Backpacking for a Month: Tips, Tricks, and Tales

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The Adventure that is Living Out of a Backpack and Lugging it Through Europe

Two years ago, my cousin and I embarked on a month long journey throughout much of Europe. We began in Greece and gradually made our way through Southern Europe, then up to Ireland, and ending in France. Planning it was a monster in itself, a task that no one really understands until they are faced with it. Nevertheless, it was an incredible experience, one in which I would readily take on again.

Etretat

Planning

Don't wait until the last minute. As we were traveling in July and August, the high season in Europe, it can be nearly impossible to find affordable hotels and hostels last minute. Many who backpack enjoy going at their own pace and finding a place to stay upon arrival. But I am not one of those. And if I can save some money by booking ahead, I will do that.

Do pay attention to dates. Some hotels are cheaper on certain days. Some trains don't run on certain dates. This made planning the trip quite complicated and took a lot of time and energy. Planning a month long trip, with 9 different countries and multiple day trips is like solving a puzzle that is constantly moving and changing. So take your time and don't get too overwhelmed, it is worth it!

my Asolo backpack and Travelon purse

The Gear

My backpack: I chose to use my Asolo backpack, the one that I had used for my year abroad. I got it for about $60 but it has since been discontinued. I liked it because it was small enough for airlines not to question how much it weighed, but spacious enough for me to pack 3 pairs of shoes and a lot of clothes.

My purse: I absolutely love my Travelon purse. I originally got it for $25, but the prices may vary depending on availability. I love that it is anti-theft, which means no one can cut the strap, slash the purse, or open the zipper. I have tried other Travelon models, but I keep going back to the Hobo bag because I can fit a water bottle and all my valuables without it getting too bulky. Since my backpack is impossible to lock, I always keep my valuables on me unless the hotel has a safe.

Backpack vs. Suitcase? I would still choose a backpack over a suitcase. Although my cousin's suitcase was handy because you can lock it up, in Dubrovnik and Venice it got very heavy to constantly carry up the stairs or across the water. The only down side of my backpack was that I would get sweaty. Other than that I had no complaints!

If you are interested in more information about the gear that I use, check within the next couple of weeks as I will give a detailed list of everything that I use when traveling.

my Asolo backpack

The Supplies

Clothing: for this trip, I packed clothing with the intention of washing my clothes at least once a week. So because of that I packed one pair of jeans, three pairs of shorts, and one dress. I also packed 8 lightweight shirts, some of them short sleeved, some tank tops, three pairs of socks, 10 pairs of underwear, and three bras. This all seemed to be enough and I was able to spread out my clothes enough and only re-wear socks and shorts when I absolutely had to.

Accessories: I packed four pairs of shoes, which were two small sneakers and two pairs of sandals. I ended up packing a cheap pair of flip flops for showering in hostels too. I also packed two cardigans, which I quickly regretted when in Ireland and ended up buying a sweatshirt since it was much colder than the Mediterranean. I packed one cheap necklace and one pair of earrings. I also had one scarf to cover my shoulders in order to enter churches since some do not let you enter in tank tops. I also always had a pair of sunglasses with me as well.

Toiletries: since we were taking many flights, I had to limit the amount of toiletries that I could bring. So I had one travel size of shampoo, soap, conditioner, and moisturizer. I used the toiletries offered by hotels whenever I could, and bought some more in Italy when I ran out. I also had deodorant, hand sanitizer, hand cream, chapstick, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a brush, q-tips, a small pack of tissues, tweezers, a razor, tweezers, a nail file, a diva cup, and a spare hair tie. I also brought a small pouch that I filled with ibuprofen, bandaids, an assortment of stomach pills, cleaning wipes, and toilet seat covers. The only thing that I didn't use were the bandaids. I wish that I had more space to bring some sort of facial wash.

Miscellaneous: the other items that I brought were a camera, an iPad mini, my phone, chargers for each of those items, a book, and garbage bags. The reason why I use garbage bags is so that shoes don't dirty my clean clothes and so that I can easily separate clean from dirty clothes. Maybe I'm a germaphobe, but I never travel without some sort of plastic bag.

Nice

The Lessons Learned

You can easily wash your clothes in a sink. Whenever we had more than two nights in a hotel room, we would wash our clothes in a sink and hang them dry wherever we could find the space. My cousin even got innovative and would use a blow drier for when we cut it a bit close and would have to pack our clothes for the next leg of the trip. Because we really scrubbed our clothes with soap and soaked them in nearly boiling water, I think they got cleaner than they would in a washer.

