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Modern Traveling vs. Old School Backpacking

February 26, 2015

Shortly before my boyfriend and I packed up our things to go backpacking, I visited my Nan to say ‘Goodbye for now’ and not so surprisingly we got onto the topic of the ability to world-wide travel. My Nan confessed that she would have loved to have travelled the world when she was younger, but that sort of thing just wasn’t done back then, and especially not by a young woman. But my Nan clearly passed on the travel bug to my Aunty Lesley, who despite being enrolled in Nursing school when she was in her early-twenties, decided to skip off to travel around Europe instead, something not a lot of young girls did.

But traveling was different back then, it was post cards and pay phones, travel agents and travellers cheques. If a person went off backpacking, there was no way for their family to track them down. Trips had to be booked by a Travel agent, rail passes pre-paid for and multiple currencies obtained before leaving. Holiday snaps were only seen once the traveller had returned and paid to have their film developed (anyone else remember paying extra to have their film developed by happy snaps in one hour?)


Last month I read ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, a true story about one woman’s journey walking more than one thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Within the first few chapters of the book I realised that Backpacking for Cheryl back in 1995 and Backpacking for me in 2013, are two completely different types of backpacking. Hers involved a lot more danger, a lot less contact with the ‘real world’, not to mention an almost exhausting amount of pre-planning (she had to arrange to have boxes of supplies sent to post offices along her route or she would starve). At first I felt slightly embarrassed to call my trip a ‘backpacking’ trip, it was a luxury holiday compared to Cheryl’s painful, scary and often lonely trip. Yet why should I feel that way just because of technological advances? I’m sure if iPhones had been around back then that Cheryl would have carried one, charged it at stop off points, skyped her friend and instagrammed her pictures … right?


I can’t deny that the idea of traveling the old school way sounds appealing and certain aspects seem a little more adventurous – I imagine being truly cut off from your home life was both terrifying and exhilarating – yet I wouldn’t swap being a Modern Traveller for anything. The development of technology over the past twenty years has transformed the way we travel; it has made it easier and a lot safer. Here are six reasons modern traveling is basically AWESOME:

Staying in touch
Despite updating my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, sending emails and skyping, I know my Mum still worries about me all the time when I go abroad. So I can’t imagine how my Nan must have felt not being able to know where my Aunty Lesley was. When I was backpacking it was important I be able to speak to my family on a regular basis, especially as my Sister was Pregnant, so it wasn’t just a case of my family wanting to keep track of me, but me wanting to keep track of them. The way technology is today meant it was a lot easier to do this, not to mention it meant I was able to meet up and reunite with fellow backpackers along the way. I’m still in touch with so many friends I made who are still backpacking, I love following their adventures online.


It’s Safer
Checking into places online, geo-tagging on Instagram and updating your family and friends via Facebook means that ultimately it is easier to track you down should you ever go missing (God Forbid!). Twenty to Thirty years ago, no-one would have known until the said backpacker didn’t come home. With only a post card or phone call to go by, it would be extremely difficult to track them down. Carrying a mobile phone on me always made me feel safer, I always kept it hidden, but felt reassured knowing I could make an emergency call if I need to.

It’s Easier
Gone are the days of going down to your local travel agent to book a trip. Gone are also the days of paying far too much money for a holiday. Today, trip planning is something we do ourselves; we have become experts in this field. Everyone is their very own Travel Agent, especially with companies such as In fact ebookers not only make it simple and speedy to book a trip, but rewarding! Their new Bonus+ programme means travellers get rewards when booking flights, hotels and packaged holidays. I have the Bonus+ app on my phone and you can literally get money off within seconds on hotels and extras. I imagine traipsing around several different travel agents to get the best deal wasn’t done much back then.


No Bad or Blurry Pics

As fun as it used to be getting your photos developed when you got back off holiday, how annoying was it when some of your photos turned out too dark, red eyed, or your finger had been over the lens? Camera Phones and digital cameras have changed that. You can take as many pictures as you like and you can make sure they come out the way you want them too right there and then. And we can not only take a beautiful picture 100 times over, but with cameras like the GoPro we can film ourselves diving off cliffs, swimming with sharks and swinging from trees. Why tell a story when you can show it, which brings me to my next point…

You can share your story and pictures as you travel
I am obsessed with Instagram, and when I’m traveling it’s my favourite app to share pictures on. Not just to share with family and friends, but with other travellers too. Just the other week I was in Amsterdam, and when using the appropriate hashtags I had others find my pictures and asking me to recommend places to eat and drink. And lets not forget travel blogging, it’s very common for a traveller to keep a journey journal, doing it online allows you to share your adventure and all your pictures and videos with the world (not to mention make everyone very jealous).


A Phone is more than a phone 
Imagine carrying around the weight of a Walkman, a journal, a camera, maps & guidebooks, a travel wallet and all your money in different currencies. No Thank you. Whilst I still love to use a travel wallet – mainly to keep bits for a scrap book – I don’t technically need one, not when my phone can hold all my boarding passes. A phone can also be your camera, your notebook, your travel guide, it can hold all your books on it (via the Kindle app) and it can hold all your music too. It’s your access to emails, to your bank account and not forgetting it’s the telephone that lets you call home.

Maybe we are tweeting and Instagraming a bit too much of our travel lifestyle – I’m a terror for it – but the new way in which we travel is a gift! I count myself lucky that travel has become so easy to do and hence become such a big part of my life. It might even be too easy for us now, but I think thats a good thing; everyone should get to travel. It’s something my Nan missed out on and had this been on offer to her when she was my age I know she would have jumped at the chance to pack up her rucksack, get on and book that one way ticket to China!

This post was written by Tink Jayne and brought to you by