In Defence Of The Backpack

Why a backpack wins out over a suitcase, every time.

It’s probably a no-brainer for many tourists. Going on holiday means bringing out their dusty old suitcases to be filled to the brim with their 20 to 30kgs of allotted weight.

Those who favour a backpack, whether they’re first time European holidayers or seasoned four-day trekkers, are placed in the “too-adventurous” category.

Admittedly, that’s the way we like it. Who wouldn’t want to live their life with a little more excitement?

There are, however, those naysayers who insist backpacks are for hardcore hikers alone.

Backpacks and by extension, backpackers, shouldn’t be blacklisted for their bag of choice. Even if they are just gallivanting around Europe on a bus tour.

Conveniences aside (and yes, I have lugged a 20+ kilogram suitcase up hostel stairs and onto buses, before you ask), there is a whole new experience to be had as soon as you switch it up.

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Buy Less, Experience More

It’s simple maths, really. A smaller bag means less rooms for tacky souvenirs. It forces you to really consider what each place meant to you and what, if anything, is needed to sum up your time there. You can’t stuff it full of plastic keychains or a two litre bottle of liquor. That, obviously, you drink on the road.

The cash you save is perfect to burn on a fancy dinner you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world, a spur-of-the-moment day trip out of town or a crazy night out with new-found friends. Which brings me to my next point…

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Don a backpack and you’re suddenly part of a family. Sure, it may have a little to do with staying in a hostel, but it seems to me to be more than that. There’s this automatic connection with people you meet.

Try smiling at the cranky family who just rolled up at their hotel with suitcases in tow. It’s more likely that they’ll be pushing you out of the way to get to the front desk first so they can dump their baggage.

But, no matter what mishaps come a backpacker’s way, you’ll always find us with a smile, a friendly hello or even just a tired nod of acknowledgment. You just know that the other person has been there and are sympathetic of your plight.

I recently went to Europe and stayed in hotels for two of the weeks. I didn’t meet a single person. The few interactions I had were with the concierge and even they weren’t helpful.

Maybe I’m looking at it with rose-coloured glasses but having done both, I honestly found those with a backpack are travelling to meet people from all walks of life, just as much as they are travelling to get that perfect vacay-agram.

We ended up in Cinque Terre on the word of the countless backpackers we met, we found hole-in-the-wall pizzerias and have an ever-growing list of friends across the world. You can’t really beat that.

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A New Outlook

The first thing I do when I return from a long trip is Marie Kondo the shit out of my room. And then the lounge room, kitchen and any other junk I can convince my parents to part with.

Living with so little on the road just makes you forget about things. You end up chasing the thrill of a new adventure over the excitement of a new thousand-dollar toy (which will inevitably be replaced with the latest, shinier model within a year, anyway).

You don’t care if you’re snapped wearing the same striped shirt in every city – you’re just ecstatic that you’re there.

I think this eventually transfers over to your regular life, too. I threw out half the contents of my wardrobe and I’ve barely added to it since.

Instead of shopping, I take my bike out for a ride or go explore a new part of town. I’ve found more places in Sydney in the past two years than I have in the 20 years that preceded them.

You can say that this applies to suitcases too but I just don’t buy it. Travelling with my backpack for the first time transformed my outlook on life and what really mattered beyond the souvenirs and braggy Insta shots.

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It’s the experiences we remember that matter the most. You’re even more likely to look back on unfortunate travel mishaps with a smile.

But try fondly remembering that broken souvenir you lugged home. I guarantee it’s just not the same.

Are you a backpack bandit or a suitcase supporter? Let me know in the comments below!

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