You'll get exhausted. If you have a jam packed schedule like we did, then you're bound to get tired eventually. So make sure to factor that in. Try to add at least one easy day a week where you can lounge around by the beach or the lake. And try not to take 6am trains like we did!

You'll feel cut off from the outside world. Because you're constantly on the move, you don't have time to follow up on the news, keep up with your daily emails or conversations. It gets tiring but it is also liberating. The only thing you're focused on is absorbing the city you are currently in.

Absolutely do not overpack! This suitcase or backpack will be with you for at least a month. So that means the heavier it is, the more you will hate it. Since taking the train or plane can already be tiring enough, don't add extra weight and more frustrations.

Beware of checking your bags. For the majority of the trip, my cousin had to check her bag. And although it may have slowed us down a bit, we never had any major problems. That is until we made it to Rome. In Rome it took them nearly two hours for them to place the bag on the conveyer belt. Enough time for us to go into panic thinking that the bag had been lost. So beware of checking your bag if it's your only item.

My cousin and I in Etretat

If you're thinking of a long backpacking trip, I would highly recommend it. If you can afford it and have the time to do it, DO IT! It is a great way to see the world and teaches you so many different life skills. Now the question is how do you add this to the resume?

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28 comments:

  1. You're so right about not booking last minute. Most people think it must be cheaper but it's not! I also agree about it being colder in the Med than most realise; those coastal nights can get chilly!

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  2. TBH I really enjoyed reading your post, as it was something very relatable. I am also going through the same phase as I am heading out for a 20 day trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, and yeah it does involve a lot of planning. But yeah, one need not stuff too much in a short span of time, as it will only leave you tired.

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    1. Have fun in Vietnam and Cambodia!

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  3. The Asola Backpack looks just perfect! I have a 65l Skandika and a smaller 27l Fastrack! On my shorter trips I usually take the smaller one and I guess, I should just re-buy it before it goes out of stock!
    I agree. I too prefer booking hotels and transport when its cheaper than taking the last minute ones!

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    1. Yeah, for a short trip I don't always take the big backpack, but it worked great for a month!

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  4. DEFINITELY choose a backpack over a suitcase. Phew, let me tell you trying to roll my suitcase around Italy with its busy cobblestone streets was not the smartest idea ever. Congrats for doing a long backpacking trip. Something I have done before in Europe too but by myself. Very rewarding!!!

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    1. Thank you! And congrats to you too!

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  5. Great adventure. Long term backpacking trips are the best as they give you enough time to explore the places. I prefer not to pack too much before such a trip and just let things surprise me.

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  6. Something that annoys me about backpacking is keeping on top of washing. That's a good tip you give about washing clothes in the hotel. I prefer a suitcase with wheels but in some cities like Sevilla and Venice a backpack is much better.

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    1. It is hard to wash clothes all the time, but if you're in the same place for a few days the sink can be your best friend!

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  7. What an adventure! I like the tip about garbage bags, I like to stay organized and that would help. And I know it's best to not overpack, but I always struggle with that one :)

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    1. It is always hard to know what to bring!

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  8. These are some great tips.I've not been on a backpacking trip before and I always wondered how people manage packing and stuff. I agree about not waiting last minute and paying attention to dates.Also great tip on washing clothes in the sink.Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Now these are some really handy tips on the backpacking bit. As much as it is fun to go traveling with a backpack, it also needs a lot of prep and your post is going to be quite handy for those who are attempting it for the first time. Well done with it.

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  10. Hey very nice pictures of Etretat. I see a similar place (through pictures though have not yet been there) called Varkala in India, where you have sharp near vertical hills, over looking an azure sea!

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  11. Backpacking for a month in lovely Europe is indeed a liberating and enchanting experience at the same time. However planning is absolute to ensure that you have a smooth run. Loved your tips, they really make sense. What to pack and what not pack is always a dilemma.

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  12. Your post reminded me of my month backpacking in Europe and how much I prepared for it as well. I would book hostes on the go, as I never knew long before which my next destination was. Backpacking in summer is never a good idea due to being high season, however I found that Norway was the less touristy country I visited.

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    1. I am sure it would be, it is so expensive not many people go there.

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  13. Backpacking for a month sounds like an absolute treat. I can totally empathize the effort that must have gone into it, my 1 week of travel planning takes supreme effort from me, especially if we are doing multiple destinations. Great tips, especially on the checking in part. Thanks for sharing

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  14. I've never done 1 month backpacking. Ive tried 2 weeks and it wasnt easy! If I not a mother I would have done more than 1 month.

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    1. I am sure two weeks with children is a whole different ball game. Good for you Momma for making these experiences for your children!

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