Longterm backpacking: Losing sight with…
‘Normal’ life and reality!
But why go Longterm backpacking in the first place?
Before we get into this post, let’s just answer these questions a lot of people ask. Why go longterm backpacking instead of just taking holidays or multiple trips through a year like normal people do? What possesses people to pack up, quit their everyday lives, their jobs, give up their homes and leave friends and family behind to roam the world?
Well, there’s a plethora of reasons, each longterm backpacker has their own. Some people simply can’t afford to travel any other way. It actually works out cheaper to go longterm backpacking than take shorter, multiple breaks.
In this post we cover how once we start longterm backpacking, the further away from our old normal lives and reality we can get. And my own personal experience of being so far away from that old reality that backpacking became my normal life. I explain how once backpacking become normal life, I started looking over the other side of the fence, thinking the grass was greener. Although I mainly speak about my personal experiences this post may come in handy if you ever get to a similar state with longterm backpacking.
There’s other reasons, and let’s be honest here: there are those that are running away from their problems or go searching for something. Then there’s those old clichés of ‘going to find themselves’, or to ‘find spiritual enlightenment’. Some people just do it to discover and to explore, but a lot of us do it to break free. To break free of those shackles society deems as normal life.
Fuck that shit, I’m off to roam the world!
There are those of us that just can’t do normal life as it’s dictated to us. We can’t do the whole routine, the crappy Monday to Friday 9 to 5, grow up, drown in dept, a whole life of paying bills; It’s just complete bollocks to us. Some people can’t comprehend our way of thinking and seeing life but at the same time we can’t comprehend being boxed up in normality.
So what do we do? We find a way to escape it, find a way out. Once we do, we pack our shit and get the fuck out and don’t look back. Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m not saying this applies to everybody that goes longterm backpacking.
When I say longterm backpacking I mean people who travel for years on end not a couple of months. I’m talking about us nomads, who don’t have a permanent place to call home, those of us who roam around the world. We’re the ones that get labelled by normal society as loafers, bums, misfits, degenerates, the list goes on.
The travel bug bites harder
You’ve all heard the saying bitten by the travel bug, meaning once you get a taste of it, it you want to do it more, because that trip you took was such an escape from your normal life. For that trip you didn’t have any stress, worries, you were relaxed, you smiled, and you enjoyed waking up rather than grunting at an alarm clock.
Well for those of us who chose longterm backpacking, that bug bit us so hard, we just don’t go back to the place we used to call home. We just carried on.
But what happens is, the longer we are away, that old ‘normal’ reality becomes a blur. We know it still exists, and to begin with we’re still in touch with the old one but a new one starts to form. And, before we know it, it feels like we’re living in an alternate reality. We did it, broke free of those shackles of normality that we thought held us down and boxed us in.
Now, roaming the world, drifting from country to country, we have our own structure rules to adhere to; our own. We whistle and dance to our own tunes, we live our lives the way we want to and not how we’re told to.
Can’t see the old reality anymore because of longterm backpacking
Over time the further we’re away, the more our minds change, our thought processes morph, we stop worrying or caring about trivial shit that may once have affected us. The more our eyes are opened by our new longterm backpacking lives, that old reality is gone.
It gets to a point where we stop caring and paying attention to things that don’t concern or impact us directly or is in front of us, we lose touch with people. We switch lanes onto completely different wavelengths as people you used to know. We break ourselves down, change our perceptions, way of thinking, our outlook on life. Everything changes, our character, our personality. We see things from a different angle, almost like looking through a new pair of eyes and our minds have opened up beyond imagination.
It’s refreshing, our senses feel like they’ve been heightened, everything is brighter, more vivid, we appreciate things we took for granted a lot more. It’s like living in this alternate reality we’ve woken up from just drifting through life to experiencing life. We see the beauty of the world in a different way.
Longterm backpacking creates a new reality
By living in this new alternate reality, almost floating through it, we are able to live the life we wanted the way we wanted on our own terms. However, just because everything about the way we think, and act is different it doesn’t mean the alternate reality doesn’t come without it’s own issues.
It’s not always a fairy tale, it’s not 100% carefree. I’ve said it many times longterm backpacking of any kind is not a holiday. You have to be willing to take the rough with the smooth a lot more, and there are times when it can be hard work, a grind and can get disheartening.
We have to deal with different emotional states, days we question why we even bother, financial problems, not having a safety net as you would back home. There are issues that pop up out of nowhere, plans go up in smoke, situations occur, and we live constantly out of our comfort zones. But we chose this, so we deal with it, just like everybody has to deal with their own problems.
However once we get through the bad times, It’s all worth it, we get to experience the real beauty of it all, we get to experience jaw dropping sights, feel unprecedented moments and have the most incredible experiences.
The plot twist
There comes a point when there is a complete switch over, that old reality, the people we used to know, the old mentality completely vanishes. Our new reality and the people within it are all we know. All of a sudden living out of a bag, constantly moving, seeing new faces, experiencing new cultures and those things that were once ‘must see and do’ become everyday life. Longterm backpacking, traveling, roaming, drifting in the wind, whatever you want to call it becomes our normal life.
