Immersion Travel versus Backpacking/Couchsurfing
(by T.W. Anderson)


Cash Back Coupon!

Long-term readers of Marginal Boundaries blog have heard me talk about, on more than one occasion, the difference between immersion travel (otherwise known as slow travel) and backpacking. The latter is skim reading the novel and only picking up the basic gist of what’s going on, while the former is reading the entire book cover to cover, poring over each line of text and immersing yourself in the characters as well as the lore of the book. 

That’s not to say that one style of travel is better than the other; some people prefer to go the backpacker route, spending a few days to a few weeks in each destination before moving onto the next. Personally, it’s not for me, as I prefer to spend months if not years in a particular area so that I can fully immerse myself in the culture and learn everything there is to know, as well as experience everything there is to experience within the local area.



Going back to the pitfalls of long-term travel, one of the issues long-term travelers run into is burnout. After so many weeks or months on the road continually changing hotels and hostels, living out of your backpack, dealing with missed flights, bad public transportation, cutthroat taxi drivers and the expensiveness of living without a base of operations, you eventually reach a point where enough is enough, and you’d rather take a moment to breathe.



For my own personal experience I can say that if I didn’t take my time in each destination and actually explore it to its depths, I never would have met Cristina. Had I only stayed in Cancun for a mere three months, which was my original plan, we would never have met, and consequently I never would’ve learned all of the secret corners and mysteries that exist here.

At the very basic level, it is absolutely impossible to experience cultural immersion if you never spend more than a few days or a few months in a given destination. It takes months to learn a language, years to speak it fluently, and even more time to learn local colloquialisms, cultural differences, customs and beyond.

CouchSurfing is relatively new, and is one of the by-products of the social media growth of the last half-dozen years, and while it does allow you to lower the costs of travel significantly, you are still beholden to the typical hotel or hostel environment where you only have a few days in each destination. While some hosts will allow you to stay for a week or so, the vast majority of people are only looking to host an individual for 2 to 3 days. Sure, you can bounce around from host to host within a given city, but you never have time to relax and you will always be packing your bags and moving out of the next hotspot before you’ve had a chance to really soak in the first place.

At the very basic level, it is absolutely impossible to experience cultural immersion if you never spend more than a few days or a few months in a given destination. It takes months to learn a language, years to speak it fluently, and even more time to learn local colloquialisms, cultural differences, customs and beyond.


Until you truly experience a country and its people, you will never really understand them, and you will never be more than a foreigner; a guest, passing through on a temporary passport stay, on the way to the next destination and the next adventure.

I personally don’t have a problem with doing the backpacking circuit for a short term duration, but after more than a few months of continual travel, I always reach burnout, because I can’t stand having to pack my bag every three or four days and move on. The older I get, the longer I enjoy staying in a destination. It used to be that three months felt good, but now I don’t reach the point of feeling comfortable until I’ve had at least six months on the ground; only then can I say that I have truly experienced a given destination.

Mileage will vary based upon individuals, but it is something to think about if you are planning on taking off for a full-time adventure at a life on the road. This also goes back to the first chapter which talks about the types of travel, because at the end of the day you do have to make a decision about whether or not you are going to be a backpacker or an immersion traveler because it absolutely does have an impact on the overall experience.


Related Articles......

Life on the Road - Researching your Destination

Life on the Road - Types of Travel

Life on the Road - Base of Operations

Return from Immersion Travel versus Backpacking to International Travel Writers Homepage



Having trouble finding what you need? International Travel Writers Index and Map

OR

Do you have a travel experience or story to share? Share your travels here!


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.


     By Carolynne Woods, © Copyright 2010-2014. International Travel Writers.com   All rights reserved images and text