The Pros and Cons of Backpacking — a Talking Points English lesson plan

This is a lesson plan about backpacking.

Backpacking is very popular in western countries — but in some places, it may be seen as a dangerous thing to do. Especially for a woman travelling alone.

In this lesson, there is a short account from a woman who talks about her experiences of backpacking alone. This is followed by a list of reading comprehension questions, a table of essential vocabulary and another list of discussion questions.

You can use this as part of your English or ESL class. It could also be used in an IELTS reading or talking class.

Many thanks!




Do people in your country go backpacking?

Would you like to try backpacking?

What are the dangers of backpacking?




Beth likes to go backpacking alone. As a woman, this can present certain problems but it doesn’t stop her from travelling alone with just a rucksack and a desire to see the world.

She has travelled to many places.

“Oh my god, so many places,” she says. “Let’s see, I’ve been all across America. Then into Mexico. After that, I ran out of money and had to come home. But I saved some money and went to Europe, down into Morocco, through Algeria. Then Egypt and back to Europe. I worked for a while and went to Asia. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Yeah, a lot of places.”

Beth looks happy. She is always smiling so her life must be very good.

“I only really feel happy when I am packing my rucksack and then getting on a plane,” she said. “If I stay in any one place for too long, I feel restless and I start to get itchy feet.”

But as a woman travelling alone there must be dangers?

Beth’s face darkens.

“Yes, there are,” she says. “And I have been on the receiving end of some pretty crazy situations.”

She takes a breath and tells her story.

“One time I was in this small town and all alone. I arrived late at night and when I got off the bus I could see that the town must be all asleep. All the lights were off and the whole town looked dead.

I had no idea where to go but I needed to find a room for the night. This car stopped by the side of the road and the driver looked out the window. It was a man on his own so I was immediately on guard.

He asked me if I needed help and I said that I was all right.

But he didn’t leave, he just stayed where he was and kept on staring at me. I was all alone on the street, no one else around and I started to feel a little uneasy.”

Unfortunately for Beth all the hotels and guest houses she tried calling were closed for the night.

“I used a call-box nearby and called all the hotels in my guide book. But no answers.

Then the man got out of his car. I was very worried. He approached me and said that all the hotels were closed as it was the custom in the town for people to go to bed early.

I didn’t know what to do. Then he got closer and grabbed my wrist. Come and stay at my home. You can stay with me. You will be safe.”

This would be a frightening experience for anyone and Beth was no exception.

“I stayed calm but I was terrified inside. The man kept on pulling my hand and I resisted but he was very strong.

But of all the luck! A police car drove by slowly and saw me. They stopped and asked what I was doing. The man became very nervous and the police told him to leave.

I told them I didn’t have anywhere to stay. So they told me I could sleep in one of the police cells for the night. I have never stayed in a police cell room before. It was actually quite comfortable!

The next day, the policemen gave me some coffee.

But I was too nervous to stay in the town any longer so I got the next bus out to the next town instead.”


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Reading Comprehension Questions


What two things does Beth go backpacking with? Which of these is a real object?

Which places has Beth travelled to?

When is Beth truly happy?

How does she feel if she can’t travel?

Describe the place at the beginning of Beth’s story.

Who stopped to help her in the story? Did Beth trust this person? Why/why not?

What did Beth do next?

What did the man say to Beth? What offer did he make to her?

Was Beth scared?

What happened next that helped Beth?

What offer did the policeman make to Beth?

What did she think of where she stayed for the night?

What did Beth do the following morning?


Essential Vocabulary





to run out of something



itchy feet

face darkens

on the receiving end

pretty crazy situation(s)

to look dead

no idea

on guard



guest house


guide book



no exception




of all the luck


police cell


Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when


I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”


Discussion Questions


Do you think Beth is brave? Or maybe a little foolish?

Would you like to travel the way Beth does?

What would your parents think if you travelled alone to other countries?

Do you have itchy feet sometimes? Would you like to just pack a bag and go somewhere, anywhere?

What kind of people goes backpacking? Can anyone do it?

Some people get bitten by the ‘travel bug’ — what is this? Is it curable?

What are the advantages of going backpacking? What are the disadvantages?

Is backpacking popular in your country? Why/why not?

If you went backpacking for one year, what changes could happen to you?

What is a ‘gap year’? Why do young people go backpacking during this time?

Which countries are perfect for backpacking? Why?

Which countries are too dangerous for backpacking? Why?


What did you and your students think of this lesson plan?

Please let me know in the comments below!


Join my mailing list and I will send you this complete lesson plan and others for free – ManWrites Mailing List

Or if you prefer, you can buy it here – Backpacking/gumroad

2 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Backpacking — a Talking Points English lesson plan”

  1. This lesson would be a real shocker in some countries where doing what Beth does would seem unimaginable. Yet it is really good for students to see that there are women who do what Beth does in the world. It might not change their culture but in opens cultural horizons. Of course it may be more dangerous for a woman but many men who backpack also get into trouble.

    1. Thanks Leona. I hope it provides an insight into different cultural ideas around the world – in this case women going travelling alone in the west. But it could be useful for getting students to think about what advice to give someone considering going backpacking alone. You are right, though, I think many women in certain countries would find this idea just too risky.

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