How Backpacking Has Changed My Life

My first experiences travelling I have to admit were kind of  boring.  It was at an all-inclusive beach resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic  Don’t get me wrong, the place was awe-inspiringly beautiful, but to me 7 days of sitting at the beach with a bunch of Europeans that didn’t speak English, and drinking free coco-locos got a bit repetitive and lonely for me.  Beach, eat, drink, sleep, repeat! Even the novelty of it being a topless beach got old real fast, especially when Euro-Granny walked by……a vision forever implanted in my memory.

They warned me not to leave the resort. “it’s dangerous out there” they would say. I’d probably get mugged. And I believed them. I believed them for about 5 days until I started to realize maybe, just maybe they want me to stay on the resort so that I would spend my money there. I quickly made plans to escape the resort and see what’s out there in the real world!

And the real world it was! Everyone’s on motorbikes honking their horns in some sort of organized chaos. Living in Vancouver, Canada all my life I never experienced such a thing. As the taxi drove through the country side 3 hours away to the capital city Santo Domingo I didn’t really stop to think if I’d be safe…..well except for the chaotic traffic. Besides I was too busy looking out the window. Giant cows heads hanging in the sun from the butcher shop, giant houses beside little shanty town shacks, a mass of school girls in uniforms crossing the street, everything caught my attention as I snapped photo after photo. People smiled and waved……nobody wanted to rob me.

I won’t go on about my adventure in the capital city, shop after shop with my driver hoping to score a commission. But I do recall when walking around something changed then and there. It’s not a small world, to me it’s a giant world full of billions of people and situations, people to meet and see. So much adventure. I dreaded heading back to that fake all inclusive resort. Ugh!

Just a few months later, I planned a 2 week backpacking adventure around Costa Rica. All by local bus, staying in small $8.00 per night guest houses. Wow! What an adventure that tiny little action packed country is. I loved the lifestyle so much that upon arriving home I saved up as much money as I could and left for Costa Rica again for another 2 week adventure covering the exact same route. Why Costa Rica again and why the same route, and not another country? I don’t remember! I must’ve really liked it though!

Esterillos Sunset

Esterillos Sunset by Len Langevin

I’m a bit of an eccentric. When my mind is on something sometimes I obsess with it and that’s all I can think about and I get the go big or go home with varying degrees of success. Here in Vancouver for a living I organised parties and concerts, sometimes bringing in world famous acts and drawing 1000’s of people. It never made me rich but it was fun. I mention all this because it gave me freedom to do what I want, when I want. I didn’t have a 9 to 5 job, 2 weeks vacation per year type thing holding me down. I could just make a few bucks and then take off on an adventure. And I used that go big or go home mentality for my next backpacking adventure.

[pullquote]What I loved most of all was the people and the culture[/pullquote]For 6 months I went backpacking to most of the countries of SE Asia and India with my girlfriend at the time. We followed the usual backpacker circuit, made all sorts of new friends, experienced new sites, sounds and adventures which was enough to write a book about. However to make a long story short, it once again changed me and my entire views on life itself. In just one word I’d describe it as “incredible”. The energy and the vibrant culture sucked me in. We took in all the tourist sites and by the end of it like so many before us, we experienced “temple fatigue” and exhausted ourselves. I think I did more drinking during those 6 months than all the 8 years of throwing parties combined.  We met and hung out with several other backpackers, made some temporary friends, but to me something was missing.  I had to ask myself what did I enjoy most about travelling? Was it the sites, the sounds, the food, the backpacking experience? Sure I loved all that but what I loved most of all was the people and the culture.  My dearest memories come from the tiny villages where we got to immerse in the culture.

India-6117

India-6117 by archer10 (Dennis)

Upon arriving home once again in beautiful Vancouver I realized nothing changed over the last 6 months, well nothing but me I guess. I all of a sudden wasn’t so interested in nightclubs and partying. I gave up my Saturday nights and watched movies on cultures around the world.  I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to live among the tribes in the Amazon, Safari through Africa, I wanted to do it all!

