30 Things I Learned in My First Three Months of Backpacking


Three months ago today, I boarded a flight to Malaga to meet a good friend for a road trip around Andalusia.

It was the day after I’d left an agency job, and at the start of what I thought would be a few months of travelling before returning to Europe or the US.

I had no idea what would happen in the weeks to follow, but was unbelievably excited for all of it.

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Here’s what I’ve learned in my first three months on the road- 

  1. You are never too old to backpack the world (I’m currently 31 and have met people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s thus far)
  2. You are more than capable of handling anything that comes your way- good or bad
  3. Only a few weeks of travel feel like a few months- it feels like I’ve been travelling forever
  4. Everything you need fits into a 40-50L backpack- you need so little materially to live
  5. The things that consumed your life at home, both in time and worry, no longer matter, and to some degree, seem insignificant
  6. You’ll love some places more than others, but there’s something to learn from each destination
  7. You’re never too old to make friends- already, I’ve met incredible people from all walks of life
  8. Packing cubes are an actual godsend, one of the best things ever invented
  9. You can find comforts of home, both in food and product, just about everywhere in the world (see: Boots in Thailand, Olive Young in Korea, Watsons in Malaysia, Guardian in Indonesia, and so on for medicines, beauty and personal care)
  10. You quickly forget what day it is, and sometimes question what month it is
  11. Fear of the unknown every day and in every place you visit becomes validation that you’re alive
  12. You do not need to shower every day if you’re near an ocean- salt water baths can be the most cleansing (in more ways than one)
  13. And, an actual shower, not over a toilet, with a separate shower head is the absolute height of luxury
  14. You will have bad days- days when you feel lonely, exhausted and seemingly over it, but those will pass
  15. It’s okay to lie in bed, watching Netflix in air con while Hanoi whirls around you outside- take time for you, just as you would at home
  16. Massages are the best (and affordable) way to unwind in SE Asia…
  17. …Followed closely by sipping a fresh coconut and watching the sun set
  18. Changing plans or not having a plan is okay. There will always be places to stay and planes/trains/buses to book
  19. You learn to be deeply grateful for everything you once took for granted- access to hot water, ice in drinks, drinkable tap water, ability to wash clothes whenever, etc.
  20. And, grateful for the experience of travelling, for every small moment and the big experiences, both of equal importance
  21. There is a solution for everything and people you don’t know will help you, because humanity- even when you drop your iPhone on an island in Thailand and need to have the LCD replaced, or, worse yet, when you are assaulted in Vietnam and have your phone stolen
  22. Small indulgences, like face masks and leave in conditioner, can make you feel like a new person
  23. You needn’t be afraid of trying new things- from food to experiences. Everything will work out as it’s meant to
  24. You thrill and scare yourself with imagining actually living in some of the places you visit- looking at you Chiang Mai, Da Nang, Hanoi and Bali
  25. Earplugs are a critical investment (hostel sounds, street noise, things that go bump in the night)
  26. Not everything is online or reviewed, and sometimes, trying that hole in the wall with tons of locals sitting outfront is going to be the best meal you’ve had all week
  27. Deal hunting is a full time activity, and scoring a great price on an Airbnb, hostel or hotel is the ultimate accomplishment
  28. You are a badass and will come back from your trip, however long it is, a better person
  29. The true beauty of travel comes from the places you visit and people you meet along the way
  30. And finally, the world is a big, beautiful place, and there’s more to see and do than you could ever imagine

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Have you ever been backpacking? What would you add to this list of things I learned backpacking? 

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