First Time Backpacking: Your Life In A Bag

What will feel like on your first time backpacking? How will you manage to live out of a bag and what does that feel like? Read this interview with a first time backpacker to find out.

First Time Backpacking: Your Life In A Bag

Congratulations! You’ve planned your route, sorted out your visas and booked your flights. It’s your first time backpacking  and all that’s left for you to do is pack your bag and you’re off!

Please don’t get your hopes up and think that I am going to tell you exactly what you’ll need to pack for your backpacking trip. Anyone who regularly reads this blog can tell you that I am less about the practicalities of travel and more about the feels.

Feelings such as: what happens if this is your first time travelling with a backpack?

What will it feel like to have all of your worldly possessions reduced to fit in just one bag?

What are the practicalities you’ve got to consider when travelling with a backpack?

First Time Backpacking

I’m pretty sure I’ve tapped in to just some of the thoughts that might be whirring around in your head right now. So, to overcome your mad panic and to give you some of the answers to these questions I spoke recently with my best friend, Debbie, who has just spent three months backpacking through Australia.

It was Debbie’s first time backpacking and so I was intrigued to find out how she had found the experience.

Ultimately, I asked Debbie about how it feels to actually live out of a bag.

To kick us off, here is a little photo of our beautiful Debbie rocking out in Western Australia.

first time backpacking

Karijini National Park

In a Meanderwithmeg exclusive, I’m excited to bring you an interview with another solo female traveller.

Here is what she shared with us about her first time backpacking:

Life In A Bag

Talk us through the day to day practicalities of living out of a bag?

You have to be organised. Everything takes me longer because I can’t lay my hands immediately on the things I want. For example, at home, if you want to put on some clothes you just open your wardrove and can see everything  You don’t have to fossick around and search what you want. I feel it’s a constant battle to be organised and I’m aware the of the times when I’ve not bothered keeping my bag organised and it quickly becomes a bombsite.

My bag can feel like an illogical place in that sometimes it closes really easily and other times it does not want to shut, even though I’ve not added anything else to it. it always happens at the bad moments when you are feeling rushed.

You feel limited because you look at your clothes and there is not much to choose from. In some ways this can feel freeing, as from a minimalists point of view you’re escaping the tyranny of choice, but on the other hand you feel like you’re wearing the same things over and over. This can mean it’s hard to feel nice sometimes.

Having come from being someone who has had a whole apartment to herself, the fact that I have been able to live out of a bag without too many meltdowns makes me feel proud.

first time backpacking

How did you prepare for living your life from a backpack?

I wasted countless hours watching videos on YouTube that were not really helpful because they weren’t going to the same places that I was. I tried to be strict with myself. In hindsight I was too strict with myself in some areas  – not bringing enough underwear – and then too lax in other areas such as bringing too many t-shirts.

If your experience to date is holiday travelling, it’s very difficult to put yourself into a new situation and pack for a place you’ve never visited. Even if you’re a pro at packing for short term holidays or work trips, like I was, it doesn’t really help you in packing for a long term trip.

The decisions on the ‘just in case’ items are the hardest – such as the items you may only need once but when you need them you really need it. But on the whole, I’ve been able to buy most items I need in another country.

first time backpacking

Are there things that you bought with you that you didn’t use?

It depends on your activity and your location. On the east coast of Australia people may have wondered why I had jeans, hiking boots etc, but when I needed them in other areas of the country they made perfect sense.

In hindsight, I brought more toiletries that I needed. Packing one ‘luxury’ item that is worth its weight to you, no matter how infrequently you use them, is important. For me it was my hair straighteners, which I used extremely infrequently, but when I did they made me like my pre-travel self again.

What was your favourite item from your backpack?

First off has to be my packing cubes. If I didn’t have these with me I would have lost way more stuff and I would not have been able to keep my bag as organised.

My favourite item generally is my sarong because it is the cliché of the ultimate utility item. It has been used as a: beach towel, swim towel, picnic blanket, scarf, a bandage and a beach cover up.

first time backpacking

What was the biggest challenge you faced whilst living out of a bag?

Losing shit! Inexplicably, things lose themselves even when you take great care. These are always typically things that I love. I know you’re not supposed to bring things with you travelling that are expensive, and whilst these aren’t necessarily high value items they’re more the sentimental ones that get misplaced. It’s the frustration of things going walkabout that really gets me.

What was your favourite thing about travelling with your backpack?

