off I couldn’t get over just how few clothes and possessions I really
own. My things seemed like a lot as they filled up my entire bag and
felt heavy on my back, but as I look at them now taking up only two
shelves I can’t get over the lack of what I have. Especially compared to
all that I used to have back in New Jersey. Certainly my wardrobe has
changed quite a bit since I left home. Half the clothes I have now are
things that I have bought along the way and it’s so funny how I can tell
you exactly what country they are from. Those are the tights I bought
in Helsinki, the leggins I purchased in Estonia, the cardigan and jeans I
bought in Australia and so on. I think sadly about how many of my
clothes have been put to rest out of constant wear and tear. You wear
the same 10 Tshirts over and over again and holes start to develop,
colours start to fade, and you can’t help but feel a loss as you toss
them in the bin. It’s almost like saying goodbye to a friend. I am still
mourning the loss of my brown hoodie that I left behind in a café in
Melbourne. I practically lived in that thing for months on end and as I
look at old travel pictures I can only hope that it is being put to good
use somewhere else. Am I getting tired of wearing the same things over
and over again? Let’s just say that I am very excited for when my
package of winter clothes comes in the mail from home.
unpacked my bag but I am not home - or am I? I’m living in a flat in
Queenstown now, sharing with 5 other guys from Canada, England and New
Zealand. In 4 days I will have been in New Zealand for 3 months, 2 of
those months being in Queenstown. Am I really no longer backpacking? The
thought still seems so foreign to me.
It may seem like I don’t
own a lot. But then I turn on my laptop and open the files that contain
all the photos I have taken in the last 9 months. With over 5,000
pictures, I realize that I actually own quite a lot. I sit and watch
these on a slide show and just can’t get over where I have been. First
off, I look like a completely different person now. I look at photos of
me from Ireland, the beginning of my trip and am so surprised by the
differences. It’s almost like I am looking at a ghost. This was old me,
the girl that lived in New Jersey, and had that old life that I am
starting to forget about more and more. She certainly did look happy,
like she was having the time of her life. I start to notice the change
in appearance as I get to China, a few months into the trip. Certainly
by Australia a transition has been made. The question is, will I ever
look like that old girl again? Part of me craves her beauty, her
ignorance. Backpacking has been hard on the body, I can tell you that.
But then I go back to those photos I have taken and just can’t get over
all that I have seen and done with my life.
And I have started to
go back and read my journals, and reflect on all the crazy thoughts
that I had throughout traveling. I came across this list I made which I
would like to share with you now.
Clothes can be worn again….and again….and again….without washing. But
you really need to stay on top of washing your towel because that can
start smelling really badly really quickly.
2. You don’t have to go out every night.
3. It’s amazing what you can do with instant noodles.
4. The world is small - you will run into travelers you’ve met again.
5. McDonalds is great for internet.
Traveling will slow you down. You will eat slower, walk slower, learn
to appreciate good conversations with people. There are so many amazing
things in this world you can miss if you don’t take the time to look.
7. A good traveling companion is rare and should be cherished.
(For ladies) If you go out to a club on your own make sure you have got
another female companion from the hostel with you. Going out with just
guys you have met is alright but chances are you might end up doing
something you could regret later.
9. Your heart is going to get broken - but you will break some yourself.
10. Follow the advice of other backpackers but in the end follow your instincts and your gut. After all, you are the one that will have to live with your decisions in the end.
11. Earplugs are a life saver.
12. You will spend more than you budgeted - get over it.
Don’t cheap out on a warm sleeping bag if you are planning on camping
in cold places. It’s really hard to get a good night sleep when you are
14. Splurge every now and then on things that make you feel good about yourself (hair cuts, nice shampoo, pedicures).
Always double check the hostel/hotel showers for your stuff before you
leave or it will be gone forever. Oh and always double check that all
caps are secure on your toiletries to prevent serious leakage in your
16. Make sure you’ve got your towel before you leave.
Markets are often the cheapest and best places to buy souvenirs. Never,
ever go in those tacky shops in every city. You will pay too much.
18. Utilize free walking tours and the people that work at your hostels. Make them your best friend.
19. Food at the supermarket is a great way to spend remaining money you have before you go on to the next country.
Buying a laptop was the best purchase I made for this trip. Free wifi
and watching movies in bed are the best ways to relax from all the
21. Don’t worry about standing out and looking like a
tourist. The friendliest experiences I have had have been from locals
who knew I didn’t belong.
22. Offering booze to people is a great way to make friends at a hostel, or anywhere for that matter.
23. Teaching myself the Cyrillic alphabet before I went to Russia was a lifesaver.
24. Always make sure you know how to say hello, goodbye, yes, no, please, and thank you as a bare minimum in each country you visit, regardless of how much English is spoken there.
Try your best to have a map with you to get to your next hostel if you
are in a non-English speaking country. The Hostel World instructions can
often be a bit shit.
26. Hostel World has better reviews of
hostels but Hostel Bookers is often cheaper. Use both simultaneously
when backpacking through Europe.
27. If you know you are going
out at night leave your toiletries, and pajamas on top of your bed and
carry your torch with you. It will make your life easier when you come
back late and are trying to maneuver in the dark…plus it makes you a
courteous hostel guest.
Of course these certainly aren’t all the
lessons. I could write a novel on everything I have learned and all the
advice I could give. I have obtained more knowledge in these last 9
months than I have in all my time in college and high school. I have
come to understand just how isolated us Americans are from the rest of
the world. I forgot to mention the other set of possessions that I have
on my laptop. This would be the 60 posts I have written during my
traveling. I will read an old one every now and then and almost feel
like I am reading a stranger’s work. I have completely forgotten some of
the thoughts that I have recorded and am surprised at some of the deep
revelations that I have made on my trip.
I have unpacked my bag -
but there is this feeling inside of me that knows that this is not
unpacking for good. There is still so much in this world that I want to
see and experience. Everyone has their addictions to something. Mine is
with traveling. I guess it beats cigarettes. You can bet that Southeast
Asia, Japan, and Fiji are most definitely in the cards for me in some
not too distant future. At the moment my bag, my partner in crime, sits
silently in the corner of the closet. But I know it will be there for me
when I am ready.
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