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How to backpack around the States?

Badly Drawn Girl

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  • Added on: October 24th, 2010
Okay, this is a bit of a bizarre post lol, but here goes.

I am a fairly experienced backpacker, who is an American, but who has never actually really traveled within her home country. I am thinking of having a vagabondish wander through the middle bit of the nation (I've been to both coasts, and that's it) and wondering exactly what the best way of going about it is.

I ask because the last country I really backpacked through was New Zealand, which was convenient mainly because it was so freaking small and everything was so easily accessible. America, as I understand it, is a little bit bigger. ;) So I'm wondering: do I go Greyhound? Do I try to rideshare? Do I try to acquire a super-cheap car (keeping in mind that as a former NYC resident I am not the biggest fan of driving). I would prefer to do things slightly off the beaten track if possible, however getting from Point A to Point B will always be the priority, so if I have to skip out on some really delightfully backwater places, then so be it.

I know this is kind of vague, but uh...anyone have any suggestions? Haha...

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: October 25th, 2010
Get a car and camping gear - it's really the only way to do it in the States. That, or stick to urban areas and try Couchsurfing. You could try Driveaway too, if you have a clean driving record. This is ideal if you are flexible with route and itinerary. Basically, you deliver a car from one point to another, sometimes with a small stipend for gas. An English friend scored a Mercedes convertible delivery from Montreal to Miami Beach a few years ago, with $200 for gas.

I've done a bit of this in the States, and the backwater places are the true reason to wander around this country. Being on the Interstate or easily accessible kills the charm, which is why you'll need your own transport. I generally hate cars too, living downtown in a largish metro area, but love road trips.

Badly Drawn Girl

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  • Added on: October 25th, 2010
Thing is, this trip is probably going to take place around the dead of winter - it's coinciding with a move to the west coast, otherwise I would time it better. So I don't know how well camping gear would work out haha...argh.

busman7

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  • Added on: October 25th, 2010
Just drove Route 66 & you don't have to get more than 1/2 mile off the interstate to find some hidden gems, like Cuba MO. However a car is necessary as the US is based on travel by automobile, unlike Latin America or SE Asia where public transportation rules.

Winter you are basically stuck Motel 6's or the like.
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mynetdude

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  • Added on: December 23rd, 2010
semi old thread, but this presented my question as well.

I am very inexperienced, I am not ready to try backpacking outside the USA ironically that sounds more like a challenge than starting off somewhere like in Oz or whatever.

I can drive, I don't like driving sometimes but I fly, take the train, bus, taxi (in the city/urban areas whatever), ferry, cruise ship, etc. Obviously in your case, you're going to the middle of the US, I hope you come back to this thread OP.

I've been to NYC for 3 days, went to Hawaii for 2 days (was supposed to be 4) now I am rescheduled to go back for 7 days. After that I intend to start vagabonding in Alaska (oh good choice huh?) this summer. I didn't go to NYC or Hawaii to try backpacking (well wait a minute, a little bit) but really I did it so I could just travel and iron out kinks really.

I might take a side trip in April not sure where yet though, all depends on the weather and a million other factors.

DavidAM

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  • Added on: January 27th, 2011
mynetdude wrote:semi old thread, but this presented my question as well.

I am very inexperienced, I am not ready to try backpacking outside the USA ironically that sounds more like a challenge than starting off somewhere like in Oz or whatever.

I can drive, I don't like driving sometimes but I fly, take the train, bus, taxi (in the city/urban areas whatever), ferry, cruise ship, etc. Obviously in your case, you're going to the middle of the US, I hope you come back to this thread OP.

I've been to NYC for 3 days, went to Hawaii for 2 days (was supposed to be 4) now I am rescheduled to go back for 7 days. After that I intend to start vagabonding in Alaska (oh good choice huh?) this summer. I didn't go to NYC or Hawaii to try backpacking (well wait a minute, a little bit) but really I did it so I could just travel and iron out kinks really.

I might take a side trip in April not sure where yet though, all depends on the weather and a million other factors.


I'd love to hear more about your travels. I've been considering a roadtrip or some sort of backpacking adventure through the US and I'd love to hear how you did it. Backpacking Hawaii is pretty easy to my knowledge. I also live in the New York area and it's very easy to get around without a car.
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mynetdude

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  • Added on: January 27th, 2011
DavidAM wrote:I'd love to hear more about your travels. I've been considering a roadtrip or some sort of backpacking adventure through the US and I'd love to hear how you did it. Backpacking Hawaii is pretty easy to my knowledge. I also live in the New York area and it's very easy to get around without a car.


Hawaii doesn't seem hard to do much, everything is fairly self contained on the islands and as for NYC well it was kinda obvious, the taxis are an experience :). I am told that outside of Manhattan it is harder to get the yellow medallion taxicabs but I never had the opportunity to go outside of Manhattan with the exception of being on the HO/HO bus.

I will definitely report back, its more of the getting there and here that requires a bit more legwork in backpacking but once you are in the cities backpacking should be fairly easy FWIW.

Erika Ayala

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  • Added on: February 24th, 2011
Badly Drawn Girl wrote: Do I try to acquire a super-cheap car (keeping in mind that as a former NYC resident I am not the biggest fan of driving).


