The Most Famous Backpacker Of All Time

Who is the most famous backpacker of our time? Its a question worthy of some debate i believe. If there had to be one backpacker who was the 'pin up' or the one to go down in the history books, who would it be.....

One of the earliest free spirited travelers i thought should get a mention was Marco Polo. The legend traveled for 24 years. 24 years. I dont know if the term backpacker was probably appropriate, more of a 'slackpacker' - Where some travelers take the high road and some take the low road, Marco Polo took the long and slow road, setting out on a quest to really understand a place and its people. Legend.

Ibn Battuta - This 13th centuy Moroccan traveler covered 75,000 miles in 30 years around the world. He almost makes Marco Polo look like he was out for a casual stroll. He traveled mainly around the Middle East and Asia as a raggety camelpacker, although become an affluent member of the Muslim world during his later years, presiding as a judge until his death caught up with him.

So those dudes are long gone. Their legacies live on though. But who is still alive that could possibility be the backpacker pin-up traveler?? Could it be.....

• Charles Veley of San Francisco, who has visited 600 plus of what he counts as 673 territories. Or is this guy just a part time hero out for some fame?? Does he truly capture what it means to be a backpacker, someone prepared to travel the road less traveled, in an independent manner for nothing more than the satisfaction of understanding the world we live in.

• How about traveling Matt. The guy who zipped around the world in six months, visiting 39 countries and dancing a crazy little dance in each one of them. Check out the link, its a beautiful and inspiring clip however, he falls short of what in my terms would be one of the most famous backpackers. His travels although started genuine, have turned somewhat commercial. Credit given where credit due, he followed through on a great idea.

He reminds me of another famous traveler i looked up to as a kid. Uncle traveling Matt from Fraggle Rock.

I think the conclusions we can all draw from is that people travel for different reasons. There are so many types of backpackers its hard to "pin up" just one. Where traveling matt might be a bit of a flashpacker and marco polo a slackpacker, i think we all have a bit of backpacker in us, we just execute it with a twist.

Your comments on who is the most famous backpacker are more than welcome....


  1. i love this post, and i share the same sentiment for 'where the hell is matt?'. yes, his travels turned commercial but it seems that was his main goal? his credit card ad being shown on TV made him quite mainstream, does that mean if we stay as bloggers we're somewhat underground still? is he that different to bloggers who accept ads on their sites?

    just a thought.

    anyhoo, i like that term 'slackpacker'. that made me laugh out loud. seriously.

  2. Hey! I actually really agree with the "where the hell is matt" thing too - when that all first got big, I looked him up online and found this interview where he talked about being sponsored to go to the most remote places by Shell (I believe). If I was given the same offer, I can't lie, I would probably take it - but somehow I do feel that it has lost it's "spirit" in a way.

    I'm probably just jealous that it can't be me dancing in silly places all over the world :-)

    Like the post otherwise though!

  3. I'm sorry to disappoint you guys, but "Where the hell is Matt" was a hoax

    See for yourself:

  4. Great random post I found here! I'm a backpacker myself and had never really thought about the history of it. Where do you draw the line between backpacker and explorer. I'd like to think I'm a backpacker first and foremost. Safe travels, Jonny (a blogger too by the way!)

  5. Cheers jonny, i think backpackers are explorers in their own right so they probably just an evolution of the likes of marco polo! haha. well, kinda. thanks for dropping by, like your site btw!


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