10 Things No One Tells You About Backpacking

Youth travel accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of all international tourist trips, based on the World Tourism Organization's (WTO) estimates. The market is growing due to an increased participation levels in tertiary education, labor mobility and global study programs. As a result, backpacking has emerged as an element of global youth culture.

You don’t need huge boots

When you picture people hiking and backpacking you usually imagine them carrying huge bags and wearing massive boots. The latter are a lot like the cases of bottled water for sale in every supermarket—excessive. Just because retailers market it doesn't mean you need it. Regular, quality hiking boots will do the job; your ankles aren't that fragile. In general, you want to be as light as possible because it's more convenient to move around.

Pack light

You're not going RV camping, so you can't bring everything you can possibly think of. Some basic principles of backpacking that apply to everyone. Perhaps the most important rule is that you shouldn't pack what you aren't willing (or able) to carry. Such trips can take months; you don't want to hurt your back early on and go home with your head down because you're unable to continue due to an injury. Pack the most important items and bring cash for the rest.

Leave the pillow at home

Unless you're traveling by car, don't bring a pillow. Not only are pillows bulky and useless when wet, they only serve one purpose. You can lay your head on practically any other item you bring. So save some space and use your jacket as a pillow. You can also try stuffing a fleece into your sleeping bag cover, and use a waterproof jacket for ground insulation for the legs.

Stomach problems are common

You'll be visiting many different places and you'll probably want to try local delicacies and foods that are typical in your current destination. Eating meals someone else cooked from various places several times a day increases the risk that you'll have something your stomach won't tolerate well (especially if you're in a lower-income country known for spicy and exotic food). Embrace the "you eat with your eyes" expression and don't touch something that doesn't look well-cooked. And stay hydrated.

You won’t be clean

If you wash your hands after every time you touch your cell phone, backpacking is probably not for you. Be prepared that being and remaining clean will not be a priority because it's simply not possible. You'll be climbing hills, sleeping on the ground, riding an elephant (hopefully), so don't expect to be spotless. Carry deodorant and use wet wipes to wash some of the dirt off your body. And swim in a lake, river or sea if you happen to pass by them.

Random people are nice

If you watch the news on regular basis you may think that the world is a horrible place filled with mean people who want to do you harm for no good reason at all. But this is not the case, especially if you are at an off the beaten path destination. Most locals appreciate the fact that an outsider has expressed interest in learning more about their culture and are happy to help with directions and recommendations.

Not every place you see will be stunning

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, right? Not every city will charm with groundbreaking and amazing architecture or will have stunning art to look at. And even if it does, it may not be to your liking. Lower your standards. It's better to be nicely surprised than shockingly disanointed. Also, many landmarks and cultural places are worth seeing not because of their natural beauty but because of their historic significance.

Wear breathable clothes

That means any piece of clothing containing nylons is out. Woolens can come in handy. Go for items made of breathable fabric so you can move around freely. Also, try to choose jackets and pants that are lightweight and quick-drying. A quality breathable rain jacket will make all the difference in the world when an unexpected shower rolls in.

Be ready to not sleep much

You will get just a few hours of sleep and it will feel like you never actually do. There is so much to do and explore; you simply don't have time to rest. The excitement will keep you awake, and so will the interesting people you meet along the way, who will probably invite you to go to several events and hang out with them. This is an offer you can't refuse, can you? Still, make sure you have at least one day during the week that you devote to resting and recovering. Otherwise you won't be able to keep up with the trip's itinerary.

Befriend locals

Unspoiled and almost empty beaches, forests, valleys, camping locations and hiking trails are probably within a few miles of where you're staying. The people who will know about them are the locals. They can be very helpful with tons of insider tips so you get the most authentic experience possible. After all, don't forget that traveling is all about getting to know new places—and people. You may even create friendships that will last a lifetime.