I came back broke but happy and landed myself a great job. I worked there 8 months or so, leading to the top salesperson of the company and all the while I was saving for another 6 month vacation. Even with a great job money didn’t come in fast as before, so I needed to plan for somewhere cheap which lead me to SE Asia & India once again, but this time different regions. It was a bit of a dilemma at first. Should I go in another part of the world or continue in the same region? I chose to really get to know Asia deeper rather then just step foot on each continent. I’m there to learn what makes the people tick, not to collect different stamps in my passport.

Being newly single, I knew this adventure would be different. This time I was solo for 6 months and I couldn’t wait! The one thing I did different in this trip is immersed myself much deeper in the culture. All my friends were not backpackers this time but regular everyday local people. Country after country, village after village I was invited into peoples simple homes, fed dinner and had all sorts of adventures. My new friendships didn’t last just one night or so but would continue on.

The success story of Mr. Vimon

The success story of Mr. Vimon by B℮n

I formed deep relationships with people and families from all corners of Asia and with the power of technology, I was able to keep in touch on a daily basis with everyone. I found myself going back 2 more times for small 2 week trips after that just to visit my new and dear friends. Flying from country to country for a very rewarding few days each. The foreigners that I did meet all seemed to know “The Secret”. It’s like they’ve easily overcome the rat race at home and firmly planted their feet in places of their dreams. I thought, I can do that! I know I can.

[pullquote]my heart seems to be stuck in Asia[/pullquote]I’ve spent the last year advancing in my career and making a very good living for myself. However my heart seems to be stuck in Asia. So I’ve come up with a plan to open a small but profitable business in Boracay, a tiny slice of paradise in the Philippines to enable to sustain myself to permanently live there with a couple friends. I guess there’s a bit of eccentric in me still. As I see it, a dinner for 1 is about $30 in a Thai restaurant here in Canada, or I could fly from the Philippines to Thailand and have dinner and drinks for not too much more, including the flight!….and maybe even throw in a massage afterwards.

Boracay Island  White Sand and  Willy's Rock surrounded by Blue Sky and Blue Sea

Boracay Island White Sand and Willy’s Rock surrounded by Blue Sky and Blue Sea by paynepat44

3.5 years ago I wouldn’t be able to easily point The Philippines on a map and now in a few months, it will be my new home. What a profound impact backpacking has made on my life and lifestyle. I’m excited for the adventures awaiting me in the next 3.5 years and beyond.  In the Western World we can really learn from Asian culture. At any given moment I could stop someone on the street in these countries, start a conversation and create a new friendship. I believe we’re missing that type on thing in the developed world. I just can’t do that here. I appreciate the little things that that part of the world has to offer. Everything from being able to get fresh tropical fruit on any street corner to the freedom of being able to fly from country to country quickly and cheap.

Leaving my friends, family, nice home and great career and risking my hard earned money for an uncertain future seems absolutely insane for a lot of people. But to me it seems absolutely insane not to.

36 Comments

  1. Ryan Wall on April 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    This story was amazing!! What a guy

  2. Ryan Wall on April 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    This story was amazing!! What a guy

  3. Guest on April 29, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Great story Dave. I’m just about to start my adventure and I hope I can immerse myself in the local culture the way you have written about. That’s my goal. To make friends all over the world and experience different ways of life.

    Good luck. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. Guest on April 30, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Great story Dave. I’m just about to start my adventure and I hope I can immerse myself in the local culture the way you have written about. That’s my goal. To make friends all over the world and experience different ways of life.

    Good luck. Looking forward to reading more!

  5. JimmyTH on May 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Well, I enjoyed your article and I really hope you make your Philippine business venture work. I noticed in my time in Asia that fareng are expected to have more money than regular people and my resources only sustained the lifestyle for brief periods. Lots of fun while it lasted, but I always wound up broke and back here again. I’ll always miss Asia, though, or at least parts of it.

