So how does vagabonding travel feel?
Imagine waking up and every day is Saturday. You are alone in a strange place far from home. Your senses are working overtime to translate all the new smells, sights, and sounds into something familiar. Even simple tasks such as getting something to eat require much more effort. The new challenges present stress, but the more of the culture that you unlock, the more confident you become. It feels amazing to speak new words and be understood in the local language.
You are “rich” by local financial standards and no one knows who you are. You answer only to yourself and your own conscience. This is a true test of who you are as a human being – you can reinvent your personality. You have the power to be anyone.
You bought a one-way ticket so there are no time restrictions; for the first time in your life you feel as if you are “going with the flow.” You don’t even own a watch. You listen to your body: when it is hungry, you eat; when it is tired, you sleep. For probably the first time since you were a child, you are tuned to your body’s natural rhythms. You never expected backpacking travel to have made you feel healthier.
You start to realize that you are doing just fine with the things in your bag and that you don’t need much else. All the other material things you had at home were never really necessary. The size of your backpack keeps you from buying many things to take home. For the first time you are actively trying NOT to accumulate things.
You were slightly shy back at home, but here everyone is easy to talk to. You meet so many new people that you have to try to be alone sometimes. At meals, you simply approach complete strangers’ tables and sit, assuming that it is fine to do so. No one is hostile; other solo travelers enjoy your company. You swap stories, practice languages, and meet people from all over the world. You might even find yourself falling in love with some of these people.
Full-time travel is so fast and furious that there is no time for the usual protocols which prevent people from being true to themselves. You have never felt so passionate, so honest, so alive.
When you grow tired of doing activities or seeing things with your new travel friends, you simply part company. It shocks you at how fast and passionate your new friendships have developed – reaching the same levels that would have taken months or years at home. You exchange a sad goodbye and swap emails, but the truth is that you will probably never see this person ever again.
The pain of the goodbye quickly fades because the weight of your rucksack digging into your shoulders is familiar and welcomed. Surely there must be new adventures waiting down the road; your sad goodbye turns into a smile because you know that your new friend is probably thinking the same. Backpacking travel forces you to live in the present, rather than worry about the future or past. New experiences, new dangers, and new friendships are waiting to be discovered.
The sweat tickles down the side of your forehead and the road stretches out in front of you. You can literally choose any direction on a map to go and no one will say anything different.
The freedom of backpacking travel is intoxicating to you.
When you reach the next island, you start all over. You learn the town, the names, the other travelers’ faces all over again. Every day is spent walking in the jungle, exploring temples, caves, and scuba diving. Stuff that should probably be dangerous, but at the time it makes your body vibrate with survival. You have already tried things you never would have done at home. You are getting so much sunshine and exercise that you have never felt healthier or more energetic in your life.
At night you party continuously. Unless you are sick, you go out and party the night away with other backpackers – it is expected. Everyone dances like it’s their last night on earth…and if you mess up on your deep dive tomorrow morning, it could be.
Your home, which waits thousands of miles away, seems like something that happened in a dream a long time ago. You start to lose all sense of time. You are not sure what you are going to do when your year of backpacking travel is over.
Inevitably one day you find yourself standing at the airport back in your home country. It feels foreign to see so many other people of your same race in one place. You almost want to grab a few of them and start telling them mad tales of your adventures over the last year. Your friendly attempts are seldom returned here; these people are all in a hurry to either earn or spend money.
At home, everything seems to be moving in slow motion. You can’t believe how expensive things are. You still convert the prices to the currency that you just left. Life is too easy here and you are growing bored. There are no giant spiders or massive scorpions in your room to keep you guessing.
For a while, you still meet people equally as fast because no one else is playing by the same rules as you are. For some reason, you feel like you are still traveling. You still take your shoes off at the door, and you are not used to having so many clothes to choose from in the closet. You survived just fine for a year with only five shirts. You retain your new cultural habits and are proud to be different – you earned it.
At first, it feels great to be home. You missed your friends and family. You try to share your stories and answer their “so how was it?” questions, but you find that you cannot relate. How can you describe a year worth of life changing adventure in one simple conversation? They nod as if they understood and usually start talking about something else. They barely even acknowledged the fact that you were swimming with sharks a few weeks ago or that you found a thousand-year-old temple.
As the excitement of being home turns more into frustration, you find yourself parked in front of the computer. It is the magical link to your lost travel friends. You take in their reports from the field, and find yourself wishing that you were back out there.
More and more, you are drawn to the computer, checking email dozens of times a day. You know flight prices by heart. You crave news from that magical world you left behind a couple of months ago. You spend all of your time looking through journal entries and pictures. The rift between you and some of your dearest friends at home has widened. You are very different now and everyone knows it. All that you want to talk about is travel and people don’t like that.
As it becomes more and more apparent that your old daily life will never be the same, your discontent grows. All you can think about is getting back to that magic place, stepping over the snakes, and dancing the night away with those strangers. You would do anything to smell the ocean again. It never even occurred to you that backpacking travel would change your life so much.
One day, even though you can’t afford it, you sit down and book another ticket; relief rushes through your body.
Once again you are alone in a strange place far from home. Your senses are working overtime to translate all the new smells……
Sound frightening or inviting?
You decide, then check out my backpacking guide with
tips and advice on how to get on the road.