Life….a series of seemingly significant or insignificant moments that are strung together throughout time forming an individuals very essence, one who will interact with tens, hundreds, thousands, millions or billions of other humans that inhabit this vast and mysterious world that we constantly try to control and understand. Interactions that on the surface, one might think are inconsequential, but possibly lead to events that bring into being the treasures of a life well lived and/or the foundations for opportunity and growth. Life….can you tell me what it is? Can the worlds most renowned scientist, spiritual authority, politician, mystic or philosopher tell you or I the ‘reality’ of what is going on in the world? What does it all mean? Why are we here? What is my purpose? Can anyone answer for you the largest questions that have ever existed? Absolutely not. They’re questions that only you can answer. And that brings us to the backpackers philosophy and the travelers mind, which I feel is important to cultivate, with whatever label you may give to it. Because it can help you answer those questions that everyone is bound to have and help to improve your life. What I’m saying isn’t entirely new…..it’s just coming from a different person.
What is backpacking? What is travel? It’s just seeing new places, having fun and experiencing different cultures, right? Yes…..at first. What it really is, is a lesson in risk-taking. A constant lesson (depending upon how much you travel and/or if you can maintain that mystical energy field one can foster around oneself while you travel). Something happens to the adventurer that embraces the fact that he or she isn’t in control of anything. That they are at the whim of the world that they’re about to experience. You’ve got to let go of your plans and travel books and pre-conceptions of what a vacation ‘is’ to tap into that field. You take risks. Risk after risk. Large and small. Why? People who travel are escaping something. A stressful job. A life without flavor. A death in the family. A chance to recapture their youth with friends. A break-up. An overbearing spouse. A dead end job. On and on. People are escaping. What they can unlock when they start to take risks is…. their true essence. The absence of fear. Their human potential. Each moment they will transform into a better version of themselves. Travel is not just about sitting on the beach sipping margaritas. That is fine and it has it’s place…especially if you’ve been hiking for the past 2 weeks. But to find the travelers mind, one must move outside of their comfort zone, in small and in large leaps.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about those moments where you can ‘follow the white rabbit’. Those moments when you can push yourself. An opportunity gets presented and you can walk through the door, or not. Do I cancel my trip to Austria because the cute girl who was drawing a sketch of me on the train is going to Poland? Do I follow her there? Do I go with the guy to an absynthe bar? Do I cancel my flight to see this once in a lifetime concert? Do I stay in a hostel, even though I’m terrified of sharing my space with complete strangers? Do I walk alone at night for 3 miles through this part of the city or do I take the tram? Seemingly insignificant moments that can have a huge bearing on what you are about to become. Me? I didn’t follow the girl. Maybe she and I would have fallen in love. I did follow the guy, drank absinthe, had wild hallucinations and spoke fluent French to strangers when I was lost, although I don’t speak French (I only studied it briefly in school). I did cancel my flight and had a spiritual experience at the concert, which stirred up emotions from memories past that I needed to re-asses and cleanse. I stayed in the hostel (and many, many others) and broke down my misconceptions that we all live ‘the exact same way’. I walked through the city, in the quiet hours of the night when no tourists are clouding the truth that lay there, and got to observe what it’s like to be a homeless drug addict.
Are those few moments that I’ve shared from my life really what amounts to cultivating the travelers mind that I talk about? Yes. However unremarkable as they were, they led to hundreds of other instances, where I could have chosen the familiar road or the unfamiliar road. And as you grow and enjoy it….you begin to take more risks into unknown territories. You may even find peace…without meditation. Your meditation was your risk taking. The adventure was your drug. Because that’s what we’re all after too, right? Peace. A life without stress. A life without fear. Complete freedom. That’s why we read so many self-help books, are members of organized religions, take so many pharmaceuticals, go to therapy and exercise like maniacs…..because we want to quiet our mind. Our mind….that is the root of all our problems. Because it’s our mind that is or isn’t afraid, that is or isn’t sad, that is or isn’t accepting of situations. Our mind….is also our greatest ally and given the proper shift, is capable of transforming your perspective into a perfect, dream-like life, where next to nothing can rattle your cage.
