At one time, not so long ago, backpacking through Europe was the cheap way to travel the continent, see the sights and have an adventure or three. Now the practice is considered eco chic. Despite leaving tread marks from $400 hiking boots, the rite of passage is now said to leave “green” footprints as one’s transportation is primarily by foot. With accessories that include head kerchiefs, jeans and beaded necklaces it could almost be 1968—except that the technology utilized in the manufacture of the hikers’ backpacks, boots and MP3 players wasn’t available yet. As a matter of fact, many of the current participants’ parents weren’t on the scene yet, either.
Making Do with Miniaturized Technology
The backpacking, mountain biking, mountain climbing and river rafting forays are even more ambitiously adventurous when done in Europe—even if one has a guide for adventures like mountain biking and river rafting that require equipment. The advances and miniaturization of technology do help, nonetheless.
Music is portable and about the size of a pack of breath-freshening gum. Credit cards are easier to handle than multiple bills of different countries’ currencies. Cameras can be purchased smaller than a pack of cigarettes with automated features that make one realize why so few photographs made it back home in 1968, having been imprinted onto film in what would now be an enormous camera almost the size of one’s head. Sleeping bags are no longer huge, heavy and impossible to maintain in a coiled position on one’s backpack. Instead, they’re about the size of a large beach towel and weight half as much as one.
Taking Care & Other Preparations
The most remarkable changes have been in the attitudes of backpackers. They’re no longer as naive as they once were and don’t consider themselves quite so invincible. They read travel guides or refer to purchased e-copies on their smartphones. They read and advise fellow travelers about certain dangers of the road. One remarkable aspect of their new mindset is demonstrated through the purchase of an international health insurance policy for their foreign travel.
Any travel—even within one’s own country—has a slight degree of risk: driving in a car, navigating unfamiliar streets and cities, eating in an undesirable restaurant. This potential risk increases significantly when one is intentionally traveling as a pedestrian along foreign roads, hiking mountain trails, mountain biking or river rafting.
Further, if one is not fluent in the language of the country or is unconscious from an injury, the thought of requiring medical care under such conditions can be quite frightening. Thus, in addition to purchasing foreign health insurance, you should also carry a laminated card or cards detailing your medical history, medications you take and any drug allergies you might have. If possible, this information should be translated into the primary language of the country in which you are currently traveling. Despite English being the lingua franca for medical issues, your backpacking treks and adventures may take you far off the beaten path.
Have a safe and secure trip. Just because you take precautions doesn’t mean it isn’t an adventure. It just means you’ve got some common sense and plan to live longer than this particular journey.