I lived out of a backpack and traveled the world solo for an entire year. I spent time backpacking through parts of Latin America, Europe, and even Africa. It was the most exciting and dynamic experience of my life, and I'll always carry those lessons close to my heart. Let's be real, though: Living out of a backpack is far from glamorous. You're not lounging on the beach; you're lugging a huge bag on your back, hopping from one destination to another, sleeping in $5 bunk beds, and constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone. As a result, you learn to adapt and grow with each challenge. Here's what I learned after a year of backpacking through 12 different countries.
Would you give up your comfortable bed to sleep on the top bunk of a 10-bed hostel room? This is the choice that you have to make whenever you choose to go backpacking. You'll be sacrificing comfort for the sake of traveling. It's no biggie for those who are truly seeking out this experience and embracing their wanderlust, but I'll be the first to admit that it isn't always easy. Despite any hurdles, you learn so much about the world and yourself along the way. This way of traveling will surely change the way you live your life once it's all said and done.
1. An Extraordinary Life Lies Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
I wasn't necessarily excited about sleeping in bunk beds or cramped overnight buses, but I knew that I needed to step outside of my comfort zone in order to grow. We're often used to doing things a certain way, but jumping into the unknown can reveal a whole new world of possibilities that you never knew existed. So, I talked to strangers who I would normally bypass, I ate foods that I couldn't pronounce, and I slept in many more hostel bunk beds than I can count. All of this lead to the most extraordinary experiences.
2. Adopting The "Quality Over Quantity" Mindset Is Key
You can only pack so much inside your backpack, so it's important to choose wisely and adopt a minimalist mindset. I packed all of my favorite clothes for my year-long adventure. I didn't change my style to go on this trip, because I needed to feel comfortable in whatever I was wearing. I was equipped with my favorite pair of Levi's shorts, Birkenstock sandals, Nike workout bottoms, and a multitude of tops. I color-coordinated my clothing so that I could mix and match throughout my trip.
Instead of worrying about how many things you pack, it's important that you focus on packing high-quality items. Everything you bring should be multipurpose, but it should also bring you joy. I've been able to adopt this mindset in every area of my life. Instead of worrying about the number of clothes, shoes, or friends that I don't have, I focus on the value of what I do have.
3. Experiences Are More Important Than Material Things
It's so easy to believe that material items will bring you joy, but this couldn't be further from the truth. We're often taught that we'll be happier when we have a newer car, phone, pair of shoes, or house. I now know that I don't need material things in order to be happy. Instead, I can focus on creating high-quality moments and memories that will continue to serve me for the rest of my life. I can continue to seek out enriching relationships and experiences that will stick with me for years to come.
I found myself embarking on an unforgettable five-day sailing trip from Panama to Colombia, challenging myself to a four-day trek to Machu Picchu, living with a Guatemalan family, and exploring my freedom in this world fully. These experiences were priceless, and their impact will last much longer than a new shirt or handbag.
I doubt I'd ever look back on my life and think, "I should have bought those shoes," but plenty of people do look back and wish they enjoyed every single day to the fullest.