Four years ago I thought I could backpack the world for the rest of my life. The first six-months were paradise. I went from city to city and adventure to adventure. I rarely spent more than three to four nights in each place. This is what I thought backpacking meant. After about six months, I started to slow down.
I was tired. I took a last minute flight from Sydney to Buenos Aires and lived there for four months. It was an expensive impulse but I would have broken down if I continued at the pace I was going at. I thought I just needed a break and I could continue on for awhile after the four month break. Afterwards I set out to explore South America. In the beginning it was great. Again going from city to city. After about a month, I got tired again. Eventually I ended up in Mancora, Peru where I worked at a hostel for a month. I bought my return flight home. It was getting close to a year of RTW travel. Then I bought another ticket and I lived in China for a year. I traveled around but I loved the comfort of having a place I could call home.
Our next adventure was South America and it started with house sitting in Bogota, Colombia for a month. That felt like it went by way too quickly. We set out to travel for the next several months throughout South America. We were supposed to go from Bogota to Buenos Aires all by land. This is when we discovered our limits.
After about a month of traveling in Colombia, we couldn’t take it anymore. It seems silly if you haven’t experienced the exhausting life of having to pack and repack everything you own, navigate yourself to a new city, and do sight-seeing everyday. We went straight for Quito, Ecuador and found ourselves staying at a hostel for a week. Then came Banos where we also stayed nearly a week. For the month of December 2011, we decided to get a place to live in Montanita for an entire month and celebrate New Years and Christmas there.
We still didn’t want to travel fast even after staying put for a month. So we booked a flight for the very next day to Buenos Aires and got an apartment for three months. Exactly what we needed and we were ready to continue. After Buenos Aires, we traveled west to Chile which took us a couple weeks to get there. Once we were there, we stayed in Santiago for a week.
In the beginning while everything was still fresh I was able to travel non-stop. As time went on, I started to travel slower and had preferred to live in places than jump around.
My limit at the moment is about one month of non-stop travel. After that, I need to be able to take it all in and relax. Physically I can take it but not mentally.
But one thing I forgot to mention throughout this is that the way I travel has also changed. I’m now much more likely to stay in private rooms than dorm rooms. I also don’t mind getting a hotel room or apartment for a bit of luxury sometimes. I remember paying $4 a night for a room in Cambodia and I was pretty proud of that at the time. I saved $5 from the better looking hotel across the street. If you put me in that position now, I’m much more likely to spend $9 for a place that doesn’t have spiders crawling all over the place and a bucket of water to bathe.
Am I still a backpacker?
I think that backpacking for me isn’t just about budget travel. It’s about the adventure and experience of traveling. I don’t think you don’t need a backpack to call yourself a backpacker. For me a backpacker travels whether it’s just a few hundred miles to a couple thousand miles away from home. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s outside at a place that’s unfamiliar to you.
The real difference I think between backpacking and other forms of traveling is that backpackers tend to take extended trips and often to off the beaten path destinations. They cut costs in many areas to spend more on other adventures. That can be done with a suitcase, duffle-bag, or a backpack. It doesn’t matter because it’s still traveling. The part that I feel I’ve lost is being able to take long extended trips. Not right now at least. Right now I prefer to live abroad and experience adventures in small doses rather than taking on a long journey. The meaning of budget has also changed where I’m spending more now than I did four years ago.
I feel the way I travel has changed a lot over the years. And while I’m not always backpacking, I’m still taking on adventures and traveling. Right now we plan on moving to Mexico then eventually Italy. Art of Backpacking will be taking on a big change in the next couple weeks and I’m really excited about it.