There are many kinds of tourists – people who love luxurious stays, adventure-seekers, those who carry around a checklist of everything to see or experience… and backpackers.
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What separates backpackers from the rest of the travelling troupe is their philosophy that time is far more important than money – by spending less on accommodations and food, they can go farther, stay in the new destination longer, and do what they love.
Many take the effort to immerse themselves in the culture they are visiting, by learning the language and spending time with the locals. The experiences they bring back and the friends they make are part of a cultural exchange that’s healthy for nations – it contributes to what the Germans call völkerverständigung or international understanding and cultural acceptance.
Around the world, countries have established great routes for backpacking and hiking. For instance, since the 1970s, the Southeast Asian trail has taken travellers through Laos and Vietnam, eventually ending at Cambodia’s legendary temple, Angkor Wat. The trail then moves on to Malaysia and Singapore.
The fact that backpackers often explore natural settings is also something that’s to their benefit. In fact, according to a December 2012 study in the journal PLoS ONE, when people backpack in Nature, as opposed to in urban areas, they become more introspective. Exposure to trees and fauna assists in improving mental health and restoring self-esteem.
If you would like to try your hand at backpacking, but don’t know if it’s a good fit for you, start with small hikes instead. A June 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that even a short hike has tremendous benefits – one that lasts over 90 minutes can lead to measurable changes in the brain, and help combat depression.
If you enjoy short hikes, they can gradually transform into longer ones. Before you know it, you could be strapping on a backpack and journeying across countries and continents!