Stefano De Simone chats about his backpacking adventures. Picture: Supplied
Stefano De Simone chats about his backpacking adventures. Picture: Supplied

Italian backpacker’s guide to the universe of hostels and hitch-hiking

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Aug 17, 2021

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Italian-born Stefano De Simone decided to pack a backpack to travel around the world at the age of 25. "I needed something fulfilling and a backpacking adventure was the answer,” he said.

For his first trip, he ventured into Asia, travelling from Vietnam to India without flying.

“The trip was impromptu. All I saw was India on a paper map, and I wanted to travel there. I slowly started to piece together a way I could travel without having to fly. I wanted to meet as many people as I could along the journey.

“I will admit, it was hard. Very hard. It took some time to get used to the culture. But after three weeks I started to feel more at home. That is where my journey really started,” he recollected.

De Simone felt backpackers were painted in a negative light.

“People think we are wasting our life doing what we do, but it’s the complete opposite. There’s nothing more important than exploring our planet, and backpacking is the best way to do that. Being a backpacker is better than having a good job or position in society,” he said.

From camping in the middle of nowhere to exploring dangerous jungles, there’s very little De Simone hasn’t done as a backpacker.

As a solo traveller, the 30-year-old checks into hostels or stays with local hosts. He cooks his own meals and hitchhikes in places where he feels safe to save on transport.

De Simone doesn’t do much planning for his trips. He usually takes it one day at a time.

“When you travel for a long time, it is impossible to make long term plans,” he said. One of his most cherished aspects of backpacking is forming friendships with fellow travellers. He recalled a story that touched his heart while at a hostel in Nepal.

“There was a Canadian guy in a hostel whose dream was to travel the world. He desperately wanted to explore new places but didn’t have the funds to do so. As luck would have it, he won $30 000 dollars at a casino when he played poker. He told me that: ‘If you really want something, fate finds a way to give it to you’. There are many people that you will meet, all with interesting stories to share,” he said.

His advice to first-time backpackers is to sleep in hostels, use public transport, engage with the locals and savour the local cuisine.

The Philippines, South America, Iran and Afghanistan are also on his bucket list.

Read the latest edition of IOL Travel digital magazine here.

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