What makes a sport a sport? Is it the sense of community, the pumping adrenaline, the astounding achievements? Well that sounds very much like backpacking if you ask us!
Whilst backpacking might not have made it into the World Olympics quite yet, we’re putting forward 10 reasons why backpacking should, at the very least, be considered a legitimate sport. After all, if extreme ironing (yes, really) can make it onto the official sporting list, then why can’t backpacking?!
So, grab your kit and get limbered up. The game is about to begin!
1. Backpacking is basically weightlifting
In an ideal world, your backpack shouldn’t weigh more than about 20% of your total body weight. With that said, it would be such a shame not to squeeze in your day trainers, your walking boots, your sandals, your wellies and your tap dancing shoes, just in case the occasion calls, right? This is where backpacking becomes weightlifting – you’re simply swapping traditional weights for something with pockets and straps! And whilst there will be days where you’ll wish for nothing more than a backpack teleportation device (FYI – not yet invented), it’s always good to avoid the possibility of anyone ever asking you the dreaded question of “Hey bro, do you even lift?”
2. Your countries are your trophies
Who needs a mantelpiece brimming with trophies when you’ve tallied up more countries than Christopher Columbus? When it comes to backpacking, your countries are your accomplishments. From Peru to Portugal and Thailand to Tanzania, the more those countries keep stacking up, the more that sense of sporting achievement grows. After all, what’s the use in a trophy made from gold if you’re not going to flog it in exchange for a one-way plane ticket? Personally, we’re all about banking those memories over souvenirs – so let the competition for the most countries commence!
3. Your travel buddies make the best teammates
More often than not, a sport involves a team, and if a little team spirit is what you’re after then you’re guaranteed to get those vibes from backpacking (and more specifically hostelling 😉). Backpacking brings people together from all walks of life, and you’ll never feel more like one of the squad than in your roaring hostel grounds. Players within a team are described as having common goals and shared objectives. A crew of backpackers are united in the goal to see as much of the world as possible – the ultimate travel team! Now, where do we sign up for trials?
4. Early wake up calls are a traveller’s speciality
Booking the 4am bus because it’s €10 cheaper than the one two hours later always seems like a faultless idea when you’re two beers in. Luckily, waking up at unearthly hours is the making of sporting legends and as a seasoned traveller you’ll become well-rehearsed in early wake-up calls. The next time that you find yourself forcing your eyelids to open with little success just think to yourself “Did Muhammad Ali complain when he got woken up for an early morning session in the ring?” Probably. But did he do it anyway? Yes. Same rules, different game.
5. Travelling tests your endurance
If sitting on a cramped bus for 16 hours straight isn’t an endurance test of epic proportions, then we’re not sure what is. Throw in that the bus doesn’t have a toilet, Wi-Fi OR air-conditioning and it’s surprising that you’re not awarded a knighthood for your hardship as you get off at the other side. Endurance tests are a way of life for true sporting heroes and backpackers have this skill nailed by travelling to lands which are often only accessible (and affordable) by bus. So sit tight, download a meditation app and just pray that no-one has decided to bring yesterday’s egg sandwich on board.
6. Your supporters keep you strong
Behind every great sports team stands a team of great supporters. Backpacking half way across the world makes you realise who your cheerleaders are back home – even if the cheering does mainly come in the form of a text from Mum saying “Miss you. Keep exploring”. When the going gets tough, cheers of encouragement are what us backpackers need to keep pressing on with our adventures – and all the great sporting heroes rely on that same level of encouragement. Leaving parties and welcome home parades are enough to cement that sport star status as you jet off travelling – after all, it’s a tough task but you gotta make the fans proud.
7. You’ll beat your fastest speed
Some people can sprint 100 metres in under 10 seconds (Usain Bolt who!?), others can pack their life into a backpack in under 10 minutes – same same but different, right? Beating your personal best is the aim of the game in a host of sports, and when it comes to packing your backpack against the clock whilst travelling, there will be no shortage of practice time. The only thing left to debate is whether folding your clothes or rolling them allows you to maximise packing space in the shortest amount of time? The race is on.
8. Fitness becomes fun
Summiting mountains and deep-sea scuba diving are the ultimate distraction tools when it comes to burning calories. Even the number of steps which flash up on a Fitbit after a day of gentle exploring can leave you astounded. As with all sports, when it comes to backpacking you’ll be so involved with the task at hand that fitness simply becomes a bonus. Running for an hour on a treadmill like a hamster in a wheel might cut it for some, but us backpackers are after something a little more thrilling. Travelling the world really does get that adrenaline pumping and those calories counting!
9. Backpacking challenges the mind
A sport doesn’t just challenge the body, it also challenges the mind. Backpacking involves; meticulous planning of the best hiking routes, working out the mathematics behind surviving on less than €5 per day and choreographing your daily plans so that you’re maximising those hours spent in the sun. It’s almost scarily similar to the strategic planning which goes into the success of a good sports team. Whether it’s basketball, track sports or backpacking, it’s time to get your head in the game.
10. You can reflect on your performance
Nothing beats watching back hours upon hours of your favourite travel videos, or treating (ahem, forcing) your family to a good old fashioned slideshow of your top 2,000 travel pics. As with any great athlete, it’s important to reflect, take stock and analyse your best sporting achievements, to put on an even better show the next time around. Many teams will re-watch their matches in the changing room straight off the pitch, so the only real difference here is that you can re-watch your performance in the comfort of your own home. Ready for a team huddle?
Are there any other reasons why backpacking should be considered a legitimate sport? The ball is in your court now, so give it your best shot 😉!
About the author:
Jen Gale is currently travelling in India and Nepal. You can follow her journey on Instagram @jenkg05. Expect critiques of curries, swoons over the colourful clothes and a generous helping of photographs.