When I told my close friends that I was going on a backpack trip around the world, and that it wasn’t a joke, their reaction was unanimous: concern. Not because they don’t think I’m capable of letting go of everything, but because they don’t see me able to walk as much, and especially not with a backpack
There follow attempts to prepare myself physically for this challenge: here’s my sports teacher’s number, here’s a discount for a gym, I’m walking in Paris, are you coming? What I’ve always said NO to, I was busier emptying the apartment, making appointments with the buyers on Le Bon Coin, than during the 3.5 months of preparation where I was unemployed before the trip, the only times I went out for a walk for a while was with my Couchsurfers
To tell you when I suck at sports / hate walking, I’ll just tell you a few anecdotes
In high school, for ping-pong, we were separated by level. Each ping pong table corresponded to a level. We were 4 per table if I remember well. If you win 2 out of 4 matches, you go up one table, otherwise you go down one table. Well, I could never get up to the top table, having lost almost all my matches.
When I lived in Vietnam, I often took my scooter out for 10 meters (to buy vegetables). My house was at the top of a very small hill of 5m and I was so lazy to go down this hill and up it that it seemed to me more judicious to take out my scooter.
When I lived in Paris, I was always subscribed to the Vélib, because wherever I lived, the metro was between 5 and 8 minutes away on foot. And I preferred to take the Vélib to ride a bike for 2 minutes to the metro, rather than walking. Sometimes, I even took the bus, to a station!
After reading these anecdotes, do you still think I’m capable of going around the world in a packback? Even I doubted it. Even though I don’t have a weight problem, I hate walking so much that even the weight of my arms can’t stand it
And yet, after 3 months of traveling, I can tell you that you can suck at sports and be able to travel around the world. You just have to set some limits
- Limit the weight of the backpack: The ideal weight is about 25%-30% max of body weight. I weigh 40kg, so normally I can carry up to 12kg, but I preferred to carry < 20% of my weight, which is 7.3kg. The trick to carrying little is to choose a small bag, so even if I wanted to (as a consumer as I am, yes, I’m tempted by many things), I couldn’t have put more things in my bag. I chose the Osprey Mira AG 26 which I have reviewed here. In reality, you don’t get around much with your backpack on your back. Hotels and guesthouses all accept to keep our luggage. The only time when luggage isn’t welcome is when we took an Airbnb.
- Choosing treks and sports at his level: The trip to Nepal put me under a bit of pressure. Everybody goes there to trek. I hate walking, I hate trekking, and the fact of trekking only one day in Pokhara (and having given up in the middle) makes me feel guilty: am I not missing something, I came all the way to Nepal to finally not see the beauty of the place blah blah blah blah… Well finally my guide calmed me down by showing me the pictures of the mountains if I had done the 5 days trek. Sensibly the same landscapes as what I could see by taking the car. No regrets then. I think that we should not put too much pressure and force ourselves because EVERYBODY does that in this or that country. Not everybody can reach the summit of Everest as far as I know, but you can see the snowy summits quietly from your hotel in Pokhara or Nagarkot.
- Having comfortable shoes and socks: I think that’s one of the secrets to making walking less painful for a lazy person like me. I bring 3 pairs of shoes with me: (1) Tirra sandals from Teva, very comfortable from the first use (2) hiking shoes with GoreTex, Moab model from Merrell, waterproof, breathable and very comfortable; which I complete with leather soles from Minelli (3) a pair of flip-flops to walk in the hotel (and in the shower when it’s too bad). For the socks, I chose two pairs of breathable hiking socks from Decathlon (one short and one long).
- Stop trying to do everything on foot: Seriously, we haven’t invented different means of transportation to get everyone to the end on foot. If it never occurs to you to do Châtelet – Orsay (zone 4) on foot, don’t do it in India, under 40 degrees either! I agree that traveling is living differently from what we usually do, but there are some limits anyway. Moreover, walking and suffering, strongly prevents you from enjoying the landscapes. By walking, you go slower and see less. In Mandalay for example, it was impossible to visit the city on foot, it was better in this case to rent a bike or a scooter. Ask yourself, before trying to save 2€ of transportation, how long it takes to walk from this bus terminal, in the middle of dust and strong smells, to your hotel. And above all, do like locals: most of the time, they take a tuk tuk, a bus, a cab, a scooter, they hitchhike, but they don’t walk either.
There, I hope to have reassured non-athletes like me. Without being a princess who travels by taxi/Uber either, I didn’t kill myself walking. It’s really not necessary to do sports before going around the world either (you do? good, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself), when you travel, you’re less stressed. The excitement of the trip and also the delicious food during the trip boost your energy to the maximum. And then, if it’s too tiring, nothing prevents you from taking a little nap after lunch, like the locals do in FULL country