B. Read the text and expand on its contents
People and Diplomacy
THE GREAT REWARD of backpacking independently on a low budget is the people you meet. Because all roads have not been smoothed before you, because your feathers are likely to be ruffled when things don't turn out exactly as expected, and because you are likely to be left in somewhat of a lurch now and then, you will have far greater opportunity to mix with local people, as well as backpackers from all over the world, than any tour group or first-class traveler.
Those spending big bucks for guided travel get peace-of-mind in return. They are guaranteed no worries, no hassles, an experience as close as possible to being home, without being home. They get an hour and fifteen minutes for the guaranteed-open museum, then a two-hour sightseeing ride that catches all the picture-postcard highlights. They break for lunch at a "recommended" restaurant, where the food is reasonable and ordering is easy. And as the next bus pulls in they re-board theirs to repeat the routine, ending with an easy check-in at a reasonable hotel, populated with plenty of other tourists, pretty much like themselves.
While all travel is good for the human spirit, budget backpacking is unparalleled for meeting people and experiencing worlds on their own intimate terms. There are many travelers who have the resources for pampered-class but choose to strap on a backpack and see the world via the seat-of-their-pants, because they know it's the best way to experience cultures and interact with local people.
The best travel is not about a list of monuments, museums, and landscapes. The best travel is about people, and if you travel well it is people that you are going to remember most. People that are strange, unique, foreign, similar, friendly, nice, hospitable, loving, kind, rude, outrageous, and normal. These will be the experiences that stay with you forever, that no postcard can ever reproduce.
Most would-be travelers are nervous about going alone. They believe overseas travel is too daunting to be tackled by themselves. For many of us, however, if we don't travel alone, we aren't going to travel. It's difficult to find a travel partner who is not only compatible, but also has the same time, money, and goals. Fortunately, most travelers will find themselves constantly meeting other solo travelers, many of whom will also be looking for companionship, to have a few beers, or to exchange information. By no means is traveling alone the same as traveling lonely.
Of course, the solo traveler will likely be alone some or much of the time. This can be a good thing, however, as a companion might insulate you too much from local culture or other travelers, and the essence of good travel (I believe) is experiencing strange new people and cultures.
Furthermore, there is no better or faster way to learn about yourself than by traveling by yourself. Goethe said he traveled not for pleasure, but to achieve his full development as a man by the time he was forty. And one venerable Swedish doctor (who for good luck picked up every hitchhiker in sight while his son was hitchhiking in Asia, and who eventually--after five or ten stops--delivered me to his summer cabin to meet his beautiful wife) waxed almost mystical in saying he didn't feel he was really traveling unless he was doing so alone.
Traveling With Someone
Traveling with someone demands you know yourself and your partner. It is often said there would be less divorce if couples traveled a few months together before tying the knot. As with marriage, if you only think of your travel partner in terms of honeymoon rather than alliance, you are in for a sad shock.
Traveling with someone is an intense experience. Rarely in normal life do people spend so much time together, and make so many decisions, often based on little information. Selecting restaurants, taking buses, choosing museums, finding accommodation--all can cause great stress among couples. As a friend wrote, "Discovering you are hopelessly, completely, absolutely incompatible in a tent at 8000 feet and it's thirty-two degrees outside is not a good situation."
Just because someone is a good friend doesn't mean he would automatically be a good travel partner. Traveling with someone with whom goals, money, and even personal habits have not been fully discussed can be a relationship-destroyer and trip-ruiner. Get everything in the open before you commit yourself to a backpacking trip to hell.
The three basic categories of travel friction are:
1. One has an hourly itinerary, the other doesn't own a watch.
2. One prefers first-class, the other prefers the back of the bus.
3. One's makeup case is heavier than the other's backpack.
Do not underestimate profound differences such as these.
If you and your travel partner are not quite perfectly meshing, try taking turns being the chief decision-maker. The first day one chooses the restaurants and museums; the next day the other. (Me chief today, you chief tomorrow.) Also give each other time to explore alone, perhaps meeting for dinner, or next week in Paris. (But always have a standard plan for getting in touch if the original rendezvous fails, such as three or twenty-four hours later at the same place.)
Both must understand a good travel relationship requires compromise on both sides to achieve a greater whole. Whining and nagging is usually the result of one partner feeling like he or she is not being treated fairly. Listening is the most important--yet most abused--skill between people.
How to Meet People
Simply by being an independent backpacker traveler you will meet many people from all walks of life. As a group passenger/tourist you will be lucky to exchange more than a few pleasantries with other group passenger/tourists.
Of course the cardinal rule is you must reach out. This can be as simple as smiling, saying "Hello!" and taking an interest. Some people will respond, and some won't, but if they don't you shouldn't take it too personally. We all have our humbling moments.
Before hitting the road ask everyone you know for addresses. These might be of business people, exchange students, or relatives in "the old country." Then write an honest letter and hope for an invitation for a few days. They will probably get a contact high from you having so much fun.
One backpacker went to Europe in 1992 with $4000 and half-a-dozen addresses. He parlayed that into ten months, and paid for only two nights accommodation. He was invited to a number of social events, and had one of the best experiences of any I know. Of course he is a gifted traveler and communicator, but you probably have talent, too.
A good way to meet people while traveling is to do something. If you play an instrument well, bring it and make street music. (Personally, the market seems saturated with 60's and 70's American radio hits, but don't let that stop you.) If your art is making discordant static noises, bring your static noise makers, ask around, and perform.
If you have a hobby, go to a workshop or convention involving it and you. Some travelers sell jewelry or other items by laying them on a towel in market areas, or even on a park bench. You may make a few sales, strike up a conversation, and be invited to something. From there you will meet others, be invited somewhere else, etc The point is if you allow yourself the time and flexibility to get outside the broad center of the travel industry--and make effort--you may be rewarded with extraordinary travel.