Why do you want to travel?
It’s a pretty hard question, isn’t it? There are plenty of obvious answers — for fun, for adventure, to step out of your comfort zone. And of course, who doesn’t love a holiday? But some people use their backpacking adventure as a journey of self-discovery. When other backpackers talk to me about finding themselves, I can’t help but cringe a bit. Self-discovery through travel is easily one of the biggest clichés out there.
But as cliché and cringey as it may sound, there’s no denying that you do learn a lot about yourself when you travel. Whilst it may not always feel like a deep journey towards finding yourself, your adventure will definitely shine a light on your strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between. Here are just a few of the things you’ll learn about yourself whilst on the road.
If you’ve not had much experience of relying on your intuition, then traveling for the first time will really test you. I’ve always been incredibly indecisive, and I can spend hours fretting over the smallest of decisions. But when you travel, you rarely have that luxury to do that. Always being on the go means that decisions need to be made fast. You have to learn to trust your gut and let your intuition be your guide, even when it feels absolutely terrifying to do so.
You’ll also undoubtedly learn that your intuition isn’t always right. But this doesn’t mean that you should stop listening to it. Every single backpacker has made a bad decision (or several) based on intuition alone. But they’ve made plenty of good ones too. Learning how to listen to your instincts is always a good idea, but especially when traveling. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself.
Sleepless nights in hostels, random meals at random times, always being on the go — these are just a few of the things that test your health whilst traveling. But travel doesn’t just change your health, it can really test it too. Even if you thought you were super healthy before you started backpacking, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with your adventure once you arrive. Maybe you’re struggling to keep your eyes open after a few hours of exploring, or your hike might leave you completely breathless.
On the other hand, you may find out that you’re a lot healthier than you first thought. For a girl who skipped her fair share of PE lessons, I was surprised that I managed to (just about) keep up with a group of health nuts whilst hiking up a volcano — even with a twisted ankle! No, you’re probably not going to realise that you’re the next Usain Bolt, but you may surprise yourself with what you can achieve when you first go traveling.
You will have the time of your life when you go traveling, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. Being so far away from friends and family is tough, especially if you’re backpacking for months at a time. Plus, you’re bound to be put into some nerve-wracking situations that’ll definitely test your love for traveling (which is why you should always be prepared for the unexpected). During these moments, you’ll realise just how brave you are.
It isn’t just the sad and scary stuff that tests your bravery. Even the stuff that you actually want to do can take a lot of courage. Skydiving, ziplining, paragliding, or any other adventure sports that are popular in travel hotspots can seem pretty nerve-wracking. It can take a lot of guts to take the plunge. But even if you’re not the adventure type, simply going traveling takes a lot more courage than you first realise.
A lot of time traveling is learning about how to push yourself and step out of your comfort zone. But sometimes, it’s about learning how to say no — a word that so many of us find impossible to say. If you’re a perfectionist and a people pleaser, this word is simply not in your vocabulary. You always do what other people ask of you, and always push yourself further and further. Having determination and helping out others is never a bad thing, but you shouldn’t be sacrificing your happiness whilst doing it.
When you go traveling, you’ll connect with so many different people from all around the globe. And because you’ll all want to get different things out of your journey, you won’t want to do the exact same activities — but that’s okay! You’ll begin to realise that you should set your own boundaries and not put pressure on yourself to fit in with other backpackers.
And the same goes for the pressure you put on yourself too. It’s good to want to step outside of your comfort zone and make the most of your adventure. But if you’re pushing yourself to do something that you’re absolutely dreading, ask yourself why. Is it because you think you’ll actually enjoy it, or is it something that you feel like you have to do? When you realise that your backpacking adventure is all about you and not other people’s expectations, you’ll feel confident enough to set boundaries with yourself and stop forcing yourself to do the things that don’t bring you joy.
Nobody is perfect. When you travel, you aren’t going to do everything right and you aren’t going to do everything well. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so the chances are that you’ll find something that you’re really good at, but you’ll also find something that you’re not so good at. One thing I’m awful at is asking for directions. I’ll be so focussed on trying to manage asking a question in a foreign language that I simply won’t compute the answer.
Having to deal with your travel weaknesses can be both nerve-wracking and infuriating. But you’ll eventually learn how to manage them, and they won’t seem like such a chore anymore.
What you want
Traveling is always the one time in my life when I feel completely free. This freedom doesn’t just bring a sense of relief, but an opportunity for self-discovery too. Without responsibilities and obligations tying you down, you have the chance to experiment and find out what it is you want from life. Do you want to teach yoga? Give it a go. Do you want to become a writer? Start writing. Whatever you want to do, when you travel you get the chance to try it out, or at least put some real thought into it.
What have you learnt about yourself whilst traveling? Let me know in the comments below!