    • Michael on May 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

      How long were you in Asia for? Did you try to open a business as well?

  6. JimmyTH on May 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Well, I enjoyed your article and I really hope you make your Philippine business venture work. I noticed in my time in Asia that fareng are expected to have more money than regular people and my resources only sustained the lifestyle for brief periods. Lots of fun while it lasted, but I always wound up broke and back here again. I’ll always miss Asia, though, or at least parts of it.

    • Michael on May 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

      How long were you in Asia for? Did you try to open a business as well?

  7. Krabi on May 7, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Nice and amazing story, thank you for information. After reading this post, I remember my last years holidays while I was in krabi, Thailand.

    • Michael on May 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

      I loved Krabi!

      • Theclochfaen on September 16, 2010 at 8:00 am

        No doubt, Krabi beach is great place for island lover . Its affordable and the people of Thailand are too friendly.Alex

        • Michael on September 16, 2010 at 8:04 am

          Absolutely! One of my favorite beaches…

  8. Krabi on May 7, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Nice and amazing story, thank you for information. After reading this post, I remember my last years holidays while I was in krabi, Thailand.

    • Michael on May 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

      I loved Krabi!

      • Theclochfaen on September 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

        No doubt, Krabi beach is great place for island lover . Its affordable and the people of Thailand are too friendly.Alex

        • Michael on September 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

          Absolutely! One of my favorite beaches…

  9. Nicholas Brown on May 10, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Dave:

    Your story really resonated with me. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Ukraine) and still an avid backpacker myself, I saw a lot of similarities in your experience.

    I think one of the key elements in your story and in the beauty of backpacking and the open road is that it’s the times that things don’t work out at all that you look back on the most fondly – when the late-night bus never shows up and you’re stuck trying to figure out where to sleep, when the flight is canceled and you have to find something else to do, when it starts pouring and you’re in the middle of a national park.

    I can say from personal experience that the things I remember about Peace Corps are the early struggles to learn Ukrainian, the bumbling cultural faux pas I committed time and time again, and the days when one more plate of potatoes seemed a little bit worse than death. There is something transformational and inspiring about pushing yourself to your limits and opening yourself up to calamity – it allows you to truly see the person you are underneath all the layers we place between ourselves and reality in the West. And it also makes you appreciate your own culture and its eccentricities more.

    Thanks for a terrific post.

    • Dave Jackson on May 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks a lot for the kind words Nicholas! =) I’ll keep this site posted on my progress!

  10. Nicholas Brown on May 10, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Dave:

    Your story really resonated with me. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Ukraine) and still an avid backpacker myself, I saw a lot of similarities in your experience.

    I think one of the key elements in your story and in the beauty of backpacking and the open road is that it’s the times that things don’t work out at all that you look back on the most fondly – when the late-night bus never shows up and you’re stuck trying to figure out where to sleep, when the flight is canceled and you have to find something else to do, when it starts pouring and you’re in the middle of a national park.

    I can say from personal experience that the things I remember about Peace Corps are the early struggles to learn Ukrainian, the bumbling cultural faux pas I committed time and time again, and the days when one more plate of potatoes seemed a little bit worse than death. There is something transformational and inspiring about pushing yourself to your limits and opening yourself up to calamity – it allows you to truly see the person you are underneath all the layers we place between ourselves and reality in the West. And it also makes you appreciate your own culture and its eccentricities more.

    Thanks for a terrific post.

    • Dave Jackson on May 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      Thanks a lot for the kind words Nicholas! =) I’ll keep this site posted on my progress!

