Backpacking, long-term and around the world implies an essential attitude that even those who do not possess it naturally, or simply out of habit, will acquire: the ability to adapt.
It’s amazing how we manage to adapt to everything and to all situations and how this attitude will become at some point part of ourselves even after returning back home.
If you think that up to 4 years ago I’d ever stayed in a hostel in a shared room, or that this were the norm for me, you’re wrong.
Suddenly my beliefs “I won’t ever sleep in a room with 10 strangers and I’ll never shower in a shared bathroom” have changed.
Of course, a limited budget led necessarily to put aside the amenities I considered to be essential.
Because this is how those who decide to travel around the world live especially when you want to extend this experience for long periods.
The air flights become less and less, buses a second home. The roads with potholes or not paved the norm, the queues and the long waits a habit, the lifts a wistful luck, the local restaurants Eldorado.
You adapt to all situations, including:
In my years traveling I have taken many means of transport and of all kinds. I prefer the bus (even nowadays that I live in Europe I like the idea of finding companies that would take me from one country to another so as to have enough time to get used to the idea of change and being able to look out the window), but still I did not disdain canoes, quads, boats, catamarans, cars, scooters.
You take what you get.
In Argentina, where the distances can be extremely long, and when I say extremely I mean it and the distance in this HUGE country is something difficult to explain as I am sure that many of us have never experienced something like it (ie: close to them means 600 km ), the ideal would be to rent a car and share the costs with other travelers who will not be hard to find in a hostel, an interesting website that compares prices throughout the whole world is
This solution in a country such as Argentina allows to reach destinations in the middle of nowhere or expensive to reach in an alternative, for example the Valley of the Moon.
Hostels, huts and sofas
In truth sleeping in hostels in shared rooms is not a traumatic experience even when you do it for the first time. I admit that I have never been a girl of luxurious hotels with frills, I always had clear the idea that the less I spent the more I would be able to travel, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford another trip soon, (the spirit of ant who would rather work and put aside), but perhaps the strangest impact was with the shared bathroom, or the cold showers.
I used to be the one who even in August with 35C would take a hot shower!
You learn to do this too and everything will seem normal, so that the standard question when landing in a new hostel will be “is there hot water?”. I also asked this question as soon as I got in Lisbon and what I got in return was a hearty laugh at reception.
You don’t even care if the dorms are mixed or only for women, this mix of sexes becomes habit, suddenly inhibitions disappear, we are all on the same level when we travel and..snap! All this is just normal.
It happens that you go to countries such as Australia, or Europe itself, where hostels cost almost as much as a room in AirBnb (solution that I currently prefer when traveling within “the area”), and there you would start searching a sofa on which some kind soul can accommodate you, it’s quite clear that here I’m referring to couchsurfing.
You hurry to the home of some locals and take possession for a few nights of their sitting room, and although the first time it was something unknown that left me puzzled, it took very little to find the pros of this experience of surfing the sofas of part of the world, in this post I listed the reasons why it is worth trying couchsurfin.
I am Italian and I do know that we Italians have something that distinguishes us strongly from other people of the world, and this is our deep and strong bond with the food, our obsession with eating (and I mean in a good way) is really unique.
I also think to the e-mail that sometimes I get where I am asked where would be the best place to eat, maybe in Mexico! The truth is that I DO NOT KNOW! A tacos for me is the same everywhere, I would not be able to tell you why in a stall it might taste better than in another.
At one point, a place becomes the same as the next, more so as we are accustomed to a rich culinary tradition extremely difficult to find in other places in the world. If Asian food is actually very good, but after six months also quite repetitive, in Latin America, things get complicated.
The seafood and yummy dishes of Vietnam suddenly become rice, chicken, fried bananas, sliced meat and white rice, beans. In Argenina it’s meat and then meat and then again meat and more meat. Good but too much.
Eating like the locals and paying like them in principle means eating the same things and have to like them. I was always saved by the hostel’s kitchen where you can cook pasta yourself, but also finding the ingredients is not always simple and you have to adapt to what is on the market and manage with it.
Companionship and solitude
Especially when you are traveling alone you have to adapt to the times in solitude and those in companionship. I have often said that you never are really alone but you need to be doing part of the job yourself. I went around the world when I was already 30, in Panama I remember that the average age of the people I met was 22. It was difficult to adapt to those who were almost 10 years younger than me, so I made of the solitude a space of my own in which I was fine and I was happy because for my way of being the very young are still fine but not for long periods.
You adjust to being in the company even of those who are not really the ideal travel companions, and you learn how to be alone. You adapt to the one who snores in the night (earplugs are just for this ) and to evenings in remote places where there isn’t a soul on the streets are you don’t know who to talk to ( and a book or a journal are providential ).
Adaptability is therefore the key factor for travelers, soon there will be no more “I can’t do that” or “I won’t ever do this”… .
If you are not already part of the club, it will not take much to learn, and if you just can’t manage… then perhaps this experience is not exactly for you. But it seems to me that this is a rare event.