The New Conquistador: the student back packer

It is 6:30 a.m. You have just landed by boat in Split, Croatia from Ancona, Italy on a 12-hour voyage. Your back is killing you because you have been sleeping on the deck of the boat all night. As you put your 70- pound backpack on the dock, you are a new kind of conqueror: the back packer.

This new cultural crave known as backpacking has become a favorite for college students all over the globe. Backpacking is cheap, adventurous, cultural, and a great way to make some good friends.

“It is a rush, you sweat, you run to trains and buses, but you never forget it,” said Andrew Towers a seasoned backpacker from Brighten, England currently making his way from New Zealand to China.

Here are some tips for people who are interested in backpacking. Know the city you want to go to. Yes, being spontaneous is part of the backpacker’s repertoire, but some things are just not culturally acceptable. For example, in Hungary it is very disrespectful to cling glasses together when toasting because it reminds the Hungarian people of a time when Austrian soldiers after invading Hungary had saluted sarcastically to dead Hungarians.

Knowing some basic language skills can help you go a long away. You do not have to be Mr. or Mrs. Berlitz, but knowing how to say simple phrases such as, “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “may I please have,” they can take you a long way. Learn the overall history of each country you are going to. A fantastic guide to help you with all your cultural tribulations is the Lonely Planet book series. This series offers backpackers everything they need to know about a country; the currency, the language spoken, history and just about anything else you need explained. Also know some geography. If you expect to spend a month in Europe, you will want to know where the countries are in relation to each other.

Now that you have your map, where will you stay? No need to fret, the hostel will become your home. All those myths about hostels being dirty, scary and unsafe are just not true. Hostels are quite clean, cheap, friendly and fun. Many hostels now offering breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, internet services, laundry and phone services.

The average hostel will cost you anywhere from $15 to $40 per night. Hostels are also a great place to meet fellow backpackers and gain information about other places. A great web site to check out for hostels is hostelworld.com.

Food is essential to the backpacker. Make sure that you buy your food from a local super market. It is a lot cheaper. Always have water or some kind of anti carbonated beverage with you. Remember, you do have to do a lot of walking and running with a 70 pound backpack.

When you are eating out, make sure that you choose local spots. For example, if you are in Sao Paolo, Brazil and all you hear at the restaurant is English being spoken, it is probably a good bet that it is a tourist spot. Since it is a tourist spot, the price will be high and the food might not be too good.

After you have eaten out, hang out with the locals at local clubs and bars. When you make friends who are locals, they can tell you about great sights to see that very few people know about. It does not matter if you do not speak their language, if people want to communicate with you, they will.

Getting back to that backpacker in Croatia, after five days there he is now leaving for a bus at the Split central station. He shows his ticket to the driver and stores his backpack in the bottom compartment of the bus. As he gets on the bus, the driver starts the engine. Next stop: Bosnia.

The backpacker smiles. He is off on his next cultural conquest. This past summer, that backpacker was me.