  11. q8travelbud on July 8, 2010 at 1:24 am

    I had a much much smaller experience … I was planning to go to the US to see my friends from college but for some reason I made a decision to book a flight to Kenya … that trip changed my outlook and interest in life and ever since I’ve been planning to travel around .. due to my work as project manager I only get to do a week or two trips … I recently visited Nepal and ever since I had the urge to take a long (unpaid ) leave from work and travel around asia … although I really want to do it there is this unsettling feel which is normal since ourlives … specially here … is all built around practicality and work … so I am trying to sort out my finances and hopefully I’ll get to make that trip … I desparately need to break away from my life routine … away from construction, politics, and our social environment… this post was very inspirational

    • Michael on July 8, 2010 at 8:08 am

      Sounds like the travel bug has got you! I say go for it. If you want to make it happen, it will happen. It might be hard at first but it’ll all seem to come into place as you plan your trip. Good luck and safe travels! Would love to hear about your progress so send me an email again when things start coming together.

      • q8travelbud on July 8, 2010 at 9:41 am

        thanks for the encouragement … yup will let you know for sure (for the tips too 🙂 )

  12. q8travelbud on July 8, 2010 at 2:24 am

    I had a much much smaller experience … I was planning to go to the US to see my friends from college but for some reason I made a decision to book a flight to Kenya … that trip changed my outlook and interest in life and ever since I’ve been planning to travel around .. due to my work as project manager I only get to do a week or two trips … I recently visited Nepal and ever since I had the urge to take a long (unpaid ) leave from work and travel around asia … although I really want to do it there is this unsettling feel which is normal since ourlives … specially here … is all built around practicality and work … so I am trying to sort out my finances and hopefully I’ll get to make that trip … I desparately need to break away from my life routine … away from construction, politics, and our social environment… this post was very inspirational

    • Michael on July 8, 2010 at 9:08 am

      Sounds like the travel bug has got you! I say go for it. If you want to make it happen, it will happen. It might be hard at first but it’ll all seem to come into place as you plan your trip. Good luck and safe travels! Would love to hear about your progress so send me an email again when things start coming together.

      • q8travelbud on July 8, 2010 at 10:41 am

        thanks for the encouragement … yup will let you know for sure (for the tips too 🙂 )

  13. Gimikera on February 1, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I’m glad you love Boracay, it’s the most famous beach in the Philippines but there are other islands worth exploring as well.

  14. Gimikera on February 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’m glad you love Boracay, it’s the most famous beach in the Philippines but there are other islands worth exploring as well.

  15. Donnamorang on July 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Go for it, you will never regret it! I left the US at the age of 50+ and have traveled solo for the last 12 years. It has all be more than I ever dreamed. You might like the book I wrote about teaching and traveling abroad, it’s now on Amazon, Big Backpack–Little World. I’m on my way back to Asia so I guess I have the Asian fever also. Good luck and happy travels.

    • Michael on July 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll check it out.

  16. Donnamorang on July 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Go for it, you will never regret it! I left the US at the age of 50+ and have traveled solo for the last 12 years. It has all be more than I ever dreamed. You might like the book I wrote about teaching and traveling abroad, it’s now on Amazon, Big Backpack–Little World. I’m on my way back to Asia so I guess I have the Asian fever also. Good luck and happy travels.

    • Michael on July 15, 2011 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll check it out.

  17. ella on May 26, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I really appreciate this article. I’m 22 y. o. girl from the Philippines. So glad you opened a business in Boracay. I just got back from a spontaneous trip in Siem Reap, Cambodia with friends and I think I just caught the travel bug too! Also, I’ve stumbled upon this site while I was preparing for the trip. I want to visit a lot of diff. places. I’m currently working to get my architect’s license. I’m even considering specializing in tourism/hospitality architecture and traveling would serve as my research. I’m getting so excited haha.

  18. ella on May 26, 2012 at 1:09 am

    I really appreciate this article. I’m 22 y. o. girl from the Philippines. So glad you opened a business in Boracay. I just got back from a spontaneous trip in Siem Reap, Cambodia with friends and I think I just caught the travel bug too! Also, I’ve stumbled upon this site while I was preparing for the trip. I want to visit a lot of diff. places. I’m currently working to get my architect’s license. I’m even considering specializing in tourism/hospitality architecture and traveling would serve as my research. I’m getting so excited haha.

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