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by Maya Reyes

Photography courtesy of Brittany Chang

When I told my friend Kayla Matthews (Questrom ’18) I didn’t understand the appeal of backpacking, she said, “If you want to travel, backpacking is just something you have to do.”

As a broke college student, backpacking is undeniably the cheapest way to travel. Backpacking is also a rite of passage for hard-core travelers. It is an incredible experience that allows you to meet other travelers from across the world, thus better immerse yourself in the places you visit. Backpacking can be like living in a large freshman dorm: wild, fun and grimy. It is an experience you will definitely think of fondly when you are older.

Mike Baker (CAS ’20) went backing through Europe the summer before he came to Boston University.

“It was such a fun time with my friends before we went to different schools," he said. " I talk about that trip all the time."

But, for those who have never backpacked before, it is difficult to know where to start. The planning stage of travel is always difficult, but good planning makes backpacking for the first time a lot easier. First decide where to go and when to go. Deciding where to go is based completely on preference and price, and the options are endless.

Choosing when to go, however, is simpler for students. Summer for students is always easiest. The weather is nice, there are tons of other travelers to meet, music festivals are happening and all the tourist attractions are open. However, the heat can be unbearable was waiting hours in lines for attractions and events is never fun. It is also possible to take advantage of the month-long winter vacation to backpack. The winter season often has cheaper airfare and hostel rates and less tourists. During this season, locals are often more receptive to tourists and European Christmas markets are open. However, the days are shorter, less attractions are open and the weather can be unpredictable.

Once all the minutiae of travel have been set, it is time to pack your backpack. Over-packing is easy to do, so it is best to stick to just the essentials. Some guides suggest only carrying about 20lbs of stuff with you. For clothing, only bring things you can mix and match into several different outfits. Stylish sneakers will be your best friend because they are comfortable and don’t scream ‘tourist’ like a pair of running shoes will.

Cami Adajian (CAS ’19) took a trip to Australia and New Zealand last summer. “I brought a Tide-to-Go stick with me and it was a lifesaver. Portable chargers are a must, too,” he said.

It is easy to keep daily costs low once you are out trekking through a new location. Buying food from grocery stores and farmer’s markets is cheap and great for picnics or cooking if your hostel has a kitchen. Street food and hostel breakfasts are always cheaper options as well. Taking the train, subways or using city’s public bike systems are also easy, inexpensive ways of getting around a new place.

Matthews (Questrom ’18) is planning on backpacking in Ireland after with fellow graduates when they leave Boston University in May.

“I love travelling,” she said. “I want this trip to be a really memorable trip with friends who are moving to all over.”

Ultimately, backpacking is a worthwhile experience, no matter where you travel to.

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