The Art Of Backpacking, Be Spontaneous.

Labuan Bajo how to get to Komodo Island Indonesia

Travelling spontaneously is an age old travel custom and a backpacking art that is slowly being lost in the age of pre booking apps and gap year itineraries. I want to put that spirit of adventure back into travel and encourage everyone to  – occasionally at least – ditch those itineraries and travel spontaneously. 

Throwing off the shackles of life and travelling wherever and whenever the wind takes you is a wildly romantic ideal of world travel, yet the truth of the matter is the new gap year industry has filled the modern traveller with ideas of prebooking everything in advance, of having fixed dates on those round the world tickets (or paying extra to get them changed), or having all of your experiences and excursions booked, paid for and sorted before you even step foot on the plane!

Missing Half The Point Of Travelling The World Independently.

Taking a gap year and travelling the world is certainly very different now to what it used to be. When I first started travelling there were no smartphones, no apps to check out places to stay and get a room booked with a few swipes of your finger, and Lonely Planet was still considered the ultimate bible, the only thing you had to do to go ‘off the track’ was go somewhere that wasn’t written in its hallowed pages.

Nowadays of course all that has changed. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to travel the world independently. In some ways it has made it too easy.

I want to remind you all that the spirit of adventure that drove you to want to travel the world in the first place doesn’t live in those pre booked tours or those accommodation review apps.  It lives on in those spontaneous choices you make, the decisions to throw caution to the wind and stay longer on that island you fell in love with, or ditch the itinerary and follow those other backpackers to that awesome sounding destination you’ve only just heard of. The spirit of adventure lives on in the decision to go to the airport and seeing where the next cheap flight is heading to.

You don’t have to book everything in advance, you can simply turn up to any destination, town or city in the world and see what the lay of the land is once you get there.

Simply have an idea of the area you want to stay in when you arrive in a new destination and have a look around at some of the hostels or guesthouses you find when you get there. You can barter a good walk in price and have a room that you know you will like. Find somewhere better a day or two later? Just pack up and move! You can’t do this if you’ve paid for a room upfront!

Take Your Time.

Give yourself enough time in any new place to explore it properly and travel slowly. Don’t have a schedule so tight that you can’t take that tour that was advertised on the hostel reception desk or spend a few days exploring somewhere you never planned for.

Lift your head up from your smartphone screen and start talking to people. Locals, other travellers, staff at your hostel or the family in your guesthouse, it doesn’t matter. Meeting new people is half the fun of travel, and allowing them to guide where you go and what you do next with first hand recommendations is a perfect way to travel spontaneously! I’ve lost count of the amount of truly amazing locations I have found and things I have done based solely on local recommendations.

Of course on any long term trip some planning is necessary, and there are even exceptions to the spontaneity rule where I would wholeheartedly recommend booking a room in advance or snapping up a good deal. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything that way.

Life is an adventure, so live it that way! Travel the world and take the time to savour it, enjoy it! Live spontaneously and from time to time, just go wherever the wind – or your curiosity – takes you.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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The Art Of Backpacking, Travel Slowly.

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What Type Of Backpacker Are You?

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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22 comments on “The Art Of Backpacking, Be Spontaneous.
  1. Jakartass says:

    When “Lonely Planet was still considered the ultimate bible, the only thing you had to do to go ‘off the track’ was go somewhere that wasn’t written in its hallowed pages.”

    I totally agree. Going ‘off the track’ can lead to the most unforgettable adventures, ones you’ll feel nostalgic about and recount 30 years later – as I do.

    I haven’t used LP since then, partly because my South-East Asia Handbook recommended a homestay in Chiang Rai ‘next to the train station’. There wasn’t a railway line then, and there isn’t one now! (A bus from Chiang Mai is still the preferred travel mode.)

    • Haha yeah they were never the most accurate, that may be the reason more people look to blogs like this one for recommendations and advice now (we tend to actually be in the places we write about). I started using them on my first gap year and did so for a few years afterward, but used them less and less as time went on. And I can certainly account for the nostalgia as well! Thanks for commenting.

    • Jakartass says:

      I’ve no idea where the following came from, but I wrote it at the front of my then empty ‘Travel Diary’ back in ’71.

      they tried to persuade me not to cross
      the curious hills; finally shrugging
      called me foolish, stubborn
      that’s how it is, I said, I’m going
      where my pig is headed

  2. RGS says:

    Great post and writing style.. as I’m travelling solo in Japan this April, my main objective is to be spontaneous. Although my accommodation is ‘reserved’, I won’t be pre-booking or planning for what to do when I arrive. Thanks for the extra motivation to pursue this spontaneously. 🙂

  3. Danielle says:

    So true! Ive met a lot of travellers who book everything in advance and get so stressed about having everything meticulously planned. I think it takes half the fun out of travel.

  4. Ryan says:

    Very insightful read, thank you. I completely agree by the way, I think I have always kind of travelled like this without thinking about it or knowing how (or even if I could) articulate it.

    • Thanks Ryan, to be honest I did myself for a long time, it was only after starting writing this website that I started thinking about the way I travelled in a way I could reflect on and examine and write about. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  5. Siao Fui Wong says:

    Being spontaneous is the way to go. Don’t plan too much. Much easier.

  6. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    Such a beautiful article as always! I love the idea of just travelling wherever the wind or your curiosity takes you!

  7. marrephotography says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post! I plan on doing exactly what you described in Europe on my gap year and I couldn’t be more excited! Any must-sees?

  8. Brian Joseph says:

    Such a wonderful information. It’s really a very good blog.

  9. Alisha says:

    I love this! Definitely my kind of travel!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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