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Princess With a Backpack by Lauren Resnick

by Olivia Hambrett Oct 14, 2008

I’ve been a Princess with a Backpack.

In fact, when I first took off for a six-month jaunt around the world, my sister laughed at the concept of me with a backpack, which I thought was rather cruel.

I didn’t take a backpack. My friend and I opted for a large bag that could be wheeled.

And, I must say, after watching the third member of our travel party stagger around like she had a large sausage strapped to her back, I am quietly glad I eschewed the backpack for a more spine friendly option.

It has to be said, it’s not a bad thing to be a “princess”, neither does it render you a completely incapable traveler. Far from it.

A princess isn’t prancing around in pink stilettos wondering why they’re confiscating her nail file at security check-in. In fact, you’d probably be hard pressed to spot a travel princess in a line up because she blends in so well.

She likes to strike a balance between museum days and shopping days and she’ll most probably balk at unhygienic accommodations. Balk, but not run away.

See, here’s the difference between real princesses and wannabes – a real princess isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, she just likes to smell good while doing it.

Lauren Resnick’s Princess with a Backpack is the pink-lover’s guide to getting the most out of your trip. It provides everything you need to know if you have a penchant for, can’t go a day without perfume, and are about to strap on a backpack for the first time.

Or at least, that’s what it sets out to be. At times it succeeds with aplomb, but falls a little short in some sections.

This book does provide some good basics – from insurance to student card discounts, to hostel memberships and travel insurance, there is a healthy checklist of essentials. It also stresses the importance of insurance.

In a nutshell, don’t skimp on travel insurance or you’ll simply tempt fate and learn the hard way. Irony is a cruel mistress; she’ll pick the lone suitcase that doesn’t have travel insurance and lose it en route to Paris.

If you don’t even have a passport, let alone a backpack, Resnick walks you through getting hold of your most important travel document, and then guides you through the process of purchasing the perfect backpack for the princess in you.

There are also handy tips on saving money when it comes to food and alcohol which is where you can end up spending a lot more than anticipated while traveling. For those toting around sleeping bags, the book provides sage advice when it comes to cleaning them, tips on laundry and how to wash the various special items.

Resnick spends a few chapters on beauty and nutrition tips while on the road. This is where the book becomes sparse in its delivery. Tips like ‘drink lots of water on the plane’ and ‘go with tinted moisturizer, not foundation’ whilst timely could probably be considered common sense.

Resnick does make the point that if you’re presented nicely, you’re far more likely to make headway with people, and have them treat you more pleasantly – particularly in fashion savvy cities.

However, I did find myself flipping through the pages looking for that pearl of additional wisdom that perhaps Lauren had discovered when she was accidentally ushered backstage in Paris Fashion Week because someone thought she was a journalist … for example.

If you’re going to write a book for princesses, bank on the princesses already knowing the basic “princess” rules – they’re usually regarding beauty and nutrition.

The book does offer good information covering accommodations. As a traveler, it always helps to hear genuine, personal reviews of where people have stayed. Relying solely on internet sites just doesn’t cut it – I’ve learned the hard way.

Resnick lists the cities she visited and where she stayed in them, which is a really valuable resource for travelers. As are lists of favored bars, nightclubs and shopping districts– again, any hotspots with personal testaments from travelers around your age with similar itineraries and travel plans are worth their weight in gold.

There are tons of online travel resources at the back, and a list of instructions pertaining to staying safe and repelling criminals. Resnick does a good job of listing what you need to be aware of as a female traveler. She encourages women to be confident and assertive, aware and smart.

Which is why I’m slightly confused as to why, as a saving money tip, she suggests free drinks can be won by dancing on bar tables (for example in Mykonos) or having a cute smile.

Hopping atop my soapbox…. It’s true. Let’s not mince words – as a foreign woman travelling in countries where you’re considered exotic by virtue of the fact you look or sound different, it goes without saying you’ll be a hot commodity at a bar, even more so if you dance on it.

But you have to tread carefully, in those spike stilettos, you really do. You always have to remember you’re not at home. People’s reactions, treatment, and perceptions of you are based on what they see, and whereas it mightn’t lead to trouble where you’re from, or at your local, it might in a foreign country……Now off my soapbox.

Resnick does cover some good safety tips and does encourage awareness and employment of one’s smarts.

Whilst there are some genuine gems of travel information amongst its pages, there are times where information is a little thin.

Overall, the book does leave you wanting more. Though easy to digest and fun to read, a lot of the supplied information could be found at any number of travel related websites, or in a brochure from your local travel agent.

The only way to fatten a book like this up, is simply to travel more.

The concept is fantastic, and it paves the way for some wonderful, top secret nose-tapping tips on how to travel like a princess without the budget of Princess Mary.

But Resnick doesn’t fully deliver on her promise- that’s not to say she can’t.

I’d be really interested in what this book could be with more time, more continents and quite simply, more travel under her belt.

The verdict? – Read if you’re a bonafide princess, are about to go backpacking overseas for the first time, and you’re genuinely clueless as to where to start.

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