So you’ve decided to do it. You’re about to leave and go somewhere completely foreign, with a different climate, different culture & different scenery. Just to backpack around and see the world. It’s going be amazing right? No work, no boring day-to-day stuff, just you enjoying the time of your life. So I’m here to give you a bit of a reality check and not only prepare you for what’s coming but give you a way to ensure you can see it ahead of time and have a plan of attack. Read away fellow wanderlusters.
- You are going to worry about all the shit you normally worry about, and you’ll have more time to worry about it
Nervous about a relationship right now? Career change on your mind? Maybe you just don’t want to feel so damn responsible for everyone else’s happiness. So you’re thinking ‘Hey, I’m going to fuck off for a bit and take a break from all these expectations I’m putting on myself.’ WRONG. You’re simply changing your environment, not yourself! It’s been said that human beings have 60,000 thoughts/day and what’s even more astonishing is that (usually) 80-90% of our thoughts today are what we thought about yesterday. We all have some pretty intense patterns (weather we know it or not) when it comes to how our mind works. So yes, there will be a few days of distractions but whatever is on your mind will still be there.
However, this is a rare opportunity where you actually have TIME to figure this out, as well as a (hopefully) beautiful environment. Make a mental note to yourself before the trip to have some sort of a process for when you start to stress, worry or whatever you like to call it. It can be something as simple as a 2 minute breathing exercise or a series of questions you ask yourself. I always like to ask myself “What can I do about this now?” and “What’s great about this situation?” followed by “How can I use this situation to serve others?” It might sound corny but problems we have are there for a reason. We either grow from them and move on or just get used to them and bitch about it for as long as we live to whoever will listen (we have all met that person).
Warren Buffet and the homeless guy down the street both have problems. The goal isn’t to be problem free, it’s to have high quality problems.
- You will worry about money
This is something everyone who’s backpacked around can relate to! Now if you’re going with on a three-month trip with a bursting bank account I’ll get to that later. Isn’t it crazy that 80% of humanity lives on LESS then $10 per day (source: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats)?! As someone who was privileged enough to be born in a first world country this BLOWS MY MIND. I worry about money sometimes as do my peers, and I have far more then $10 to spend. When you’re abroad and start to become stressed about money, take the chance to LOOK AROUND!
Let’s say you’re in Bali, you might see the state of some homes of the Indonesian people and think ‘Man, they’re poor”. WRONG. They might have less money then you but look at their culture. Look at their relationships, family values, sense of happiness & their fulfillment. They’re truly wealthy in so many ways first world countries have lack. This will give you a completely different take on wealth and hopefully help you come to the conclusion that money is just a by product that comes when you get wealthy in other areas of your life. This is something I’ve carried with me since returning from traveling and has changed my view completely. Before I traveled, the main thing I looked for in a job was ‘how much am I making here?’ where as now I think ‘what kind of person am I becoming here?’.
- If you have more then enough money you will get bored
There is nothing worse in the world then an unhappy rich person. Seriously have you ever met one?! They have achieved what most of us are striving for and they STILL can’t find something to be happy about. You kind of want to be like ‘shut the fuck up’ but you’re torn because if you’re nice to them maybe they’ll buy you something. Ok a little extreme there, but you get my point. If you’re about to embark on a trip and money is no object, you’ll realize that although the money thing is solved you’ll be wondering ‘so what now?’.
Totally normal. There seems to be a science to achievement, as in if you do these 1-5 steps on a regular basis you will achieve something & be successful. However when it comes to fulfillment, that is much more of an art. The reason it’s an art is because there’s no one right way to do it, it’s different for everybody. I personally believe that both of these are important but if you’re going to pick one, pick the art of fulfillment. How easy is it to spot what’s wrong right now? Real easy.
Why? Because your brain is 2 million years old and it is NOT designed to make you happy. It’d designed to help you survive. Now we’re (well most of us) are lucky enough to not have saber tooth tigers around every corner so we worry about how we’re living up to societal standards or our relationship and whatever. If you want to be fulfilled you have train your brain to look for what’s right. You’ve obviously mastered the science of achievement, now take that same passion and figure out how to be appreciative and grateful for what you have right now. Where better to do it then on a beautiful beach in Greece surrounded by people who think you’re amazing because they just met you (winky face).
4. You will have to learn how to communicate with people without words and without the Internet. Good luck!
Chances are the place you’re going the native language isn’t English. They most likely will not have reliable wifi/cell network either. And if you’re not fluent in that language you might have some interesting encounters when you can’t find your accommodations, can’t use your phone to show the horse and carriage where to take you or just want to know what the smoothie menu says. This can be SO frustrating, especially if you’re hungry or hungover or sleep deprived (or most likely all 3). Thank god only 7% of how communication is interpreted is based on what we say.
Here’s your go to solution for this problem. FUCKING SMILE! Easiest thing in the world to do but it’s the last thing you want to do when you’re frustrated. It will make people want to help you and go the extra mile. Also make sure you contact your accommodation beforehand and either get clear directions or arrange a pickup. Once you’re settled in you’ll always find someone who can help. However, along the way there are no guarantees. This could be a problem if you’re going somewhere like Vietnam and get a ride with the wrong motorbike taxi to your hostel and end up getting robbed. It’s so worth it to spend a half hour and do some research about where you’ll have to travel and read or watch people’s stories of their experience. Just because you’ve never been there doesn’t mean you can’t handle this like a seasoned traveler, just means be prepared.
- You think this will be relaxing, don’t you?
