When someone says “backpacker”….we all think of the same image. Massive disproportionately-sized backpack ontop of a girl or guy with bedhead hair, big grin on their face, sun burnt cheeks and zip-off hiking pants. What’s wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing.
However, many people think that if they want to chase the wanderlust inside of the, they must look like said “backpacker”. Incorrect. Our way of lifestyle right now has changed for the better in both Jon’s and my eyes. After living pretty much stagnant lifestyles for the larger part of our lives, besides the once a year vacation, we finally started listening to and following our adventure side. Jon and I dropped our lives in Edmonton, quit our jobs and headed out for a world adventure. However, we didn’t do this with an 80L pack on each of our backs. We had rolley bags, laptops, Jon’s fancy DSLR camera, and dresses/ties. Contrary to popular belief we didn’t look like the classic “backpackers” when we left the airport that day for Chile. In the end, how you look really doesn’t matter but the way you travel does.
World travel can be done many ways and we often forget it doesn’t have to fall into two opposite extremes. Let me explain.
What do you look like while “walking the walk”?
Like I mentioned, the term backpacker usually comes with some sort of picture like this….—>
And unfortunately, I think that acts as a deterrent for a lot of people that want to do some world travelling but don’t want to go 3 days without a shower, hitchhike and rely on a sleeping pad in a park for a good night sleep. I totally, 100%, understand what you may be thinking, “Mel that is a gross over-generalization”. And yes, you are right. But based on experience, this is the natural image that forms in our heads. NEITHER is right nor wrong…and really who cares besides yourself. The point of this is just to iterate you don’t need to look one way or the other in order to go travelling for long periods of time or to various countries.
Travel Destinations and Durations:
I am sure everyone has a friend that posts a new selfie every other day of themselves in a different country. For some people this is their thrill and all to them. Other people move abroad and that’s that. They are in that one country to stay.
Then there is other people who find glory somewhere in the middles of those two extremes. And this is where we fall!
By staying only 3 days in a country, how are you supposed to get a good taste of the life there? The culture? Experience the traditions and interact with the people? Feel and connect with the land? I don’t think it’s possible unless you hit the itty bitty country of Nauru. Even then it is arguable…. Living your whole life in one single spot however, does let you get to experience all of these and develop an understanding for these various factors…..but for only 1 country! At that point though, you don’t have the capacity of comparisons to develop appreciations for everyday things you may be taking for granted in your everyday life.
Then there is the concept of giving back to the country. This came up at dinner with some world-travelling friends once. When you travel to a location, you take lots from their….food, housing, services, etc. Let me ask you this though, what do you give back? If you said money, that does technically work but I am meaning on a “deeper” level. Have you ever taught a kid a new game? Have you ever shared your pictures from your own adventures to help fuel their inspiration? What about education; have you ever met with a local to help teach them knowledge that would not have access to on their own? These are the things every country deserves to have in return for sharing their own traditions, culture, experiences, skills, etc. with you. Creating this reciprocity helps both parties connect on a whole new level beyond a quick eye glance or a brief “thanks/gracias/kamsa-hamnida/obrigado” while exchanging for some food and then that’s that. Learn to listen to each other, show interest in deeper things , and be open & willing to share.
So where do we fall? In the middle-ground. For most of our travels we try to stay at least one month if not more. We moved to Chile and know it won’t be our indefinite home but knew coming here we had to set for ourselves a time line for the minimum time to stay here. Why? Because often when moving or travelling to a place, the first month is full of stressors, frustrations, and a feeling of home-sick. It is easy to throw in the towel right then and there and say nope, “NEXT”. But once you give a place a long enough chance, those initial feelings and thoughts begin to disappear and you start seeing and experiencing SO much more. When we first moved to Chile, I would go to bed second guessing our decision almost every night. “What are we doing?”, “Is this the right country?”, “This place doesn’t eat anything besides ‘pan’ (bread)!” However, each week I had less and less of those voices creeping in and more saying “The people here are so warm-hearted”, “I can’t believe all the fresh & cheap produce that is available!”, “Coast, mountains, desert…what a neat country!”. With time came more appreciation and less judgment. With each visit with a local, we find more and more similarities creating a greater sense of belonging and “home”. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable along with trusting that from ever tough situation comes something good will allow you to reach new levels and experiences in adventures and life in general.
This is being put out there for several reasons…so a) people can realize to travel around the world you don’t need to throw out the jeans and become a zip-off pant junkie. b) that more people think about the way they are travelling and not just doing it to check off as many places as they possibly can with only a scant memory of each. I am not saying there is one way better to travel than the other and I am not saying we have never or will never do the classic “backpack” style of travel. We will keep adapting our travels and our adventures so it matches with what we can do and what we feel comfortably doing. We won’t feel forced to fall into one of society’s pre-dispositions. We will keep travelling and along the way strive to add back to every country experience and grow from it.