I cannot tell you my relief when I finally made the decision to chuck the backpack while backpacking.
It was a eureka moment. It felt as though I was betraying the way of the backpacker by giving up the iconic backpack but I have never looked back since.
On my first backpacking trip across the East Coast in Australia my cousin and I stuffed our backpacks with the bare necessities and flew from Townsville to Sydney where our journey really began. We made it down to Melbourne before we started questioning why we were carrying these gigantic beasts on our back.
I cannot tell you all the wrong that happened with these things on. First off – they get stuck in train doors if you’re like me and end up running for everything in your life. Second they’re heavy and they suck. They dig into your shoulders and hurt your back after walking for hours trying to figure out where your hostel is. You pray you find find it soon so you can ditch these monsters. Thirdly, when you’re not properly sitting on the train the weight of the backpack takes you with the force of the train and you will most likely bump into someone like we did. Numerous times.
We promptly ditched the backpacks and bought a suitcase from the dollar store which wheels busted off before we even made it out of Melbourne. Go figure. And no, we did not get a new suitcase. Instead we literally dragged our suitcase all though out the East Coast, the sound of scrapping plastic following us where ever we went but I won’t get into that now.
I know what you’re thinking, “You brought too much stuff.” or “If you’re backpacking properly they wouldn’t be so heavy and bulky.” And you’re probably right.
Australia’s hostels are the most generous I’ve come by. Some offer free pancakes and some offer free pasta. Maybe we shouldn’t have bought two bottles of pasta sauce and brought them with us everywhere, only have using them once, but we did. We brought the sauce.
Maybe we shouldn’t have bought a 2’6 of Baileys but we did. Or maybe it was the granola bars or Tim Hortons English Toffee mix we brought from Canada that weighed us down but yes, we brought that too. What else were we going to mix the Baileys with?
Now even if we hadn’t brought all these things and the backpack was light I still would have said sayonara to the backpack.
So why don’t you need a backpack to backpack?
Because it makes you look like a backpacker.
Unless you are hiking in the mountains or making your way to Machu Picchu or doing actual unpaved, rural travels then the backpack is obsolete.
I don’t know about you but when I am in a new country I don’t want to be seen as a backpacker. I want to blend in. I don’t like the extra eyes on me and sticking out of the crowd as a foreigner. Yes in countries in Asia and the Middle East and even South America I might stand out but really, with the amount of travelling happening in the world, you don’t stick out that much anymore. What does make you stick out is that giant backpack.
With a suitcase I like to think people think I am in on business or maybe I live there and I’m back from holiday, or maybe I am just in for the weekend. I like the illusion of belonging somewhere even when I don’t.
Another reason why I said goodbye to the backpack is because I think it puts a target on your back. If I am in Eastern Europe, which is completely safe I might add even for solo backpackers, I don’t want to come off the train or plane with a backpack and been seen as a lost tourist. I want to come off with the err that I belong there. Instead of maps I use screenshot on my phone. Instead of a backpack with bottles hanging off of it that can easily be pick pocketed I use a locked suitcase so I don’t have to watch my back when I am backpacking alone.
No ones going to target someone whose items aren’t easily accessible, they are going to over look you and find someone who is less careful and pre-cautious. Don’t get me wrong things do happen because that is life and I am only basing this on my personal experience but when you look at it logically who would you go after? Someone with a suitcase with a knowing attitude or someone who appears like they are a foreigner trying to make it from point A to B.
A suitcase is also easier to manoeuvre. With todays suitcases you can twirl it in a perfect circle and roll it on all four wheels beside you instead of dragging it behind you. You also have less chance of hitting someone with a suitcase than a backpack when you’re in crowded places like London, Tokyo or Hong Kong.
You can fit a crazy amount of stuff in a carry on sized suitcase when you pack it properly. I went to Europe for a month with my carry on suitcase and had two full jackets, thick heavy sweaters, jeans, three pairs of shoes, all my toiletries, clothes, and not to mention I had all my Christmas presents in there for a family of twelve. And also goodies for myself.
That’s a lot of stuff.
Start out with a carry on suitcase and if you need extra room on your trip buy a school sized backpack or duffle bag and use that. You can bring both on the plane as well as a personal item like a purse or shopping bag.
I am a firm believer in the suitcase but what about you? Backpack or suitcase? Does this make you less or a traveller? What are you’re thoughts.
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