You don’t have to work, no cooking or mundane day-to-day stuff. What could be hard about that? Well for starters you’re going to have to know your lay of the land. For example you might need a scooter to be able to get to the nearest corner store or arrange to have a taxi/driver. Or you might discover your accommodation (which was supposed to be equipped with a restaurant and all of it) has bedbugs and you have to find a new place at the drop of a hat. Even in the best-case scenario there will be variables you couldn’t have prepared for, because you don’t know what you don’t know. This will, however, teach you to go with the flow and let go of that whole control thing that holds us all hostage.
When it comes to the variables of traveling there is far too many to count (or write) but ultimately these lessons have taught me to chill out just that extra little bit (before I react or become sure that things are doomed). Chances are, you won’t die. Even if you don’t eat, you probably won’t die. Kind of gives you a nice sense of reassurance when you’re used to freaking out over the tiniest things.
- All that time you spent worrying about the fact that you wouldn’t meet anyone was completely wasted
This is one I don’t think ever goes away completely, even for the most experienced traveller. There’s always that nagging fear that you might not meet ANYONE cool or funny or attractive and you’ll just be all by yourself. You’re thinking, ‘why did I even go on this trip when I had a perfectly good life at home with good friends and family?’.
I wish I could tell you the antidote to this one but to be honest, I don’t know you & there’s a chance this could actually happen to you (although very very unlikely). So all you can really do is start turning yourself into someone worth meeting. Focus on having great energy, being kind, seeing the best in people & situations and not letting your ego get the better of you. This will not only open you up to more situations but also make you irresistible to be around. So if there’s a 1% chance you will be completely alone this will lower it to a 0.00001%. Good odds right?
- If you drink you’ll get sick of it, and if you don’t drink you won’t fit in to every crowd
I don’t think there’s anyone in the world that doesn’t feel a pang of jealousy when they see that Facebook post of their friend on the Greek Islands chilling with a beer. That’s the life right? Well, maybe for a day or two. But that’s one the things that will hit you the quickest while traveling, drinking can get old fast. On the contrary, if you don’t drink you might feel ostracized from the group and find yourself in a situation where it’s hard to have a conversation without someone interrupting about who’s got the next round.
Both of these situations can be solved with preparation. If you don’t drink (and you probably know this) you’re going to have more time on your hands. You’re not hung over like the rest of us suckers. Figure out what you want to see and do and prepare an itinerary for yourself. That way, when everyone’s lighting it up you’ll be looking forward to the mountain you’re going to climb tomorrow and not have anything to feel left out of. If you do drink, interestingly enough, this is also the key. We all love a cold one after an amazing day. So make your days count! Book a surfing lesson for 1/8 of the price it would be back home. Do a trek. Go hang out with some elephants in a sanctuary. Prepare yourself to do something during the day so you’ll allow yourself to let loose as a reward, not mandatory activity because there’s nothing else to do.
**Keep in mind this point was written for the 20 something backpacker who’s going to be staying in hostels and attempting to meet people there. If you’re going to be at a health retreat (or something like that) for the majority of the time you’re traveling this probably won’t apply to you.
- You won’t know what to pack, and chances are you’ll lose something you really love
So you’ve read all the online blogs about what to bring, but how do they know what YOU like to wear? Well, they don’t, and that’s why someone else’s packing list won’t work for you. You might land in Vietnam thinking it’s sunny because it’s Asia but you didn’t realize March is rainy season and it’s overcast and cold!
I could give you an overview of a packing list that worked for me but instead I’ll give you way better advice. Pull out all the clothes and grooming tools you’re considering bringing – just put them in a big pile on the floor. Now go through them, hold each item, and think of a situation where you’ll need/wear them. If the answer to this isn’t the most logical, easiest thing in the world (i.e. I need my toothbrush because I like clean teeth or I love these shorts because I wear them 3x/week in warm weather) then don’t bring it! Even if you have to hesitate to think of when you might use if don’t bring it. There’s no ‘maybe’ pile in this game. Just the logical pile of stuff you’ll actually use. Then ask yourself if you really love this item. If the answer to this question isn’t an immediate YES, dump it! It’s better to go with less items that you love then with too many that will end up being unworn and crowd your backpack and weather you go with 5 items or 30, always allot some money in your budget to clothes. It will come up where you need something you don’t have so might as well be prepared.
A great idea is one I read in the book The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss is to allot a budget ($100-$200ish) for any new clothes or other necessities along the way.
Chances are you will lose something you love as well. This can happen while someone’s doing your laundry or you have to catch an early morning train and got disorganized packing up in the dark. All you can do in this case is embrace that you can’t be too attached to your things, and move on.
- You can’t share the experience
I saved this one for last because it does really suck. You’re going to have such an amazing experience, meet the coolest people, see some unbelievable things and overall have the time of your life. Even the gross and horrible experiences are going to make great stories. However, most of the people you love & cherish won’t be there, and although you’ve undergone a massive life experience they’ve been doing the same day-to-day routine for the past 3 months. Do they want to hear about your travels? Well, sort of. They want to be polite. In all fairness they weren’t there, and you’re talking about a bunch of stuff they can’t relate to and can’t really follow because they don’t have the same picture in their head as you do. Kind of like when you sing along to your favorite song, it’s pretty easy to do when the music is on and you’ve got the rhythm, but when you turn the music off it can be pretty hard to remember the lyrics. Make sense?
The only way to ease this part of the experience is to go home and practice some of what you’ve learned! Be interested in their lives, get curious about something new they can teach you, even if you’ve known them for years (or your whole life). Treat them like the gems they are. Understand that although your 3 months has been WAY more interesting, they can’t relate to the experience, and that’s okay. Don’t expect them too. Hold on to your newfound happiness, but don’t push it on people.