Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 15, 2011

Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Book: Jessie’s Backpacker Tips

Dearest Readers,

So Gina has passed off some delightful little tricks of the backpacker trade. Well, I want in on that action.

Besides, it has been a few weeks since Gina’s post. And my advice is more stuff you should know along the way. So here is Jessie’s “Advice For Those Hoping To Backpack And Save Money And Be Smart About It.” (Clearly, I need to think of a better name before I go writing the book.) Some of the tips are physical things you should have and others are emotional things you should do, but all of them are practical things you should remember!

1. Save those little quart sized sandwich bags that they give you at the airport–and all plastic bags for that matter.

Basically, you never know when you will need them. You may want to pack a sandwich for your hike up a mountain, or you may have a wet washcloth that you don’t want to dampen the other contents of your backpack. A ziplock will always come in handy, and it takes up almost no space.

Other plastic bags are useful for these reasons, and because at most grocery stores in Europe you have to buy the bags (a rip off…but smart business-wise). So having bags ahead of time will save you moo-lah that you need for other things, like the food itself.

2. Carabiners.

Those little clampy things? Yes. Have them. You know those things that they sell in nature/trail stores that you think will never have a purpose in your trail-less travels? A carabiner has many purposes even for those non-hiker types such as myself.

I cart my travel pillow around carabiner-ed to my carry on bag. When we go out for a picnic, I carabiner the aforementioned plastic bag to my purse. When I can’t fit my sandals in my backpack, I carabiner them to the outside. (Gina: She’s never actually done that.) Carabiner = winning.

3. Use your hair things/ponytail holders.

Sorry guys; this is mostly a girl tip. You thought they were just for hair, but oh ho, you could not have been more wrong. They are for closing bags of food for backpack transport and for keeping your jeans tightly wound so they pack smaller … and I suppose they are for hair too.

4. Buy the books you actually want to read.

I have a confession. I, Jessie, nerdy feminist girl, love chick lit novels. Yes, it’s true. I, a lover of Truman Capote and ee cummings, love girl romance novels. Not super raunchy dirty novels, but cute, happy-ending beach reads.

I always used to try to hide that. I thought it made me seem weak or shallow, but now I just realize that it’s what I like, so what do I care? It’s not like I read these books and expect my life to be like that, I just like to read them.

And on this trip I have limited space for books (considering that I can’t buy e-books while abroad), so when I purchase a book, I have to actually intend on reading it.
Therefore, I am not going to chose the book that will make me look like an intellectual. I am going to chose the book that I truly enjoy, even if it has sparkly stars on the cover and is called This Charming Man. Actully, in this book’s defense, it turned out to be about domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and the lines of morality in journalism, which only goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

And you can’t judge a girl by her book. (I am so profound, I know, I know, stop it!)

5. Protein pack your meals, and keep emergency snacks in every bag.

My mother, being the personal trainer and general genius that she is, has impressed this lesson into my brain.

Eating an egg at breakfast instead of carb-y cereal will sustain you longer. If you have meat and cheese at lunch instead of pizza, dinner can be held off for more hours. Plus, if you have protein at meals, you won’t need to snack in between them.

Snacks are essential especially if you have low blood sugar like me. I keep a granola bar in every bag, because you never know when you will get roped into a walking tour that is supposed to last two hours, but then it goes on for four. Or when you will be trapped on a train for six hours without a food cart. Travelling is full of unexpected time-eaters (no pun intended), so be sure your stomach won’t be reduced to eating your other organs and pack a snack.

6. This one may seem obvious but it’s true: your water bottle is your best friend.

Carrying a water bottle has saved me so much money, because instead of buying drinks when I buy snacks, I just refill my water bottle in the nearest sink. Make sure you have a purse that can hold it, because you should keep your water bottle on you all the time. It is super easy to become dehydrated when you are walking all day.

7. Accept that some days will suck.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I was under the mistaken impression that if I was traveling the world, living the dream then that must mean I would never be in a bad mood/nothing bad could happen/the world would be perfect. I am not exactly sure where that mindset came from, but don’t worry, this disillusionment did not last long.
It’s still 6 weeks of my life, and when have you ever had 6 weeks where every day was perfect? Unless you are angelic or oblivious, it’s impossible. And that is okay. Just because every day isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that the trip is going poorly or that you are failing as a traveler.

And a few days are going to be particularly terrible. Nothing goes right, you miss something critical, and suddenly all you want to do is be home where everything is easier. Please know, dearest reader, that this is perfectly normal. Homesickness is natural.
The remedy for this? Normally, for me, it’s to Skype someone from home. Whether it be my boyfriend or my mom or my best friends at college or high school, just connecting to home makes it bearable.

The upside of these suck-y days, you ask? You savor the exceptional days, because if every day was exceptional, you wouldn’t appreciate it.

Well readers, I have more tips, but this post is lengthy enough. So I will leave you with these seven for now (for seven is the most magical number!…Harry Potter reference). I’m off to look out the window of the train as we travel through the Alps and daydream and read my chick lit novel that I love.

With love from Geneva!



  1. Thanks for the very valuable tips! I especially liked the carabiner tip, who would have thought those clips could be so helpful!

    One day you may be asked to write a travel book… and get paid for it!

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