The Journey Begins!
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Life on the Road
Life in the field while vagabonding can take on a whole new meaning. Tasks that were once mundane and uninteresting are suddenly an adventure. Your mind will stay sharp and your senses will be on fire as you absorb this strange new world around you.
The surest way to mess up your plan while vagabonding is to make a plan in the first place. Don’t be afraid to change your itinerary, planned countries, or anything else. It is your trip, and no one knows what the future holds. Maybe you will fall in love with an Australian and end up going there next instead of Europe. Maybe you will meet a group of likable people heading to Nepal for an Everest Base Camp trek. You could miss a world of potential adventure by staying rigid and sticking to a plan that was made at home. Plans are for sissies!
Talk to Everyone
Make it a point to talk to everyone, locals and travelers, at every opportunity. Approach people everywhere possible. The experience is about the people that you meet, not just some snappy pictures of landscapes. Travel is also perpetual; you may end up with friends in dozens of countries that are inviting you to come stay for free!
Do not set limits on how much time you plan to stay in a particular country or region. Slow down, align yourself with the environment, and absorb what an area has to offer. You will feel when it is time to move on inside your gut, don’t let a calendar tell you when to do so. Don’t get into a race to check areas off a list. It is better to have truly learned the culture in one country rather than to say you “did” five countries.
Not every day on the road will be a dream. There will be times when you are uncomfortable, homesick, frustrated, or culture shocked. Remember that these are just temporary and psychological conditions. Keep your chin up and always put yourself into positions for good things to happen. You will be surprised at how often dire situations (such as being lost or not knowing anyone) work out for the best.
Log Your Journey
Keeping a public blog is great, but carry a small personal journal as well. Record your feelings, thoughts, and experiences so that you can re-live your trip in detail later. You will see so many new things and meet so many new people, it will be impossible to retain it all in memory. Write things down!
Remember that while you are abroad, you are representing your home country, backpackers, and maybe even the entire Western culture. Don’t be rude to locals. Don’t treat them like servants. Take care of the environment and remember that you are a guest in these places. Don’t lose your cool during negotiations or the inevitable bus breakdown — life moves at a different speed in other cultures.
Keep in mind that you may be on holiday, enjoying a big adventure, but this is still daily life for the locals. Many are working hard to survive and they may never have the option to enjoy travel like do. It may seem like everyone just wants to get into your money belt sometimes. These are human beings that want to enjoy life just as you are, and they were born in a place that makes dreams harder to reach.
People, Americans in particular, are programmed to think that long-term travel is a lifestyle only for the rich. Come home and share the news, break the stereotypes, and encourage others that are unsure about taking that first step.
Read about my feelings when I finished my first year of backpacking travel.