Backpacking in a strange country may seem foreign to many of us, but there are people who enjoy this. Not only are they able to travel on a budget, but it opens their eyes to many aspects a normal tourist may overlook. I meet one of them named Judith Meury from Switzerland while on a game drive in Port Elizabeth. At first she is reserved, but as we speak I realise how well versed she is in travel. It is her first time in South Africa. She will visit the Kruger National Park, Port Elizabeth and the Garden Route during her 4 week stay.
A social worker by profession, she said backpacking allowed her the freedom to choose her holiday destinations and how long she wanted to stay.
“I remember my first backpacking trip in 2001. I was in Australia with a group of friends. I decided one day that I was not going to stress too much on planning holidays and just allow myself to explore where I want.
“What I love about a backpacker’s lifestyle is that it affords me the opportunity to make decisions. This means that I can choose to live in budget accommodation or splurge on some extra comfort, it all depends on how much money I have and what mood I am in on a particular day,” she says.
Meury and I take grab a bite to eat. We sit in a picnic spot at Addo Elephant National Park, munching on some cheese sandwiches. I offer her my hotel breakfast goodie bag with packed biscuits, pastries and yogurt, of which she declines.
“The idea of having enough time to discover a country is something that heightens my passion for travel. Many people do not understand a backpacker’s lifestyle and generally assume that we do not have money. For me its freedom and having the ability to take each day at a time,” she tells me.
The Switzerland beauty stands up to take a smoke. She counts 10 as the number of countries she has been, including Thailand, Vietnam, Ireland, Germany and Scotland.
Her challenges is finding out where to go and organising hostels, but she is hoping that turns into a strength in the near future.
Meury does not have a specific country that she finds special as every one of the countries she has been to has been different and taught her a lesson.
“There are many special places, I cannot pick just one. Every place has something different. For example, South Africa is fantastic for its nature and game drives, which I took full opportunity while I was there,” she said.