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.
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 asit’s dictated to us. We can’t do the whole routine, the crappy Monday to Friday9 to 5, grow up, drown in dept, your whole life is to pay bills, It’s justcomplete bollox to us. Some people can’t comprehend our way of thinking andseeing life but at the same time we can’t comprehend being boxed up innormality.
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 long-term backpacking.
When I say long term 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 thattrip you took was such an escape from your normal life. For that trip youdidn’t have any stress, worries, you were relaxed, you smiled, and you enjoyedwaking 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 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.
The new reality
By living in this new alternate reality, almost floatingthrough it, we are able to live the life we wanted the way we wanted on our ownterms. However, just because everything about the way we think, and act isdifferent it doesn’t mean the alternate reality doesn’t come without it’s ownissues.
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 are willing to take the rough with the smooth a lot more, but there are times when it can be hard work, a grind and can get disheartening.
We have to deal with different emotional states, days wequestion why we even bother, financial problems, not having a safety net as youwould back home. There are issues that pop up out of nowhere, plans go up insmoke, situations occur, and we live constantly out of our comfort zones. Butwe chose this, so we deal with it, just like everybody has to deal with theirown problems.
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. Backpacking, traveling, roaming, drifting in the wind, whatever you want to call it becomes our normal life.
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So what happens when something becomes normal to peoplelike us? I’ll tell you; we get bored of it! I know right, what the fuck am Isaying? How can anybody become bored of living this life that we chose andcreated ourselves? Here we are practically living a dream, fantasy life,experiencing something new on daily basis’s, with our minds blown open andwe’re getting bored of it. It’s fucking crazy I know, but it happens. It’s atthat 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 belike to go home, we start missing those we lost contact with, we yearn for somehome comforts, some home cooked food.
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, 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 backbriefly a couple of times just to touch base and left again but in late 2016while I floated through Bolivia, South America, it hit me. In all honesty itstarted 6 months earlier in Colombia but gradually got worse. At first Ithought it was just one of those periods, downer days, I thought they wouldpass but they didn’t. My alternate reality had started to crack, nothingexcited me anymore, I was bored of it and the weirdest shit happened.
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. Put it this way, 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 earths most spectacular phenomenon’s.
There was a lot of back and forth with myself, I knewgoing back would be the worst thing but at that point the grass was justgreener on the other side. After 6 and a half years I finally got homesick.
To the shock of every single person I know from,traveling friends, family, people I used to know – I went back to England tocall it home again. I was done with backpacking. Over it, done, the alternatereality had smashed into little pieces and I returned to the old one.
I wont lie, at first it was great, being back in my ownbed, well not my own bed, I kicked my brother out of his and claimed it as Ididn’t have my own place. It was bliss though not to have to share a dorm roomand I emptied by backpack and threw it into a corner never wanting to see itagain.
There was no after travel depression, I loved having homecooked food, being British, I was able to eat real bacon again and not crappystreaky stuff that gets passed on for bacon all over the world. I hadeverything else figured out, I was armed with a plan to set myself up and getmy career rocking. Travel blogging hadn’t even entered my head yet.
However there was something I hadn’t really accountedfor, all those years (6 and a half) my age seemingly froze, in my head I wasstill in my mid 20’s but I wasn’t. My old friends had aged, had grown up; theywere all settled with families, houses, commitments, responsibilities, careers.That’s when the old reality started to hit. I had removed myself for 6 and ahalf years, but life went on, the earth kept moving, people aged and grew up. Iaged of course but my reality distorted time and aging. This reality thoughdecided to smash me around the head with a baseball bat for it leaving it inthe first place.
Just a break from longterm backpacking
Once those initial first few months were over, thisreality was doing all it could to remind me of It’s brutality. I hated it, jobscame and went because I couldn’t settle, but at the same time I didn’t want totravel 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 to 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 helpsyou 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 2019, 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 long-term backpacking life worthwhile, and it is a reminder of the life I don’t want to live.
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