding you back from having a grand adventure! ?
1) Backpacking isn't for everyone
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When it comes to backpacking, there will always be people who will come up to you and say things like; ‘You’re so brave’, ‘It’s only for young people’ and ‘I could never do that!’ The fact of the matter is, backpacking isn’t some hyper-exclusive activity for the young and active. Literally, anyone can choose to go backpacking, no matter the race, gender and age ?.
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On average, the youngest in a group of backpackers could range from anywhere between 18 to 25 (sometimes younger if accompanied by family!) while the oldest member could be in their 60’s or even 70’s! Often times, those who say that they ‘don’t think they could ever go backpacking’ are the ones who simply do not have the desire to travel in such a way ?.
2) You’ll have to stay in cramped hostels when backpacking.
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Hostels get a lot of flack for being terrible, nasty and sometimes downright spooky places. I’m sure you’ve seen a horror movie or two that features a particularly dingy looking hostel room, complete with dirty bathrooms, tacky furniture and a horrible backstory to go with it ?.
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While it is true that some hostels leave a lot to be desired, there are also plenty of modern, clean and absolutely fantastic hostels available for you to choose from. Additionally, you don’t necessarily have to stay in hostels if you don’t want to. There are other sorts of accommodations available such as staying at a guesthouse, a homestay, or even opting to go camping ⛺.
3) It is unsafe for Muslim people to backpack.
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Muslim travellers, in general, are often warned that other countries are unfamiliar, unfriendly, or even hostile to us. Muslim backpackers get even more warnings about this, as solo travel and backpacking itself is seen as an additional layer of risk. Of course, when it comes to backpacking there are some risky places you should avoid, (places with high crime rates or currently experiencing civil unrest for example), so always do your research before you decide to go on your backpacking adventure ?.
But overall, the key thing you need to remember is that the world is not a dangerous, unkind place, and the benefits of going backpacking to new and exciting places far outweigh the risks. As long as you avoid places you've been explicitly advised to avoid and practice constant vigilance, you should be fine ?!
4) Backpacking is cheap.
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Many people think backpacking is for those on a shoestring budget or looking to cut costs on their trips. It's seen as a way to just get the 'bare bones' of the destination, sacrificing cost for comfort or convenience.
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While comparatively cheaper than staying at a hotel, backpacking can still cost a good sum of money. Before you even think about how much money you want to spend on meals, tours and accommodations, there are a handful of pre-travel expenses that people usually forget about; such as passports, travel backpacks, accessories, insurance and transportation fees ?. Make sure to plan out the overall budget for your whole trip beforehand and save up before making any hasty decisions that could leave you short on cash ?.
5) It's difficult to find places to pray at while backpacking.
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This goes back to the earlier misconception that Muslims shouldn't or can't backpack. Because backpacking is seen as taking you off the beaten path or visiting more obscure places, it's also seen as making it difficult for Muslims to keep up with religious obligations while on the road. However, where there is a will, there is a way! When you're backpacking, it's easy enough to find a secluded place or empty room to pray in. Depending on which city you decide to visit, you'll notice that some areas actually have a sizeable Muslim population, which means you might even be able to find a mosque or Islamic centre ?.
Credit: Zaffran Mart on Facebook
If those aren’t readily available, you could also try to find a Muslim owned store and ask if you could borrow a room to pray in. Chances are you will be received quite well and it’ll also open you up to opportunities for some pretty interesting conversations ?. Rather than looking at backpacking as an obstacle, it can become a way to make new connections with local Muslims overseas!
6) Finding halal food when backpacking is difficult.
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It may be a challenge to find Muslim-friendly food in a brand-new country, but it's not impossible! Like we mentioned in point 5, you can find Muslim people anywhere in the world, even in some remote villages. Finding halal or Muslim-friendly food might take some effort but it's definitely not impossible ?.
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If nothing else is available, you can opt for halal kebabs or vegetarian meals, or cook your own meals by purchasing ingredients from the local markets or grocery stores (which more often than not, carry some form of halal products) ?.
7) Booking in advance is much cheaper.
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Sure, when it comes to certain things like flights or popular tours, booking in advance will get you a cheaper deal, but you shouldn't book everything in advance. Many things, like accommodations, for example, are often cheaper when you arrive at your destination. This is because hostel workers will often try to sell you a bed for the cheapest price ?.
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Furthermore, if you book in advance and have to cancel things at the last minute due to scheduling issues or a sudden change of plans, you'll end up incurring cancelling fees; which is not ideal when you're planning to go backpacking on a shoestring budget ?.
P.S. Just make sure to take the timing of your trip into consideration - if you're travelling to popular spots such as London or Japan during the busy summer months, booking in advance may prevent you from being stranded there with no room!
8) Backpacking is just non-stop fun.
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While backpacking is a fun, exciting and enriching experience, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Occasionally, a lot of people will start feeling some form of homesickness, loneliness or culture shock when they are backpacking across foreign countries ?.
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It can be very draining, both mentally and physically but usually these bouts never last for very long. You just have to remember that all these experiences are tantamount to building character and well, backpacking is still fun about 90% of the time ?!
And with that, we conclude our list of some misconceptions you might have about backpacking. We hope this article has managed to assuage any worries you might have had about backpacking and changed the impression that backpacking is only for a select group of people. While it can be a bit challenging if you remember to stay positive and keep yourself hyped up during the trip, you’re going to do just fine if you decide to embark on a backpacking journey of your own ?.