My story: how I was born and raised as a backpacking traveller

Are there those of you out there with a family who wonder how to start a travelling lifestyle together and how best to do it with young children?

Well I can tell you my point of view – as a child who was raised travelling out a backpack.

I’m 23 years old and from the age of 8 my parents took me and my little brother travelling during our school holidays. While all my school friends went on holiday to Spain or France, we went on trips across continents living out of our backpacks for weeks or months.

The best thing my parents did was to start doing this young – I never questioned why we didn’t stay in 5-star or all-inclusive resorts like my friends’ families. Soon I realised the way we travelled was not normal and it was a novelty other people loved to hear about.

Age 10 – backpacked around Australia’s North Territory and the East Coast for two months.
Age 11 – backpacked West coast of America.
Age 12 – backpacked East coast of America and Canada.
Age 13 – hiked Scotland and up to the Isle of Skye.
Age 14 – road trip in New England
etc etc, by age 16 I was travelling confidently alone

So how did we do it?

  1. Never took more than a 60litre rucksack: my parents taught me how to roll and pack effectively from the age of 8.
  2. Learnt to plan our daily movements around reaching the next campsite.
  3. Buying a cheap tent when we arrived in a country – it saves baggage costs of taking one and is suited for the country better.
  4. Designated one night a week to stay in a motel/cheap hostel – this is the ‘treat’ of having your own bathroom and a proper mattress – doesn’t mean it’s cleaner than a campsite!
  5. Always took the cheapest budget/economy means of transport.
  6. Always took trips that were at least a month long, living out the rucksacks. This showed us how much more we could get from our trip if we travelled right.
  7. Always rented our own car so we could travel at our own pace to our own budget.
  8. Taught us the value of experiences rather than material possessions.
  9. Planned out budget around experiences, not luxuries.

This last one is by far the most important. Our parents would give us a choice – do you want a snorkelling boat trip out on the Barrier Reef and we stay in a campsite for an extra week, or do you want a 5-star hotel? Clue: we never picked the 5-star. Our parents taught us the value of the experiences you can have and the enrichment of life that you gain from that – at any age.

It’s not about being thrifty, it’s about choosing how and what you spend your money on: what you value.
Don’t get me wrong, for some people all-inclusive and 5-star resorts are exactly the break they need during their hard-earned holiday time. But because of my experiences I’ve never been a sun-worshipper or an all-inclusive kind of girl. I need to be busy and exploring and active to gain value from my travels.

I have my parents to thank for instilling a sense of adventure in me and the need to experience the countries I visit fully. I was never shown any different, but I very soon came to appreciate how much more I gained from out way of travelling – even if it meant using an RV hose for a shower on a campsite for a week, or finding cockroaches in my sleeping bag!

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