The one recurring feature of a long backpacking stint (aside from dirty laundry and malnutrition) is public bloody transport. As any traveler can testify when you get the option of taking any other mode of transport rather than another long distance bus, you grab it with both hands. When that mode of transport is a boat, you’re in for a real treat…
I’ve taken boats up the Nile, down the Mekong, across Japan, Korea and China, from Ireland and France and I can’t get enough of them! Here are the 5 reasons why I think traveling by boats beats any other mode of transport, no contest:
1) Space. With you knees jammed somewhere up around your chin in another cross-country bus, you truly begin to appreciate the luxury of space that boats can afford. In fact, I revel in it so much that I often run to the centre of the deck and burst into spontaneous starjumps simply because I can. Seriously, you can walk around at your leisure, even sometimes order food and drinks and spread out and sleep if you really need to.
2) Leisurely pace. Some may argue that this is a negative aspect but I beg to differ. Boats are not lightning fast, far from it but this is another aspect I enjoy. You meander across an ocean or down a river at a leisurely pace, giving you time to genuinely appreciate the journey that you’re on. You can plan your next steps with all the free time you find yourself with and kick back, read a book and sanctimoniously think of all the people around the world darting to and fro in their fast-paced jobs while you, unhurriedly, enjoy the rolling of the water.
3) Cheap. This certainly applies to the boats that I take although I fully appreciate this isn’t always the case. As a budget traveler, luxury yachts and cruise-ships aren’t my haunt at all but cargo boats, slow ferries, feluccas etc certainly don’t burst any tight budgets. If you choose wisely and are in no rush, boats can be the cheapest mode of transport. You don’t (can’t) spend too much money while you’re onboard, the tickets often include accommodation and food, you can bring your own booze and snacks on board – all in all, a bargain mode of transport.
4) Exciting. Don’t even bother trying to tell me you didn’t dream about sailing boats as a kid, following in the footsteps Christopher Columbus or Vasco De Gama or chasing pirates in the high seas. This lets you (discreetly!) relive your childhood dreams in the most traditional long distance transport available. Land Ahoy!
5) Social. Possibly the best aspect to traveling by boat, certainly for a backpacker, is the social side. You’re stuck on this vessel for a long-time with a finite group of people to converse with, before too long you’ll be swapping stories like old friends.