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Why backpacking culture is not popular in Kerala as compared to Northern states.

Screenshot 2021-08-14 at 10.23.25 PM

George Michael Fernandez

Written on 13th Aug 2021

George Michael Fernandez

Written on 13th Aug 2021

“Travel is never a matter of money but of courage” – Paulo Coelho.

There are two types of travellers: those who go by the books and those who don’t. Backpackers fall into the second category as they deliberately stay away from anything too ‘touristy’ during their travel time. These are the bunch for whom itinerary is an unfamiliar word, and they want to get surprised by the possibilities offered by a new place.

The backpacking philosophy: We are travellers not tourists

The experience of visiting a famous museum in Jaipur would be much different when you are not trying to stick to a schedule. The countless artefacts confide in them a vast amount of history that may reflect differently to each individual. You might want to stay in front of the collection of royal fashion and bring alive those illustrations encountered during your school life. The exquisite patterns drawn on these imperial clothing might startle the fashionista in you, or the texture of the fabric might be speaking volumes about the socio-political conditions that existed back then. The possibilities are endless, and when you’ve decided to put that extra effort and squished a part of your savings to travel, you deserve nothing short of a transformative experience. Thus, this kind of travel experience reveals the urban landscapes in India to be as exquisite as the natural locales, with their enriching aesthetics and multiculturalism.

There are many reasons why someone decides to choose this way of traveling, but their innate goal is to have a story nobody else has. The adrenaline offered by the uncertainty of where a place will take you next has got a kick of its own. What’s even more interesting is the possibility of meeting new people and unwinding with them over a cup of coffee — preferably with some ‘Pink Floyd’ playing in the backdrop.

Backpacking: A well established and popular phenomenon in North India

More accessibility due to an excellent public transport network

Most urban centres in north India boast of maintaining an excellent public transport network with nearby tourist destinations. Most of the top destinations are overnight bus rides from cities like Mumbai and Delhi. With the recently launched UDAN — a regional air connectivity scheme by the Central Government of India — access to the main cities has become a lot easier for people residing in tier 2 cities in North India. When a tourist destination becomes more accessible, the backpackers flock in large numbers as it satisfies their two most fundamental conditions — budget and exclusivity.

Existence of a whole economy that caters to the backpacking culture

Such an increase in tourist footprint, in turn, has contributed to the development of a backpacking culture amongst people residing in the northern parts of the country. A whole economy has come up in place to cater for these travellers who are in a relentless pursuit of discovery. You could easily rent a tent or a two-wheeler at a cheap cost and be on your own. Quite often, an entire area becomes your canvas, and you get to be the sole proprietor of your time — unhindered by the monopoly of expensive private transportation means.

Exposure to multiculturalism

Embodying multiculturalism is a must when you are a backpacker. Indian metropolis is relatively more cosmopolitan than the rest of the country. With people from various cultural backgrounds living under the same buzz of these cities, it helps its residents fluidly blend in with other cultures. Embracing culture is a prerequisite for creating a successful backpacking story. The cheap accommodations available for backpackers are mostly homestays and hostels, and these are the melting pot of different cultures. By hosting people from other parts of the world, the hosts themselves have acquired a multi-cultural identity. More than a mere relationship between a customer and a vendor, the hosts are genuinely excited to interact and make sure their guests have a pleasant time during their stay. Exposure to different cultures and constant interaction with them makes it easier for North India to adapt to a backpacking culture. 

Assurance of safety

At least, in India’s case, ironically, the most preferred backpacking destinations are the most commercialised tourist hubs. States like Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are where you could easily spot backpackers, yet they do not lack conventional tourists. Safety is perhaps the biggest concern for backpackers in India. When the entire town realises that tourism is the backbone of their livelihood, providing a sense of safety to tourists becomes their number one priority. A state as big as Rajasthan lets a backpacker indulge in various experiences, from looking over a star-studded sky while lying on a desert to frolicking in the neon lights of a city. Himachal Pradesh has been successful in compartmentalizing its tourist destinations to suit the preferences of all kinds of travelers. A traveler can easily revel in the adrenaline rush of adventure activities yet find comfort in the solitude of lush mountains on the same journey.

Backpacking culture in Kerala: A potential love story

Compared to the rest of India, travellers in Kerala tend to travel as a group or with their family. Even the youngsters arrive in popular locales and go with the flow and often embrace the general touristy vibe. Meandering through a place by adopting a well-established itinerary has got its advantages. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with visiting all the famous tourist places — there’s a reason why these places are favourite, and they offer a truly unique experience. But, when you are a backpacker, even though the destination of your journey might be the same as a tourist, the path you take would consist of so many twists and turns. There’s so much uncertainty involved, and the surprises a new place can throw at you would be dazzling yet exhilarating. 

An excellent place to start would be by checking in on hostels instead of hotels the next time you pack your bags. By interacting with hosts and fellow travelers, your travel destination opens up like a textbook written exclusively for you. Don’t let a goal lead you, follow your heart and curate your journey. 

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