I remember years ago, a mate of mine sent me a text when I moved to London for a work stint. It went something like: ‘your eyes are going to be blown wide open’. And they were. Now, almost a decade later and dozens more countries under my belt, I feel this needs to be refined further to include the people you’ll meet- they will change you too.
If I were to give myself a label, it would be something like a highly intelligent, smoking hot, super funny and all round amazing gentleman with a killer smile and perfect frown.
Jokes aside, the label would probably be an introverted extrovert- someone that likes getting out there and experiencing new things, exploring new places and meeting new people. But someone that also loves their own company, can spend days on end without talking to (or wanting to talk to) anyone, and someone who enjoys their own space.
I’m a guy with a handful of close mates as opposed to hundreds of acquaintances and of those close people in my life, I’m a little frightened by the lengths I’d go to to make sure they’re happy and hearty. Except Brad, he’s an asshole.
Now let’s throw a backpacking lens onto this. You’re never really in any given place for very long, you meet hundreds of new people all the time and finding a place to be physically alone with your thoughts is challenging at best, especially with hostels being ones primary form of accommodation.
The crazy thing is this:
When you connect with someone or a group of people, they become your best mates overnight, despite the fact you may never see them again when you part ways.
Backpacking attracts likeminded individuals. Sometimes I think we just like to punish ourselves to be honest.
In reality, we share some of the most ridiculous experiences and see parts of the world that are nothing short of spectacular. In addition to this, we are all out of our comfort zones and are trying just as hard as the next person to figure things out, be it what bus to catch, how to read a menu, how not to buy cat food instead of tuna in Russia, how to survive in a foreign land and deal with the unfamiliar.
Couple this with wanting to share something extraordinary with someone else, be it a sunrise, sunset, a waterfall or just a good meal. One of my fondest memories was watching the sunrise over the temples in Bagan, Myanmar with a French friend of mine, whilst listening to piano music. It’s these things that make it worthwhile.
I think all of these forces push you together with likeminded strangers and that force is strong given the limited time and the enormity of the moment you’re in. Obviously there are a number of people you won’t click with – I’d say they make up 90% of the people you meet but that remaining 10% are stellar individuals who, despite only knowing them for a number of days, are people I’d look up if I’m ever in their countries. Except Dean Davies- what a creep.
It’s those random nights in Ho Chi Minh city, sitting around a plastic table in a street, talking nonsense with a new bunch of friends, or the time you pose for selfies with a camel in the Gobi; hiking through the Andes talking high politics with some Aussies; having a few beers outside a karaoke bar on a deserted island in Palawan with some new German mates (the Germans are cool people after all 🙂 ) or just those random times you meet a new mate at a bar in Kratie and decide to explore a new continent with them. These are the things I won’t forget. I also won’t forget my mates from home that flew thousands of miles to spend time with me in far flung corners of the world. Hell, this gave me such joy. I remember being at the airport in Vientiane (Laos), waiting for one such mate to arrive – think I got to the airport 2 hours early thanks to my uncontainable excitement!
This post is for you: the explorers, the lost, the guys just trying to figure out their next steps. To those who are trying to get over something, trying to build something, to beat a new path. It’s for those of us that needed a break from work, from the real world and the harshness of reality. It’s for us that want to learn something new and see something incredible, to meet new people and have our eyes blown wide open.
This is for you, the vagabonds, nomads, the unemployed and homeless. Thanks for making my 16 months the best 16 months of my life.
Travel far and wide my friends.