'Should I go backpacking?' is a question most of us ponder on in the hopes to take a break from our hectic lives, leave everything behind, and hit the road.
Especially after spending the last few years stuck within the four walls of our homes, many of us gave some serious thought to the idea of picking up a bag and heading out for a life of adventure.
Avid travelers say that everyone should experiment with backpacking at least once in their lifetime. This low maintenance form of travel is known to have shifted people's mindsets and given them an entirely different outlook on life.
While extremely fun, keep in mind that backpacking isn't as simple as it sounds and that the success of your journey depends mainly on your ability to thoroughly pre-plan, organize and distribute.
It is understandable to feel skeptical before taking on such a commitment. Indeed, little is known about the nitty-gritty of backpacking as it is very different from other mainstream forms of travel. People often worry if they'll be able to sustain a whole trip carrying the bare minimum. If you find yourself confused about whether or not backpacking is suitable for you, keep reading because we've got you covered.
What is Backpacking?
While there is no straightforward definition of backpacking, it is understood that it is an international, independent and relatively low-budget form of travel. Backpacking is different from other forms of travel because, unlike regular tourists, backpackers have everything they need for their journey in a single pack on their back. That includes clothes, food, personal care items, and other essential gear needed for the trip. Backpackers travel for a more extended period of time than most other tourists and usually intend to visit more than one location, country or state during their trip. They can be on the road for a couple of weeks or months to sometimes even years.
Unlike a vacation, the goal of a backpacking trip isn't to lie and relax on the beach, eat at expensive restaurants or stay at five-star hotels. Instead, a backpacker is someone with a thirst for adventure, travelling the world for the sake of new experiences. They find the rush they're looking for in being outdoors and away from city life, exploring new lands and trails on foot, meeting the country's locals, trying their food, listening to their music and witnessing their culture firsthand. Experienced backpackers tell you that backpacking is one addicting experience. Once people have learnt to survive and thrive with the bare minimum and find happiness and contentment in exploring life and seeing what it offers, there is no going back. They say meeting new people and viewing life from their perspective opens up your heart and mind, strengthening the belief that satisfaction barely lies in worldly things.
Why Should I Go Backpacking?
To Learn About Life
It is one thing to read about the history, culture, traditions and lifestyles of different places in a book, and something entirely different to head out into the world and experience them hands-on. The conversations are beyond unique and riveting when you sit with a backpacker. They'll tell you stories and encounters that you could possibly never read in a blog, a book or an article. Even just a small chat with a backpacker will teach you more about life than reading a myriad of books and essays on the topic. A quote by Einstein thoroughly defines the importance of experience, "Information isn't knowledge, and the only source of knowledge is firsthand experience." That is true because reading something only allows you to imagine what the situation should theoretically look like, but real-life encounters alter your being for a lifetime. They don't tell but show you in-depth how vast the world is and how small our life is in comparison.
To Meet People
Backpacking is a great way to understand the various areas of human interaction and connection. Since you are likely on your own and can no longer hide behind your friends or have someone else speak up for you, you'll have no option but to communicate. This will likely bring you out of your shell and teach you the value of learning to stand up for yourself while maintaining dignity and kindness. You learn to tackle different people from different walks of life without being an annoying person. It is a talent that will take you extremely far in practical life.
It's human nature to let the comfort of one thing keep you from trying out something new. That is precisely what happens when you stay somewhere long-term; you bond with a few like-minded people and don't exert the effort to interact with the many others around you. You learn to stick to what you know and restrict yourself to a small comfort zone. Backpacking forces you to meet individuals of different social statures, mindsets and beliefs, giving you a deep insight into people's personalities and how they feel. You'll never forget the people you encounter on your trip, the stories you hear and the sheer vulnerability you witness. You will start to see life from a million different viewpoints and realize how the world isn't limited to your perspective alone. Nothing teaches you respect, empathy, understanding and generosity like backpacking.
To Find Happiness
People find the conversation regarding mental health relatively uncomfortable, but the harsh reality is that depression and other mental disorders are widespread. Due to the stigma, people suffer in silence and let these diseases significantly suppress the quality of their lives. Research has proven that our surroundings have a bigger impact on our mental well-being than we can imagine. Many people hate to admit that they are beyond miserable in the place they're living, the career they've chosen, and within the company of existing friends and family. Backpacking is an easy way to break free from these shackles and do something that gives your heart the peace it deserves.
Positive energy is contagious, and being in the presence of people who live life to the fullest and find joy every day will trigger sparks of energy within yourself. You only live once; the saying, although super cliché, is also truthful. Travelling gives you a gist of the many opportunities the world can provide; you try out different living styles, test your interests and dabble in activities you weren't even aware of. Along the way, you start figuring out who you are as a person, what you like, which talents you possess and what kind of life you want to establish for yourself. It is a journey of self-discovery that will unmask your true potential and keep you from settling into a life of mediocrity.
So if your question is whether or not you should invest in backpacking, we'd suggest giving it a shot. We, humans, get so lost in the hustle and bustle of preparing for a life that we forget actually to live in the first place, and by the point this realization hits us, we have already run out of time. Life is too short to stay unhappy in one place. Detach from materialism and witness the world at a level deeper than most humans by backpacking across it.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks