It’s only been about a week but I’ve already learned so much. Some lessons are good, some are just interesting, and some are a little regretful. Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned while travelling through Indonesia so far…
- Pack everything you need, and then get rid of half of it. I am the type of person who needs to be prepared for everything. But when you have to carry everything you “need” on your back for extended periods, you start to question what you actually need. I have clearly brought waaaay too much on this trip and have already ditched my jesus sandals and my selfie stick (that was a mistake to bring in the first place for obvious reasons). I brought too many electronics; all I really needed was a go pro and a laptop. I also brought so many clothes that I didn’t need. I should have brought only underwear and some shoes because I want to buy all the clothes here. On my next trip I’ll know better.
- Always bring a big backpack and a daypack. This didn’t become a big problem until I decided to go on a hike. I had to bring my sling back, which was cumbersome and upset my balance. I can’t hold as much in it as a normal backpack and with an already small pack that means there is a limited amount of souvenirs I am allowed to pick up on the way. Bummer.
- Low key hostels will give you more opportunities to meet friends. Comparing my Ubud hostel to my Gili T hostel, I learned that in the places people go to party are not as friendly because a lot of people travel in groups. The Gili Islands is a spring break location for Australians, similar to Mexico for America. Tons of young people travel there from Australia for breaks just to party. That isn’t really my vibe, and its harder to walk up to a group of people who are friends than a group of people who just met each other.
- Backpackers have lots of tattoos. I was expecting to find a bunch of crunchy granola people abroad because those are usually the types of people who are okay with roughing it, but I was surprised to find very trendy people. I think the commonality between all backpackers is a sense of freedom that includes global freedom as well as freedom from societal expectations. Being able to do what you want with your body and express yourself in a way that inspires you is a feat not easily achieved. I admire those backpackers who are so free they can look, speak, feel, and do what they like.
- Traveling alone is safe and so much fun! So many people, men and women, travel alone every year. In my first hostel, almost everyone was traveling alone and so we bonded together and went out to dinner as a group. I have been offered beds in Barcelona, coffee in Helsinki, dinner in Copenhagen, and most frequently day trips with people I have just met. It is not often you introduce yourself to someone and they ask you to come to the beach or dinner. I am so fortunate to have made connections with such amazing people who have changed my perspective forever.
- Naps are okay. I left for this trip thinking that I would be adventuring non-stop so I wouldn’t be taking any of this trip for granted. It wasn’t until one of the other Backpackers said, “give yourself a break you’ve only been here a day!” that I slowed down and took some time to rest. Other people were looking at their trip as a vacation, where I was looking at it as more of a working trip, for some reason? I have since taken time to smell the roses and live the island life, not the Boston life.
- Trust in strangers is easy to find. It is impossible to do everything alone, no matter how many times I say “I can do it myself.” Without the help of friendly strangers, whether locals or fellow travellers, I would be much worse off. Today I was at an outdoor restaurant and I had to go to the bathroom so I asked the girl sitting at the table over to watch my bag for me, even though I didn’t know her. She was happy to, I’m sure since she knew another traveller would do the same for her. It’s nice to have people to lean on, even if you don’t know them.
- Backpackers smoke a lot. I don’t know why, but most of the backpackers I have met smoke cigarettes. It surprised me because I expected the crunchy granola types, who are overly health conscious. This probably comes back to the freedom thing and the rebellious attitude that gets people out of their comfort zone in the first place.
- There is no age limit to travel. Being 21 I assumed I would be of average age for people in the hostels. I thought people would only travel right before college (18-20) or right after college (21-24). I was definitely wrong. That may be the case in America but everyone has a different path, often depending on the country one is from. I have met travelers from 19 to 50 and seen many others that were young babies and grandmas. In some countries boys are required to serve in the military for a year right after high school, and others many people take a few years off before starting university. Overall, Backpacking is a lifestyle and you are never too young or too old to go on a trip.
- Backpackers have no sense of time. The most common response I have heard to the question “How long are you here?” is often, “I have no idea.” Many backpackers will just experience and not have a plan, which is exactly what I am doing. Once or twice I have responded, “I will be here as long as I like, then move on.” Another unique and beautiful thing about backpackers is that trips can last a short or very long amount of time. One girl I met the yesterday told me she doesn’t have any plans and her backpacking trip can last anywhere from 6 months to 5 years! Such an amazing sense of freedom must be needed to have the confidence and ability to have no responsibilities for an extended period of time. For many, like myself, no amount of time is enough. I could spend the rest of my life living out of my backpack and still feel like I didn’t experience enough. Backpackers are in no rush, in the best way.
- There are many different paths to the same goal. When I asked why people are travelling there have been a variety of responses. Some have said they are simply on holiday or school break, while others said they are escaping the winter in their home country, just quit their job, or are rewarding themself with this trip for landing a new job. Some people work half the year and then talk the other half off to travel. Some people do odd jobs to be able to afford to travel. Some people get different jobs in various countries to afford to live there for a period, then move on to the next destination. Like myself, there are a few people on school break and will head back to school shortly. The important part is that not matter what path we took, we all ended up at the same hostel at the same time, showing that there are many different ways to get the same result. This experience has opened my eyes to all the possibilities when following my dreams.
Overall, my experiences have been unforgettable. I will always remember the people I have met on my journey and their stories have changed my plans as well. I am so thankful for these experiences and hope that my story and journey will impact other backpackers or readers in the same way.