I felt freer travelling with a backpack than with a suitcase. I saw myself the way others would see me – a backpacker  – and this is a way in which I had never viewed myself.

I liked having the zip on front that detached into a small day bag. It was also useful to be able to zip away the straps when flying. But my backpack didn’t have any extra pockets, which was really frustrating, as all my belongings had to fit in the main body of the bag.

first time backpacking

Kings Canyon, Northern Territory, Australia

If you travelled with a backpack again, is there anything you’d do differently?

I would take less stuff. I would be even more ruthless with clothes in the packing stages. You are not going to be invited to any cocktail parties.

Share some advice for someone about to experience their first time backpacking

You really don’t need as much as you think you do. And remember, you can always buy any extra things you need.

Pre-Trip Preparations

So, in summary guys, I’m going to keep it really simple: research your destination’s climate, culture and the activities you want to do there and create a list accordingly.

Then reduce this list by at least half.

As the focus is often on what to bring on a backpacking trip I find that the experience of backpacking becomes overlooked. I hope that this interview helps you to feel somewhat mentally prepared for what is to become: your life in a bag!

Embrace it and have fun!

Do you know anyone who is about to embark on their first time backpacking? Share this with them if you think they may need a little encouragement.

How do you think you’d feel living out of your backpack for the first time? Are you a long-term backpacking champ who’d like to share your pearls of wisdom? Let me know in the comments.

Love it? Pin it! (Note: Image below is half sized. For a full sized image, click the Pin It button on my floating social media share menu.)

What will feel like on your first time backpacking? How will you manage to live out of a bag and what does that feel like? Read this interview with a first time backpacker to find out.


    • January 29, 2017 / 6:15 AM

      So pleased you liked my blog post, Demelza! Thanks for reading.

  1. January 20, 2017 / 8:08 AM

    Awesome.. wish I was back to those days

    • January 21, 2017 / 6:25 AM

      It can be so much fun! We like to idealise backpacking and it does seem like a rather dreamy, carefree life! Hope you get to relive some adventures soon.

  2. January 20, 2017 / 1:57 PM

    I’ve never been backpacking, but have always thought about the idea to do it, especially in South America or around New Zealand or Australia. This post definitely prepares me a bit because living out of a backpack is romanticized but can definitely be a huge change! Thanks for all these great tips!

    • January 21, 2017 / 6:24 AM

      Ooh, backpacking round Aus and NZ I can definitely recommend. It’s on my wish-list to travel in South America. I agree that the idea of backpacking can be glamorised when in reality it’s often anything but. It was my hope that writing this would help a few people catch a glimpse of life on the road and prepare them for their journey. Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. January 20, 2017 / 11:49 PM

    I have the same problem with packing too little underwear 😀 Fortunately it´s easy to buy (although now I am wearing the supermarket granny style, haha). Also the part about loosing right that one thing that you love the most! Nothing can be done with it. Pinning and tweeting 🙂

    • January 21, 2017 / 6:21 AM

      Yes, I’ve been there with the cheap underwear – totally glamorous! I agree that it’s usually the little things with the most sentimental value that get broken or lost, no matter how careful you are, so it’s always a huge risk to bring them. But you’ve just got to have a couple of personal things like that to keep you sane, I reckon. Thanks so much for reading and your comment.

  4. January 21, 2017 / 12:18 PM

    Your article came in very handy as I am leaving in 2 weeks for my first serious backpacking trip in South America and don´t have time to watch youtube tutorials 😉 I will follow your advice and half my list. Happy travels!

    • January 24, 2017 / 3:55 AM

      Enjoy your backpacking trip across South America – that sounds incredible! So glad you found the blog useful!

  5. January 21, 2017 / 7:08 PM

    I’ve always been secretly terrified of backpacking but I feel a lot better after reading this. Thank you so much for sharing Debbie’s experiences with us, really enjoyed reading this! 🙂

    • January 24, 2017 / 4:01 AM

      I’m so pleased that you found this post reassuring, Rimsha. Perhaps one day you’ll be inspired to give it a go yourself. Happy travels!

  6. January 28, 2017 / 3:14 AM

    I remember that feeling when I first started back packing. I had waaaaaay too much stuff. I now celebrate the less my bag weighs!

    • January 29, 2017 / 6:23 AM

      Me too! I do a secret air punch every time I check my bag in at the airport and it weighs less than I figured it was going to!

  7. November 19, 2020 / 6:34 AM

    such an amazing blog, the content is so well written, thanks for sharing.

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