I’ve been posting and updating the teaching side of the blog of late while neglecting the backpacker side of things so I mean to start evening the score out.
I was sitting out on Khaosan road with large Chang beer which eventually turned into 2 and then 3…the pleasant taste of the beer and the warm sunny air beating down on Khaosan led me to thinking about why people go backpacking. Admittedly my my backpacking experiences have been confined to Southeast Asia thus far but the feeling and emotion behind it must be the same as it is to backpack across any other part of the world.
I guess I should define what I mean by a ‘backpacker’. When you picture a backpacker you often see someone in their 20s typically but that is to think only of the bulk of backpackers. Sitting at a bar on a hot sunny day in Khaosan it is clear to see the age group varies from 20s into 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s and potentially beyond? Besides the telltale sign of a bulging backpack or two (because let’s face it, traveling through a place like Southeast Asia with a suitcase on wheels is an exercise in folly) there is a mindset.
The reasons behind the decision to backpack are many. I like to travel. I want to go party in exotic locations. Its a good way to go soul searching. I’m having a midlife crisis. My girl friend broke up with me. I got a divorce. My marriage/relationship is failing so I think this would rejuvenate things. I like to experience new cultures. I need a change of scenery. I have nothing better to do in life at the moment. I’m a professional travel blogger and I get paid to do this (no that’s not me, thought perhaps one day I’ll get paid if enough people notice this blog; SPREAD THE WORD!!). And many more reasons. I’m not disparaging any of these reasons, I’m just thinking out loud about the reasons many people decide to depart their regular life, back their clothes into a backpack, and depart for weeks, months, or if you’re lucky YEARS!
I think what unites backpackers of all different ages and backgrounds is a common mindset. It is the feeling of wanting to experience the unknown. To break out of the Matrix. To live vicariously. To fulfill your travel dreams. To reject the mainstream reality of 9-5 week to week, and often living paycheck to paycheck (a reality I know very well). I think the word that best captures these thoughts and emotions is wanderlust. Oxford dictionary describes it simply as a strong desire to travel….Yes, this is true but does it really capture the deeper essence of the meaning? I think not.
To be completely capture the essence of the term wanderlust I think you have to consider the metaphysical aspects. By leaving your comfort zone and traveling half way around the world you’re welcoming a whole different paradigm. From the party animals, to your usual backpacker types, all the way up to the more senior people who feel backpacking is a way to experience something they might have been waiting for all their life. They all share the fact that backpacking opens your mind to new ideas, cultures, norms, existences. You question your own place in reality, even just subtly by comparing the young girl serving you pho while you tap away on your smart phone. You think about the processes that led to the construction of places like Khaosan Road or Pub St in Siem Reap. You think about how lucky you are to be born in a country where you can afford to just pick up and leave for an extended period of time (if you’re from a Western country). To put it simply, to go backpacking is to embrace another plain of existence and accept that there is more to life than what meets the eye.