3 Core Lessons 5-Months of Backpacking Taught Me

Abandoning your sense of safety, and embarking on 5 months of travel as, effectively, a homeless person with two backpacks, will teach you a fair bit in a short amount of time.

Back in April 2019, I ventured outside of the UK for the first time in 12 years, solo-backpacking from hostel to hostel. My adventure took me to Antwerp, Brussels, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Zagreb, and Kyiv. It introduced me to many fantastic people and memories I will forever cherish.

Whether you’re deciding to backpack yourself, or reading from a place of curiosity, here are my 3 core lessons — out of many more — that I learned during my 5-month escapade.

A quick note: This was written with myself in mind. A reflection for myself incase I ever forget these lessons. A reminder to waste no time, and to allow no fear to dissuade me from future endeavours.

Your worries are often fruitless.

While being overly analytical has helped me a bunch, it’s done its fair share of damage. Making £28,000 in bitcoin; 5 opportunities to travel; kissing a beautiful girl on a first date; each a differing severity of loss caused by my submission to fear.

When I decided to go backpacking, I had to do one of the scariest things I’d done in a long time: render myself homeless. Why pay rent for almost half a year if I’m not going to be there? I prepared, of course, but that still didn’t remove the fear. Low and behold, after I steeled myself and took the leap of faith, I quickly realised it was to become one of the best decisions of my life.

When anxiety’s daggers sink in, and excessive thinking and worry infect you, remember never to submit to excuses. They are simply tricks your mind plays on you to ensure you never face a fear. Their soul purpose is to drag you back and keep you within the dull walls of illusionary safety.

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.” — Confucius

It’s easier than you think.

A 3-month safety buffer, remote work capabilities, and signed monthly retainers is all you need. For 5 months, I went to restaurants and cafes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, had cocktails during the day, worked 2 days a week, and never had to tidy or clean my room.

I had times when money was short — mainly because I’d spent like an utter moron — but I bounced back every time. Meeting people became a breeze, and doing the uncomfortable every day became comfortable. The balance between work and life was blissful, and I had loads of time to tackle personal projects with very few worries.

What had before seemed impossible, merely a dream lodged in my mind, now became the normal every day. I lost count of the number of people who asked me how I was doing this, people who like me saw it only as a dream and not a possibility.

Truth be told, with a little planning and back-up, and the courage to take that first step, anything is possible. If I’d have gone travelling in Asia, I could have easily kept backpacking for a full year. Begin applying this perspective to other parts of your life, and who knows where you could be in a year.

You can live with less.

With only two backpacks (a 15L and a 40L), storage was scarce and demanded extra consideration. Especially when I spotted a new book or magazine — and boy did I see a lot of those.

Truth be told, living with only two backpacks was incredibly liberating. Sure, I wasn’t happy to abandon a beautiful book (which was the bulk of my wants), but it wasn’t the end of the world. I had my clothes, shoes, toiletries, and other relevant items in my 40L, and my laptop, electrics, books, pens and pads in my 15L. It was simple. I carried my life on my back.

Everything else was of no concern to me. Most of what I used or needed, I did not own. I breezed through from one place to another, leaving with almost the same number of possessions as I had upon arriving. It was the essence of minimalistic living, and it made me feel so light as if I could go anywhere at any time without a worry.

When I returned to the UK, I was starkly reminded of the things I had left behind. I found myself continuously surprised that I owned even half of these belongings. And while it was pleasant shifting through the items I had forgotten, I suddenly felt a lot heavier.

I see now how little I actually need most of what I own, except for my books, of course. And, while I’m not entirely sold by the idea of minimalism, it undoubtedly harboured a new perspective on what brings value to my life, and what I should avoid wasting money on.

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