Where Do I Start?

Updated: May 2, 2019



Thinking of starting your first solo adventure? GREAT!


Don't know where to start? PERFECT!


You've come to the right place! Below I will be listing the first few things to initially think about when planning your adventure. These are guidelines I've created for myself that have helped me with each of my trips, and hopefully yours too!


Here are the top 4 burning questions that I get most when asked about an extended backpacking trip on the other side of the world:

How did you plan it?
How did you find the time?
How did you afford it?
How did you go by yourself?

Let's break these down one by one....



HOW DID YOU PLAN IT?


It's as simple as this: I didn't.


Blow your mind yet? If you are a type A kind of individual who has to have every little thing in your life mapped out, doesn't that sound like the perfect vacation AWAY from that kind of living - one where you don't have to stress about planning every single detail?


This is (in my opinion) the ticket to an incredible backpacking trip. When I first heard this response from a friend of mine who backpacked many months through Europe and Asia, I was at first flabbergasted. But the more he explained it, the more I fell in love with the idea. When you do have your whole trip planned, it doesn't leave any room for spontaneity. It also doesn't allow any room for all of those things that you DIDN'T research. I'm not saying to fly to a country completely blind (which you can do and still have a wonderful adventure), but know your basics about your trip and leave the rest to chance. You will always have that feeling of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) no matter what you do or where you go. The world is simply just too big to do every single thing. You don't need to have every little thing researched and prepared in order to enjoy yourself. If you do, more than likely you will feel this immense sense of 'time' while you are on the road. After practicing this style of backpacking, the most rewarding aspect of travel is when the illusion of time dissolves. You no longer need to check your watch, or know what day it is. This is when you are at the peak of embracing the living moment. You are living in 'the now'. And not only that, but it helps make time last longer.


I have found that within the American work culture, we are not used to the idea of an extended form of vacation. This is because most employers in the U.S.A. only allot a maximum of 2 weeks a year for vacation.


2 WEEKS A YEAR! THIS IS INSANE!

We are human. We are not simply built to just work all of the damn time. Yes we like to keep ourselves busy, but we have other needs to meet as well - and this includes relaxing and refueling. We cannot always be 'on' every passing moment. Because of this tiny amount of time allotted a year for most Americans, we are conditioned to want to KNOW that we are going to enjoy our vacation, so we PLAN every single step of it! It is our culture that forces us to think and feel this way.


So this begs the question for those who do have that full time job that only provide 2 weeks a year to backpack:



HOW DID YOU FIND THE TIME?


I left my steady 9-5 job.


This was my sacrifice in order to gain what I wanted out of life. You have to ask yourself:

"What are my priorities in life?"

Most individuals that I met who were traveling for months at a time either quit their jobs, got fired, or were living job to job. Either way, they were the most happy people I have ever met. Why? Because they had thrown themselves into the unknown in order to experience a part of life that they had no control over. They were exposed to more than a singular way to live life.


My father taught me that success was define by you. I will never forget the day my father asked me in college the definition of success was. I said it was to get a good job, climb that corporate ladder, make my way to the top, etc. etc. He responded by saying that to him he was successful because he had a lawn that was freshly cut, a happy wife, and his two kids were getting their education.


While I was on my first backpacking trip, I remember hearing the term GAP year for the first time. I had never heard that term before. This is a phrase that is used in Europe. In their culture it is encouraged to take time off in-between high school and college, or college and full time work.


I wish I had someone to inspire me to travel like Europeans did as they were growing up. Someone who encouraged me to experience what lies beyond the normal life back home.


Not only was it invigorating to witness a different way of living, but it allowed me to appreciate the little things in my own life.


The phrase 'The grass is always greener on the other side' never rung more true to me than when I went on my first adventure into a third world country. I believe it is human nature to always want the next level up. Comparison is the thief of joy.


It is within human nature to always crave the next level up - whether it be about our lifestyle or our experiences - we always want more. This is what will drag us down and effectively make us disappointed with our own accomplishments.


It is easy to forget how far you have come in life, so it is important to remind yourself of the good things you do have going on.




HOW DID YOU AFFORD IT?


Most hardcore backpackers I met were spending under $1,000 a month in third world countries, and under $2,500 in the west.


I started with South East Asia because I knew it would be much cheaper than first world traveling. It allowed room for error with my money- whether or not I over or under purchased something. It also allowed me to travel longer than I normally could with my savings in a location with an economy like my home country.



"Are you vacationing or are you traveling?"


When I was backpacking through Vietnam, I met a painter at a hostel in Hanoi who asked me this very blunt and forward question.


This really got me thinking...


Most of the time when I hear people say they have traveled, what they really mean to tell you is that they haven't traveled but vacationed. And for very short periods of time at that. This requires so much more money than typically required if you were to backpack instead.


For example instead of staying in hotels in your own bubble not being exposed to the locals, stay in hostels or homestays. Immerse yourself in the environment and feel what it is like to live like a local. Instead of bringing tons of luggage that you 'need' in order to 'travel', bring a single backpack with the essentials. With this style of visiting your favorite destinations you can extend your trip while saving money at the same time.




HOW DID YOU GO BY YOURSELF?


It was a leap of faith, and I threw myself into the deep end.


I was never ready...


I did not know how else to do it. And you might never be ready either. You have to trust your gut enough to follow it. You could prepare all your life and your fear could still hold you back.


"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."

- Marcus Aurelius.