So what happens when longterm backpacking becomes normal life to people like us? I’ll tell you; we get bored of it! I know right, what the fuck am I saying? How can anybody become bored of living this life that we dreamed of, chose and created ourselves? Here we are practically living a dream, fantasy life, experiencing something new on daily basis, with our minds blown open and we’re getting bored of it. It’s fucking crazy I know, but it happens. It’s at that point when long term backpackers start thinking of the inconceivable.
While there are people living their daily lives, ‘daydreaming’ about traveling around the world, thinking of exotic locations, we start daydreaming of our old reality. We start wondering what it would be like to go home, we start missing those we lost contact with, we yearn for some home comforts, some home cooked food.
Yup, some of long term backpackers are all kinds of fucked up!
When my reality cracked
I remember there was somebody I met when I was still relatively at the beginning of my backpacking journey. That person was longterm backpacking and he had reached the point. His alternate reality cracked and after 8 years of being away from his home he got homesick. I thought he was mad to even contemplate going home but he needed to, and he did. He packed up his shit and just bought a ticket home. When he did that I couldn’t believe it, and I never thought that would happen to me, not with my old reality, not with my past, I’d never go back to England.
How wrong I was, I left England in 2010, I’d been back briefly a couple of times just to touch base and left again but in late 2016 while I floated through Bolivia, South America, it hit me. In all honesty it started 6 months earlier in Colombia but gradually got worse. At first I thought it was just one of those periods, downer days, I thought they would pass but they didn’t. My alternate reality had started to crack, nothing excited me anymore, I was bored of it and the weirdest shit happened…I was over longterm backpacking!
I got to a point where I was just miserable longterm backpacking, it made me feel sick being in backpacker hostels, I stopped socialising with people, and was quite rude with some first time backpackers who were just trying to be friendly. I wanted to unpack my backpack and just throw it away. I hated longterm backpacking!
I started daydreaming and fantasizing about going home, about getting a career, getting my own place, a car…I got to a point where I convinced myself I wanted to finally settle down. You might think it was natural to feel like that, I was older at this point, in my early 30’s I’d been there done that so it was time to become a ‘normal’ adult. You’ll find out later on in this post why that wasn’t the case. However at the time as I went through the Uyuni salt flats, I was thinking more about how Id like to decorate my imaginary house than marvel at one of earth’s most spectacular phenomenon that I was standing on.
There was a lot of back and forth with myself, I knew going back would be the worst thing but at that point the grass was just greener on the other side. After 6 and a half years I finally got homesick.
I cracked longterm backpacking was over for me
To the shock of every single person I know from, traveling friends, family, people I used to know – I went back to England to call it home again. I was done with longterm backpacking. Over it, done, the alternate reality had smashed into little pieces and I returned to the old one.
I won’t lie, at first it was bliss, being back in my own bed, well not my own bed, I kicked my brother out of his and claimed it as I didn’t have my own place. It was bliss though not to have to share a dorm room and I emptied by backpack and threw it into a corner never wanting to see it again.
Time hadn’t stopped still
There was no after travel depression, I loved having home cooked food, being British, I was able to eat real bacon again and not crappy streaky stuff that gets passed on for bacon all over the world. I had everything else figured out, I was armed with a plan to set myself up and get my career rocking. Travel blogging hadn’t even entered my head yet.
However there was something I hadn’t really accounted for, all those years (6 and a half) my age seemingly froze, in my head I was still in my mid 20’s not early 30’s. My old friends had aged, had grown up; they were all settled with families, houses, commitments, responsibilities, careers. That’s when the old reality started to hit. I had removed myself for 6 and a half years, but life went on, the earth kept moving, people aged and grew up. I aged of course but my reality distorted time and aging. This reality though decided to smash me around the head with a baseball bat for it leaving it in the first place.
Just a break from longterm backpacking
Once those initial first few months were over, this reality was doing all it could to remind me of It’s brutality. I hated it, jobs came and went because I couldn’t settle, but at the same time I didn’t want to travel either. I was in purgatory; stuck between two realities wanting neither. The longer this went on though the more I realised something.
I’m not normal, I know that, and while I do things opposite to most, I also realised I just needed a sabbatical from longterm backpacking. There are people that just need a break from their lives, they go on ‘sabbaticals’ to recharge their batteries. I needed the same thing but the opposite way around.
I just needed a break from longterm backpacking, recharge and that’s what I did. I spent a full year not even thinking about it, and then the itch was back.
The grass is not greener
In any walks of life, no matter what reality you live in, from the things you go though, you gain experience. And that experience helps you learn and grow.
With going through what I did, I am fully aware the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, but I also know I prefer it on that side. And from knowing many longterm backpackers they feel the same way.
Since I started longterm backpacking again, I’ve learnt from the first time, I know not to get so far detached from this old reality, not to lose sight of it, because this reality is the anchor. This reality is what makes my longterm backpacking life worthwhile, and it is a reminder of the life I don’t want to live.
Hate being in England but It’s an anchor
I make a point now of returning back to England now and again to keep touching base, sometimes I even stay for a couple of months before I set out again. However if you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know my plans don’t ever work the way I expect them to. The universe has the wheel and sometimes I could just turn up it a completely different continent to the one I was expecting.
There are times I return to England with the intention of staying a couple of weeks and end up staying a few months before I’m able to roam the world again. Although I don’t consider England to be home anymore, I think I need it’s anchor while I’m away for months and years longterm backpacking.
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