If you haven’t previously thought of attempting backpacking, Thea Taylor, a first-year environmental engineering student and avid traveller, would convince you otherwise. This past summer she concluded five and a half months of travel that had accumulated over her gap year.
Last year, she picked up a single backpack and left on an unforgettable journey that spanned across Europe, Asia, and Canada. Her adventure began in Italy then took her to Manchester, England to stay with a relative; followed by Dublin, Ireland; and Amsterdam, Netherlands as a layover on the way to Taiwan.
“You want to have a bit of flexibility in your schedule,” Taylor said, “[just in case] you meet people and hear of other opportunities.”
Arriving in Taiwan, she was delighted by the amazing coastal biking and friendly people. For two weeks, she worked at a hostel for two weeks in exchange for food and accommodation, where she was able to meet and interact with other tourists and workers. Proceeding Taiwan was Bali, Indonesia for scuba diving; Singapore, for a layover; Beijing, China for a day; and finally, Paris, France.
Despite the excitement of international travel, Taylor explained that people would tell her how lucky she was to be from Canada and have access to its beautiful landscapes.
“‘I can travel around Canada and it can be equally as good as taking a 10-hour plane,’” she remembered thinking. Taylor then embarked on a trip back home, visiting Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nigei Island, a remote location off the northern point of Vancouver Island, where she spent a month as a working at a nature scuba diving resort. There she kayaked, canoed, snorkelled, and experienced life with two hours of electricity a day and no phone reception or Wi-Fi.
For first-time backpackers, Taylor suggests visiting a location with a connection to be able to have a place to live. Her personal must-haves include duct tape, a compact towel, snorkel and goggles, a watch, and a camera.
As well, for nervous independent travellers such as herself at the start, Taylor expressed that it’s important to put things into perspective and to “make connections with people because … everyone has something amazing they want to share.
“The people definitely make the place. Everyone there had the same mindset as me [and] you can learn from [them],” she said.