So it’s been a week since I started my South East Asia trip and the other day I managed to bump into a couple Lithuanians. It’s funny how this encounter completely changed my view of travelling. The boys were crazy. They wanted to stay off the beaten track and purposely get themselves into such situations where they would have no clue what to do. I’m talking ‘life or death’ kind of situations. And they made me question is there a right way to backpack?
I was the opposite. I had my route planned out. Well, at least the next couple of stops (at the end of the day I used to earn money planning things) and I already felt rushed. It felt like I needed to be here and there at a certain time and only spent an x amount of days in a certain location. They basically laughed in my face and told me to chill the f*** out. They said that I’m doing it all wrong and the beauty of backpacking is doing it impromptu. I do agree with this to a certain extent. However, I am a girl and I need a certain level of safety and comfort in my life. I will not put myself in situations where I will have to sleep on the street. Thanks, but no thanks.
Then the chat obviously led to a question of ‘why are you here?’. One of the boys said that he keeps hearing the same backpacking stories over and over again, that people are either running away from something or are here in search of something. Well, it appears that I am like everybody else and would fall into one of those categories. I’m that ‘backpacker’ who takes a well-known route, the one who’s like everyone else. And that’s just boring, right? To be a real backpacker you have to explore the unknown.
At first, I felt very frustrated and offended by these comments and they didn’t leave my mind for a couple of days. Is there a right or wrong way to do this? Should I take the safe option and do what everyone else does or should I go crazy and book a ticket to somewhere where I didn’t even plan on going? Wasn’t it crazy enough just to pack my bags and leave? Clearly not. But wouldn’t that mean that I am still trying to fit into someone’s ‘right way’ of doing things? The thing is, I don’t even know what I am running away from or what I am in search of. All I know is that my ultimate goal is to relearn to enjoy my life and to finally relax. (Ok, maybe that’s what I am searching for!)
And yes, I agree that being a backpacker is doing things impromptu, not rushing and enjoying the moment. However, at the same time, it’s also realising that it’s your journey and you are not obliged to take anyone’s ‘right or wrong route’. It’s about realising what you really really WANT to do vs what you SHOULD do. And if you don’t then what’s the point of all this? You might as well just be home, working 9-5, because that’s what you SHOULD do.
So I am pledging to myself that from now on I will listen to my body and my mind. I don’t care if I’ll be seen as a shitty backpacker because I take Ubers or sleep in private rooms or eat western food. And I don’t care if people will say ‘how come you missed this ‘must see’ landmark?’. Because you know what, seeing that mosque or that artificial beach or that overpriced aquarium isn’t something that interests me in the slightest. I would rather choose a 10k hike through a jungle or a modern art museum, but that’s just me. There’s no right or wrong here.
I pledge to myself to do whatever makes me HAPPY and I will do whatever I actually feel like doing because this is my journey and I won’t waste my energy, time and money on things that simply tick ‘backpackers to do’ boxes. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m gonna take a well-known route or will go off the beaten track. Am I right or what?