Whenever I go backpacking with my friends, what we do is to rent a car. At first, I was hesitant about renting because I thought it was expensive. Good thing, one of my friends told me rental car codes we could use. Thank God, we used these rental car codes. We were able to rent a car at a very affordable price. Plus, it was so convenient for us to go around different places around the United States. :D
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KathleenO

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  • Added on: February 24th, 2011
Car is the best way to go! We drove cross country in the winter through all the southern states and camped. We froze our butts off in the Grand Canyon campground, but otherwise we were fine. We also stayed at lots of motels. Turned out to be cheaper and less shady than hostels. The only hostel I've enjoyed in the US is Hostel in the Forest in Georgia. I took the Greyhound once too but I wouldn't recommend it. You can't stop in all of the cool places you see along the way.

Straum

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  • Added on: March 30th, 2011
If you want to get off the beaten path, why don't you bike?

If you search something like "long distance bike trails" you can find a couple hundred to 1000s of miles of bike trail (no car) some that cross several states and many that do it in groups so you wouldn't have to be alone.

I can't think of a greater way to "backpack" the US than loading up a pannier or two and finding a couple hundred mile trek across some gorgeous terrain near you and taking off for a week or two! You'll meet all kinds of people on the way.
Netherlands in April, Pacific Northwest in June, then on up to work at the family business, a Victoria BC hotel for tourist season... then a hop over to Montreal for the fall (hopefully)! A traveler's life for me!

RyuKamagata

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  • Added on: April 15th, 2011
Felix the Hat wrote:Get a car and camping gear - it's really the only way to do it in the States. That, or stick to urban areas and try Couchsurfing.


Quoted for truth. The US is too big, and is too obsessed with its car culture, to develop a good backpacking/traveling infrastructure. Though most major US (finally) are getting hostels in good numbers now, so that's worth checking out...

Jeanie99

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  • Added on: May 26th, 2011
When we backpacked in the US we did a bit of everything, coaches, trains, ferries,hired a car for the camping which meant we could use camp-sites and this worked out very cheap and also you can get to all the places other transport doesn't go you too. There were three of us so it worked out cheaper sharing the cost and the driving.
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Lucky Luke

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  • Added on: May 27th, 2011
I spent a week trying to backpack round Florida last year, at the end of a longer trip. I'd planned to hire a car but the $200 rental I had booked online mysteriously became $500 when I went to pick the car up so I found myself unexpectedly reliant on public transport. It was a nightmare.

The greyhounds were not as cheap as I would have expected, they only went once or twice a day and often dropped you in out of the way locations at inconvenient times of day (Orlando bus station at 4am anyone?!!)

Local buses were hit and miss (great in Florida City and Miami, practically non existant in the Keys) and terminated in funny places - I once got dropped off on the side of a highway with literally just the bus stop, 8 homeless guys and a supermarket and nothing else, and over four hours until the connecting bus next came!

Getting anywhere other than the main cities was a real mission; schedules just didn't line up so if your destination was even slightly off the beaten path, you'd quite likely have to stay several hours (or even the night) in some pit-stop town along the way before the next bus will show up.
I ended up doing something I said I'd never do and hitchhiked by myself. It was the only viable way to get from one place to another at reasonable times of day without having your own car.

I was lucky that the people I met were lovely; one lady drove 20km out of her way to drop me off because she didn't like the idea of me being out on the side of the road by myself.
What I wasn't prepared for was that, because I was hitching (or even when I was on a bus) and had a rucksack with me, people assumed I was homeless or couldn't afford to get where I needed to go - even homeless guys at the bus stop where giving me advice about how to get the local church to buy me a bus ticket to where I needed to go!

While the experience gave me a better impression of the average American than I'd had before (but a worse one of the transport system!) it's not necessarily an experience I'd choose to repeat.
I'd say 100%, if you are going to travel within the US, get your own transport.

busman7

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  • Added on: May 27th, 2011
Lucky Luke wrote:I spent a week trying to backpack round Florida last year, at the end of a longer trip. I'd planned to hire a car but the $200 rental I had booked online mysteriously became $500 when I went to pick the car up so I found myself unexpectedly reliant on public transport. It was a nightmare.

The greyhounds were not as cheap as I would have expected, they only went once or twice a day and often dropped you in out of the way locations at inconvenient times of day (Orlando bus station at 4am anyone?!!)

Local buses were hit and miss (great in Florida City and Miami, practically non existant in the Keys) and terminated in funny places - I once got dropped off on the side of a highway with literally just the bus stop, 8 homeless guys and a supermarket and nothing else, and over four hours until the connecting bus next came!

Getting anywhere other than the main cities was a real mission; schedules just didn't line up so if your destination was even slightly off the beaten path, you'd quite likely have to stay several hours (or even the night) in some pit-stop town along the way before the next bus will show up.
I ended up doing something I said I'd never do and hitchhiked by myself. It was the only viable way to get from one place to another at reasonable times of day without having your own car.

I was lucky that the people I met were lovely; one lady drove 20km out of her way to drop me off because she didn't like the idea of me being out on the side of the road by myself.
What I wasn't prepared for was that, because I was hitching (or even when I was on a bus) and had a rucksack with me, people assumed I was homeless or couldn't afford to get where I needed to go - even homeless guys at the bus stop where giving me advice about how to get the local church to buy me a bus ticket to where I needed to go!

While the experience gave me a better impression of the average American than I'd had before (but a worse one of the transport system!) it's not necessarily an experience I'd choose to repeat.
I'd say 100%, if you are going to travel within the US, get your own transport.


While the car culture in the US/Canada is largely to blame for the lack of a workable public transportation system, the blatant disregard for their customers shown by Greyhound is due to the greed of it's current owners, Britain's First Choice Group.
http://blogs.bootsnall.com/busman7 | http://wwwlasbrisasplayasandiego.blogspot.com
"I started out alone to seek adventures. You don't really have to seek them - that is nothing but a phrase - they come to you." Mark Twain



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