“It’s not the same anymore, Lusy!” said Natalie, my Swiss friend while enjoying her cup of coffee.
“It is unlike the last time I went backpacking in 1980’s!” she added.
“Well, last year was the first time I did it but I do remember the time when I traveled light. I mean, look at all the chargers we have to drag with us now!” I replied in between sipping my hot caramel chocolate.
“Exactly! See what I mean?” asked Natalie.
I couldn’t agree more.
A backpacker packs all of his or her gear into a backpack. This gear must include food, water, and shelter, or the means to obtain them, but very little else, and often in a more compact and simpler form than one would use for stationary camping. A backpacking trip must include at least one overnight stay in the wilderness (otherwise it is a day hike). Many backpacking trips last just a weekend (one or two nights), but long-distance expeditions may last weeks or months, sometimes aided by planned food and supply drops – the definition of a backpacker on wikipedia.
Based on this definition alone, I am not qualified to call myself a backpacker. Nevertheless, the experience was definitely unlike the travel experiences I had had before I went on my “backpacking trips” last year. Never had I gone to places so far away from the big cities before those trips! I went up and down the mountains, visited little villages and saw the simple smiles of people while they were doing their everyday activities. Of course, there were times when the trips brought me to small cities where I got in touch with ‘civilization’, the times for my soul to take a break from the tension of the so called adventure!
What amazed me after that conversation with Natalie were the differences between backpacking nowadays and the one she did back in the 1980’s. During her backpacking trips around South America, for instance, most of the time, it was so difficult to communicate with her family in Switzerland. There were no phone lines let alone mobile and internet connection! Her mom would send her letters to the post office of any big city she might have gone through – to Santiago de Chile, Lima in Peru, Asuncion in Paraguay, in the hope that Natalie would be there to claim them and she did! Needless to say, there was no Facebook either!
Now? The change of time, no doubt!
It is one thing to be in the middle of nowhere and cut yourself from the outside world and it is another to be out of touch in the middle of nowhere because nobody can reach you even if you want to! I suppose I was lucky to experience both even though the latter happened only for some short moments because most of the times, it wasn’t impossible for me to get signals for my cell-phone. Having said that, in my honest opinion, that is what backpacking is all about. It gives you the freedom from the daily life and let you lose yourself in the beauty of the nature! On a journey like that, the one thing that can stop me from experiencing all the challenges and adventures out there is myself.
Is it just me?
Story inspired by my Swiss friend, Natalie Daoust