What Does "Backpacking" Mean These Days? It Depends On Who You're Asking


Though you might consider yourself to be a seasoned traveler, you've probably had trouble putting your finger on the definition of a few common traveling phrases. Like, what does backpacking mean? Does it mean you have to carry your things in a bag that equally distributes the weight between two shoulders, or is it a little bite more vague than that? According to the MacMillan dictionary, it means: the activity of traveling around an area without spending too much money and carrying a backpack.

The term has changed over time. It used to specifically pertain to a type of lightweight travel in which an individual keeps all of their belongings with them at all time while they travel place to place. The bag doesn't necessarily have to be carried on your back, though with a heavy load, it's definitely the most logical way to carry it!

Now, there are two very different kinds of backpacking that travelers consider to be valid. First, there's the more traditional way — the nomadic way. This type of backpacking tends to be without concrete plans or itinerary. This type of travel is meant to be spontaneous. You might have a general destination in mind but you will spend as much time as you like getting there. You might make lots of stops along the way, you might mix transportation methods and you might meet new friends and allow your trip to take a completely new direction. You don't have to be flighty and non-committal to enjoy this kind of travel, you just have to be OK with not knowing what's next.

If you're the type of traveler who feels more comfortable knowing where you're going to rest your head each night and what to expect each day, you might be more interested in the other kind of backpacking. The more contemporary kind of backpacking includes an itinerary and a well-packed suitcase. You don't need to carry it on your back because you're not going to be camping on beaches and in forests. You're going to be staying in hotels. While you might not know exactly where your final destination is, how long you'll stay or where you'll get rerouted, you know you're going to be staying in hotels and you know you're going to be traveling via plane or train so no reason to get crafty with hiking boots or hitch hiking.

If you're an old school backpacker you might be thinking that the later concept is not authentic. But the mentalities of travel are vastly changing and being rewritten by a new generation of travelers. Once upon a time, travel was only for the wealthy. Now, with companies like Airbnb and Roam, it's more affordable than ever. And, more and more people are finding remote work that they can take with them on their travels. That said, if the concept of backpacking is minimalist wandering and adventuring, staying a hotel and using scheduled transportation doesn't really take away from it.

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