The decision to fill up a backpack and travel the world has the ability to change your life. Every single place you go and every single person you meet along your journey will impact your life in ways you may not even immediately comprehend. Backpacking is so much more than visiting famous landmarks, it is about the people you meet, the memories you create, the feelings you feel, and the lessons you learn.
Here are ten life lessons everyone learns while backpacking:
1. How to talk to strangers
Forget everything you were told as a child and talk to strangers. Talk to that person handing out flyers on the street, talk to that cute person in your hostel, and talk to the bus station attendant who can help you get where you need to go.
By doing this, you’ll open yourself up to other ways of life and people’s stories. Learning how to casually start a conversation with someone you don’t know can be hard at first, but after a while, you’ll have it down to an art.
Learning the basic, “hello”, “goodbye”, “where is the nearest bathroom”, “do you speak english”, and basic food items will not only make your life logistically easier, it will also garner you the respect of the locals.
There is nothing worse than a tourist who doesn’t take the time to at least try and learn the local language.
That is, people are more alike than you thought they were. You’ll find yourself bonding with people from across the world on common places you’ve been to, books you’ve read, or favorite meals you’ve eaten. People everywhere have their different customs and routines, but we’re all existing on this crazy third-planet-from-the-sun together.
While wanting to pack for every possible situation might seem like a good idea, when you get on the road you’ll find that every extra unnecessary item will just weigh you down. Bring the bare necessities, and if you get out there and find you need something you didn’t bring, you can always go shopping.
You’ll quickly realize that it’s the people you meet and the memories you make that really matter, not having a different outfit for every day of your trip.
If you’re travelling solo, guaranteed something will go wrong. Either a plan will fall through, you’ll miss a bus, or a hostel will lose your reservation. Whatever the issue, you’ll learn how to deal with it, and you’ll do it with patience and confidence.
You will prove to yourself that you can truly make it through any obstacle, even in countries where you don’t fluently speak the language!
No matter what city you go to, you’ll find that there will always be someone willing to help out a traveller in distress.
They’ll help you decipher the local language, point you in the right direction to your airport gate, or give you a lift shall your transportation fall through. Use you intuition when accepting help from someone, but don’t close yourself off from help when you need it either.
The beaten path is beaten for a reason; I mean, you can’t skip the Eiffel Tower on your first trip to Paris. However, often you’ll find that the moments that really shape you, the ones that really matter, will happen when you get off the tourist trail.
Hang out with the locals, breathe in the fresh air on a hiking trail, or stumble upon little hidden gems in cities that you would have missed had you stuck to a guide. Not everything is written down or on the internet, and nothing beats making a memory for yourself, rather than what someone told you to experience in a book.
Days spent exploring new lands are why you decided to go backpacking in the first place, but don’t forget days of rest. Listen to what your body is telling you; if you feel energized, explore, but if you feel tired, take a day off to read a book, go to the movies, or write in your journal.
Also, listen to your body when it comes to nutrients. Think of food as fuel; the better the fuel, the longer and harder you can go. Don’t forget to hydrate!
If you’re a solo traveller, it is a given that there will be time spent alone. You’ll have days surrounded by new friends and days where you don’t talk to anybody but the hostel receptionist and restaurant wait staff.
You will learn to cherish the moments you spend alone and use them to reflect on the experiences you’ve had.
Not everybody gets to travel, especially not for leisure. You’ll meet and get to know people from all walks of life, and you’ll learn very quickly how your ability to travel makes you one of the few people on this planet who can. Don’t forget that.