Backpacking gives a traveler the freedom to go (and stay) wherever he or she wants -- and whenever, too. All it requires is throwing that backpack over a shoulder and setting off in a new direction. It's that particular freedom that I find addictive.
This is what Bram Reusen had to say when we asked him why he picked backpacking as one of his favorite modes of transportation. Bram writes about his travel adventures at
Travel. Experience. Live.
We talked to Bram about some of his favorite sites in his home state of Vermont, as well as some other trails in the continental U.S. There are 104 weekend days in a year, as Bram reminds us, so get out and get to know your own terrain.
What is it that you like so much about backpacking?
Backpacking is great; it's often inexpensive and it lets you reach places you otherwise can't get to, including some of this world's most remote and breathtaking vistas.
I thoroughly believe in the idea of carrying almost all your belongings with you. Living a less materialistic life is the cure to many of modern society's problems. And if you're are able to fit nearly everything you own in a backpack, there is much less stuff you can lose and much less to worry about. Backpacking is also strongly intertwined with slow travel. People who travel with backpacks tend to walk more, take more public transportation and spend more time in the same places
Do you have advice for people who want to backpack across the country, but not walk the whole way?
I know some people who swear by hitchhiking, but because I don't have any experience with that, I'll leave it out. If I don't walk, I generally travel by bus or train which, especially in Europe, are extremely good means to get around. Bus travel is usually cheaper and the network of bus routes is much denser, but the downside is that it's rather slow. Trains are arguably the best and fastest ways of traveling between cities, but can be more expensive. On the upside, trains are great places to read a book, listen to a podcast or get some work done.
What backpacking trips do you recommend?
I've backpacked (and/or cycled) in more than twenty countries so far, but picking my favorite is not difficult. Australia, with its working holiday visa program and sense of adventure, is - without question - backpacking country number one.
I really liked Norway too, which, even though it's very expensive, is a majestically beautiful country. The fact that you can pitch a tent pretty much anywhere in Norway helps to save a lot of money, though!
My third favorite backpacking country has to be Ireland, a country that's filled with historic sites, culture, magnificent natural scenery and a pretty great network of public transportation.
Where should people go hiking in your home state of Vermont?
Vermont is filled with great hiking destinations. The gorgeous Green Mountains form the spine of the state, a mountain range that is traversed by the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. The Long Trail is the very best hiking experience Vermont has to offer, but it does take three to four weeks to complete. Shorter day or weekend hikes include hiking up mountains, such as Camel's Hump, Mount Mansfield, Killington Peak and Mount Ascutney.
What are the best options for lightweight backpacking gear?
Of course, lightweight gear is what every backpacker looks for. But it can be expensive. Therefore, I try to limit the amount of gear I take. For example, I would just take one heavier cooking pot instead of two lightweight ones of different sizes. Same with clothes. It's surprising how few clothes you actually need.
How do you plan for food on long backpacking trips?
So far, I haven't really done any super long-distance hikes that would require me to carry food for several days. On some of the hikes I've done, however, I did carry foods like pasta and tomato sauce, energy bars, the classic-but-great trail mix and, if possible, some fruit. If you're doing a long-distance hike, I would definitely recommend taking a multivitamin every day and trying to eat as many fruits and vegetables whenever you can. That's the food that keeps your body working properly.
How does backpacking change a person?
Travel helps put things into perspective. I've been lucky enough to experience a few different cultures and see how people live their daily lives in many countries. This has opened my eyes in ways I never expected. Traveling helps you realize that people are the same everywhere; that most of the western media tends to show only one side of the story; that there's joy and laughter in every single corner of the world; and that people are generally helpful and friendly. That's a perspective that has made me an all-round happier individual. The only requirement for an experience like that, however, is that you actually interact with locals and don't stay in and limit your range to tourist resorts.
Why should people get travel insurance for a backpacking trip?
Besides a backpack,
travel insurance is an essential part of a successful trip even if nothing happens. If nothing happens, you'll still know that you'll be covered if something does happen, which is great to keep your mind relaxed. Not having to worry about possible financial trouble will allow you to focus your attention on what your trip really is about: freedom, new people, culture and fun. Not worrying is most likely why you're on the trip in the first place! In case something bad does occur, your travel insurance can help keep you sound and safe in the end. Travel insurance may help you out if your gear gets stolen or breaks, if you get sick, or if you have an accident.
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