Thinking about backpacking around the world and actually doing it are two different things. Not that I am very experienced at it yet, but I have definitely learnt a thing or two during the last four months of traveling around just a little of America. First of all, it can be pretty scary. I’m one of these people who loves the idea of doing something adventurous and “out there”, but once I actually start doing it I quickly understand the realities of the situation I have put myself in. A good example of this is ride sharing, which sounds cheap, efficient and exciting, but the reality of catching a ride with a complete stranger, to a place I haven’t been before is actually kind of scary, especially if that person you so rely on is five hours late, leaving you stranded in the dark, in the big city of San Francisco, getting drenched in the rain. That bravado, go-getter attitude is suddenly confronted with vulnerability and even a bit of panic.
Life on the road definitely requires a few sacrifices which I didn’t think of at all when planning our adventure life. There are things you just don’t get used to, like hauling all your material goods on your back all the time. There have been days where we have literally walked 26 km without taking our packs off. Sure, I have attained some great leg definition and learnt something about perseverance, but backpacking in the literal sense of the word, gets old. Always sleeping in a different place where we are lucky if we get a bed, takes some getting used to and the constant traveling is exhausting.
Being on the move, whether it’s walking, busing or even hiring your own car requires a certain type of energy. Not to mention the more materialistic luxuries which I never really thought I’d miss. A real first world problem, but I am so sick to death of all my clothes, keeping in mind I can only fit about 4 or 5 outfits in my bag. I want a new pair of Vans high tops and a fresh new tee to put on and feel good, a fresh cute haircut, but we can’t really afford such luxuries anymore. So I have resorted to throwing away my old crusty tee and purchasing a second hand one from Goodwill. Things like make up, haircuts and clean socks become a memory of the distant past, but that’s okay, as I now consider myself a wildling, a nature mountain roamer or something cool and adventure sounding like that.
Then there’s homesickness, which I have discovered is a real thing. I miss my friends like I’m never going to see them again and my family, suddenly I feel like a little kid who needs my family around to tell me it’s all going to be okay. I often ache for home, my African home. Not having a home to go to where I can completely relax and walk around in my pj’s is something that takes some getting used to. There’s also the admin of always having to plan the next move which is tiring and pretty hard work. I probably sound a little dramatic, especially considering we have only been away for 4 months, but I’m just trying to be real.
The most difficult and challenging aspect of traveling the way we have been, on the cheap with no hotel rooms and no plans, has been the social aspect of it. I don’t really consider myself a people person and I don’t often enjoy meeting new people and making friends which is something we have had to do a bit of on our journey. I also don’t like having to depend on people, which is something we have had to do a lot of on our journey. However, this being said, and this is where I finally start raving about backpacking, this has been the best, most incredible part of our journey. It has all been about connecting really, connecting with the Earth and all the amazing new places we have been.
Connecting with people, old and new friends who have all taught and inspired me in some way. And connecting with myself where I have been opened up to parts of myself I did not know existed. I have honestly learnt so much about myself, not all good, while traveling. We have met people who are doing amazing things and who really care about something. We have stayed with people who have taken such amazing care of us, giving us food, lifts and showing us a good time. We have worked with people who have taught us a thing or two about hard work and who have challenged the way we think of the human species in general. I left home feeling like most people are unkind and hopeless, but in 4 months I now see that there are really good, really genuine and compassionate folks in the world. These experiences have given me a glimmer of hope to how much potential we as a species can have.
From here I could go on ranting and raving about the life of a backpacker, as there are so many awesome positive parts to this kind of living, but quite honestly, this has been the best and most valuable part I have so far taken from it all. I look forward to meeting more people who are different from myself and those who are more like minded as well.