Confessions of a Reformed Glampacker
When I first announced I was going to take a break from the corporate world and perhaps take some time off to backpack around New Zealand and Asia, my friends shot me incredulous stares. I couldn’t blame them. I had a notorious reputation for overpacking – whether my trip was a short three-day sojourn or one that stretched two weeks, I’d always find myself checking in with just enough baggage allowance and coming back with an additional bag (of shopping loots, of course). Heck, I once packed 10kg along on a three-day volcano hiking trip to Indonesia. When my hiking companion scrutinised the contents of my overweight pack, we found full-sized toiletries, about two to three extra sets of clothes and several other unnecessary items I am much too embarrassed to name.
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A backpacker, I definitely was not. Rather I was what you would call a Glampacker. Sure, I would don a backpack occasionally, but its contents were anything but minimal. My hiking trip situation wasn’t the exception, it was the norm – I always made sure I had enough pieces of clothing for a different OOTD every day and didn’t’ think twice about bringing along toiletries, full-sized cosmetic and beauty products, and extra footwear. And while good bargains were a must, I didn’t sting on experiences, food and accommodation options. In fact, having my own en suite bathroom was paramount – no questions asked.
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Given my track record, I accepted my friends’ surprised reactions with open arms, but I also saw it as a challenge – I would prove it to them that I would be able to spend five weeks, leading the backpacker life, as I traversed across the North and South islands of New Zealand. And I knew I couldn’t overpack – I was going to be moving cities and locations every 2-3 days. Overpacking would mean that not only would I have to deal with a bad back from the weight, but it would also be too much effort to repack my backpack every time I had to switch hostels.
Following much discussion and research on an appropriate pack size and scouring our island for the best backpack bargains, I settled on a 50L and an accompanying 20L one for day trips. And, the rest, they say, is history. While there were moments where my pack looked like it was going to explode any moment, it kept everything in, thankfully, and got me and my stuff back to Singapore in one piece.
I knew I wasn’t quite the backpacker yet, but I was glad I was slowly shedding my Glampacker side by picking up tips from fellow backpackers on the road. Taking the backpacker route didn’t necessarily mean I had to give up all my material comforts and preferences. Some baby steps I took included:
Affording myself one luxury item from home. In my case, it was my hairdryer. If I was going to be leading the backpacker life of repeating outfits and doing minimal laundry (since moving around so much didn’t give me much time to do so), I reasoned I could at least have good hair. It was also a great conversation starter as fellow female travellers would sometimes ask to borrow it!
Staying in hostels, but choosing rooms with no more than four beds. Jumping from the Glampacker life of being the only one in your room to an eight or ten-person dorm can be quite a culture shock. At my first hostel, I stayed in four-bed female dorm and everyone was so considerate and quiet, it hardly felt like a shared room at all. And if you have on good earplugs and an eye mask, you won’t even notice or hear your bunkmates!
Packing one or two party or fancy outfits. Let’s face it, there was no way I was going to be able to completely transition into a barebones backpacker. There were days where I just felt like getting a bit more dressed-up for a night out with my newfound friends. Thankfully I made space in my backpack for two outfits (so that I could rotate them), some small accessories and a small bag of cosmetics. Remember, just because you are a backpacker, doesn’t mean you have to look like one.
Talking to locals to sniff out the best deals and spots. As a tourist, we often succumb to paying more for our food, shopping and transport because we tend to be time-pressed and are okay with higher ‘tourist’ prices as the price isn’t unreasonable. As a Glampacker, I may have had the budget to pull that off. But as a backpacker, I knew I had to tighten my purse strings if I didn’t want to spend my last two weeks having only bread. Talking to locals from hostel staff to random people on the road helped direct me to free activities like park concerts, places with late-hour food discounts, and crazily-cheap happy hours. Now, whoever said having fun had to cost lots of money?
Looking back, it was pretty amazing how I managed to fit everything into my backpacks. Perhaps the fact that it was summer then in New Zealand, made it easy for me to pack light. Or perhaps it was simply because I had learnt through my many, many years of overpacking and dealing with the aftermath of heavy backpacks. I guess, if I had to label my experience, I’d call myself a reformed Glampacker - I had afforded myself a little more than just the bare essentials, the occasional good meal (or two), sometimes a pricey but worthwhile activity/experience, and the flexibility to be casual or glammed-up on the road.
While most of us may not always need to travel on that tight a budget or with the limited baggage space of a backpack, it can be quite an experience looking through the travel lens from the other end of the spectrum. So don’t be afraid to switch things up a little. You find yourself going to places you never would have gone to, speaking to people you might not have otherwise passed, and trying foods you never thought you’d have, noticing the smallest things you might have never otherwise noticed.
Regardless of the travel style you choose to adopt, Anywhr has got you covered, whether you’re a backpacker wanting to lead the budget surprise travel life or a Glampacker who wants your comforts, or has a little extra cash to splurge.