Months ago I received a message from a friend of mine who is starting to love traveling through reading my blog posts (sample: 14 Days of Backpacking Western Visayas plus hitchhiking on the top). His message was,
i am also planning to have my own solo backpacking soon (maybe october or november)… i need your help to give me suggestions or ideas on how to do it. how to spend wisely, what to do, where to go… i want to visit surigao, cdo, bohol, cebu.:)
Thanks for the idea Alvin! Before I offer some help, I want to share my own definition of what “BACKPACKING“ is.
“Backpacking is simply traveling with a tight budget carrying light backpack for a week or more. You are not a tourist but more of a curious observer. The motive is to experience the ‘other-side’ of the world by trying the road less traveled. You get to learn from the locals, sleep on guesthouse (rather than on hotels), buses, trains, tent or hammock.”
Here in the Philippines, backpacking doesn’t have that attention as compared to US and Europe, but a lot has been doing underground trips already. More blogs are into backpacking and do-it-yourself trips. That’s good news because Philippines is a backpacker-friendly country.
So, how do you start your own backpacking trip? My mind is on backpacking the Philippines but the principles are the same if you are going to other countries.
1. Choose your destination.
This could be one province or one big island like Palawan or Panay or Batangas. In my case, I always do it by region (West Visayas, Region 7 or Calabarzon). I choose by these categories- the people, the food and the site. You can start by your dream destination then connect the dots.
Examples: You want to go to Cebu. Now Cebu is a big island surrounded by islets, you might want to include Bohol, Siquijor and Dumaguete. This trip would require a week or more to really experience the nature, food and culture.
Or you want to try Palawan, another big island. You can start by flying your way to Puerto Princesa City then Sabang-Roxas-San Vicente-Port Barton-El Nido-Coron then fly back to Manila.
For those who have more time and resources, it could be by group of countries say for example Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand-Laos or Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand.
2. Mark your calendar.
For starters, you can start with 4-5days but I encourage you to make it a week, so you got the feeling of a ‘real’ backpacker. Your VL would mean a lot of help here. Also, a long weekend is your best friend. Seize that opportunity before it’s too late. In my case, I book my flight ahead of time (say 6 months ahead) so I get the cheap fare then just plan my way as the D-day nears.
3. Research, Research and research more.
Since what you are going to do has been done many times by others, try doing some Google search. You will be surprised to know that there are useful pieces of information that can save you a lot of time and resources. Start with its history, language/dialect, weather conditions, transportations and inns/guesthouse. Government websites and travel blogs are replete with basic information. Just avoid those websites that offer a fixed itinerary as you are robbing yourself the experience of really planning your own trip. The adventure starts while planning and research so make this fun. Research more.
4. Ask a local.
I started to travel those places where I have friends. Its a big help because you get to ask them where are the must-see places and must-try foods. But then there will come a time wherein you have to get out of your comfort zone and try those places which you haven’t heard existed. Next year, I will try backpacking Calbayog and Virac. Where’s is that? What’s in there? I still don’t know. I think I will do number 3. When you arrive at your destination, trust the locals. I saved PhP125 when I ask a local how to get to Bacolod City from Silay airport other than taking the van.
Wonderin how? I asked a local in Negros Occidental.
5. Make a checklist and print a map.
Have yourself a checklist of the places you want to see (how many hours/days/weeks you will spent there), foods you have to try and adventures you want to do. If you are visual like me, a map is very handy as it aids you in specially when you are already doing the trip. Don’t forget to drop by the tourism office before starting your travel. They give helpful information and free maps. Don’t go to them if you haven’t done your assignment yet it will make things complicated. If you already have a checklist and map then you are ready to go. Just make room for misadventures and make your itinerary flexible. You can view a FREE MAP! Yes, FREE map and find out my trick on maps.
Example: Backpacking Puerto Princesa should include this in a week’s IT (Underground River thru the monkey trail, Honda Bay, Try Chaolong, Night-out at Kinabuch, Swim in Irawan Waterfalls, Beach bumming at Nagtabon and stroll at the Baywalk).
Lastly, remember to enjoy the journey more than the destinations.Do not leave your destinations without experiencing something worth sharing with others. I have lots of memorable experiences while talking with some locals and I have made friends with them allowing me to go back anytime I choose to. You know, you are not on your own. Learn to trust them so they would trust you back.
***This article was published in the maiden issue of CAB Urban Travel Magazine. Just wanna thank Alvin for the idea and question, Jerem & Kat for including my article, hope to travel together with you guys someday! 🙂
If you have a question about backpacking or want to start your own trip, just CONTACT me, I’m not a pro, but who knows, I might be of help.