Backpacking- Not Just for Nomads

Photo by CC user Katie Lips on Flickr.

Certainly not everyone is cut out for, or even has the desire to travel as a backpacker. Some seeking the many comforts of home while travelling overseas, unable to give up those comforts that are a part of their daily lives. Then we have the authentic and nomadic backpacker; the less easily defined person, who seeks out the difficult rather than avoids it, and not only relishes the challenges of the road but thrives on them. Tourism Australia defines a backpacker as “a person that spends at least one night in either backpackers or hostel accommodation”, but not all backpackers stay in hostels with the use of applications like Air BnB on the rise. Many think that backpacking is nice for “young” people or even students, but not for families or “regular folks”. Possibly to them, this may ring as truth, but speaking from first-hand experience – I have seen that this is not the case! Here in this very post, I am endeavouring to explain why I believe that these very people may have much more to benefit from backpacking than they fathom.

I have stated in my thoughts found in other articles, almost like a broken record at times, that I believe that traveling – specifically in the style of a backpacker, is one of the most truly genuine ways to travel the globe. One of the reasons that I believe this because the experience is honestly about as local as you can possibly get. It gives you a plethora of opportunities to learn the ways of the people in the cultures you stay amongst, and it exposes the locals to a new language, different standards of living and other practices that can never be experienced from within a luxurious hotel room, let alone a television screen. Some may think that these experiences are good for a person to have, but that they’re not relevant into a career or into a person’s future. This is where I beg to differ.

Most backpackers are not actually career travellers. These people spend some time on the road, experiencing different lifestyles and seeing the sights, then moving on to other opportunities and pursuits. They become business people, doctors, lawyers, nurses, taxi drivers, chefs and Pilates instructors. Regardless of which path they choose to go down career wise, they will most often than not become standing members of society. Productive ones who hopefully pay their taxes.

When these people become productive members of society, they will also lead life based off of the experiences that they have had and the things they’ve learned along the way. A well-travelled business man has the advantage of being able to analyze business ventures and other new opportunities through many different perspectives. A doctor who spent time abroad can develop skills for working with a huge variety of patients. Politicians could certainly gain a better idea on global politics by experiencing them firsthand in their travels. Travelling, particularly backpacking style, offers societal benefits well beyond the reach of a classroom. The benefits, both direct and indirect, then positively affects society and in turn, the world. Reason number 2, is that even people who “do not like travelling” can also benefit from a trip overseas. Specifically, as challenges and obstacles arise when you are in a foreign land, you are able to formulate new skill sets which can readily transfer into your chosen professional field.

The experience that you have abroad can give you an opportunity to develop areas that you may be lacking in – but may have never realised. Travelling also teaches people to see things through other people’s eyes, a skill which is useful in work and home life. At work it may help you to deal with varying or conflicting personality types when you are in a general meeting. At home it may help you to see your partner’s or child’s point of view in a better and kinder way. More skills that you could acquire backpacking overseas include: adaptability, ability to negotiate, multi-tasking and language proficiency. Therefore, both travellers and non-travellers alike can use their travel experiences to benefit and hone their job and life skills. Even further if they are willing to test themselves.

Reason number 3 is probably not what you were expecting, but it can often be true in many people’s lives. Backpacking overseas makes people realize what they truly love about their home. Travelling helps people fully comprehend the situation that they have at home, helping them to truly appreciate what they indeed do have. In my travels I have heard it many times that people miss things about their home. No matter whether it’s family, stability, ease of life, opportunity, or being able to buy that perfect cup of coffee Melbournians are spoilt for choice with. Everybody has a tendency to appreciate what they have more once it is not in front of them. “Sometimes we have to go great distances to see what is right in front of us. On the contrary, we go to great lengths to see what we truly enjoy.” Travellers get the opportunity to see what they really enjoy and what they dislike. These people get the opportunity to think about life and their role in life.

Last but not least, my final point in this post is relevant to reason number 3. People often have a better idea of what they are looking for after they experience new and exciting things. This is why many countries support and embrace the concept of a “Gap Year”. What is a Gap Year, you ask? A gap year is basically an opportunity for someone to go on an adventure for a period of time.

Although it is not always a year, the point being that in this time the people are trying out new things, before settling into a chosen career path or lifestyle. This gives them a chance to see what they like, and what they do not like. In the end, developing a more refined sense of direction. People who travel can achieve more direction in their career paths and the choices they make in their lives. Some striving for a professional career, others look forward to the simple things in life, or realising that a professional career is not the right option for them. Ultimately this doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they did something amazing and new.

Ultimately, people usually find their niche in life – one way or another. Not everyone is able to travel, and many people who have the opportunity won’t actually seize it. My hope, however, is that those who are on the fence about backpacking, will now see it in a new light.