Then comes the hardest part for a backpacker… you realize that the journey has to come to an end. As do all things in life. That’s the second most important thing you learn. How to say goodbye. On a whim you went to a country that you knew next to nothing about…and you found a place that was like a childhood dream. It was a place without equal. And you only had two days to enjoy it. You knew in your present situation, it may be years, if ever, that you return to this place. So you do something that’s harder than a break-up, maybe even harder than putting your favorite pet to sleep…..you say goodbye to perfection. You let go. Constantly. You say goodbye to the great friends you made at the hostel in Prague. ….will it really ever be the same if you meet up with them again? You travel and you keep moving. You say goodbye hundreds of times, to people, to places, to things that you fell in love with. You cultivate a giant garden of fantastic moments. Moments that never would have happened unless you took those risks. And each place you go to….you find more things in this world that you fall in love with…..another town, another city, another person, another bar, another restaurant, another meal, another church, another farm, another mountain, another tree, another hostel, another beer, another wine……and you think to yourself, ‘How can there be so many beautiful things in this world? If I were to see it all, how could I even comprehend how vast and amazing this world is?’ (A blog is a poor excuse I know). You start to let go of all the horrible things you’ve seen and read in the news and start to realize that……for every bad thing…..there are 100 indescribable things that overcome it.
And however many times you have to say goodbye, is how many times your heart breaks. You get filled up with joy and then torn apart so many times….that nothing can harm you anymore. Your ego explodes and reassembles continuously in the self analysis that inevitably happens as you step outside of your comfort zone…that you forget who you are. You forget where you are. You forget why you were so damned afraid or so damned shy. You burn up and then rise like a phoenix out of the ashes…over and over again. It’s as if you’d been asleep your whole life….and all of a sudden you’re filled with energy and alive. You can become so addicted to this energy, that you yearn for it constantly. It’s not a drug addiction. Or an adrenaline addiction or some other man made disorder. It’s an addiction to life. What life really is. And once you experience it….you want it again, and again, and again. Just like Bill Murray in Scrooged (1988). Because who wants to go back to being afraid and boxed in once they’ve been set free? It’s like a hell in it’s own way to return from a life changing experience. How can one come back to their former life….when their life, rather their perception of it, is no longer the same? How can you be stagnant…living in one place….when you’ve stayed in a different bed in a different city every night for months? It is something that I’ve struggled with each time I return from a journey….
And ‘an’ answer, not ‘the’ answer, in keeping that favorable aura about yourself, is that there’s always another journey. Even if you’ve been gone backpacking for 2 years…..the coming year upon your return home is another great journey. What is home? There’s no need to be miserable, living in bitterness because you left a great expansive adventure behind you, but to be happy because you know deep inside that nothing is set in stone. Nothing can be controlled. Nothing can be answered but with the answer that you give to it. Nothing is irrational or unrealistic or impossible. Because there is no answer that you can contend with, that is any better than your own answers. You become so in touch with your emotions, your spirituality, your morals & ideals that you feel a step above the rest, but you know that you’re no better than any other human being….you can just see it clearly, is all. And there’s always a new adventure to be had. Sure, you’ll go back to a ‘normal’ life and a ‘normal’ set of ideals, laws and societal expectations. But when you’re there, in the travelers mind frame, you can just sit back and laugh at it all….because it’s all man-made. And the knowledge that you gained….is probably more valuable than all the power in the world. Your family & friends will think you’re the same old person and will treat you accordingly. The rules will pretty much be the same….but you won’t. It’s like The Wachowski’s described in The Matrix…you’ll start to see the code, in a sense. And songs like this will start to make sense to you.
Gratitude. The third most important thing for a backpacker. Do you know how amazing it is that you were born? That you were formed into the person that you were? That you positioned your life to have the opportunity to travel? That you picked those certain places to travel to? That you met the people you did and experienced very strange synchronicity’s in those places you went to? Do you think a football player like Ryan Tannehill (Go Dolphins!) could just hit the road, backpack Europe, have fun and get crazy without being recognized and criticized the world over for it? Do you think a movie star like Tom Cruise or Jim Carrey could have that same experience? No way! I mean…maybe they could try…..but it’s highly unlikely that they’d go incognito for more than a few days. Do you know how lucky you are to backpack and how unimaginable that escapade is to most people? Be grateful for each second. For each good and bad experience. Each girl kissed and each ankle sprained. Backpacking makes you realize, however slowly for some, that life is REALLY F$*%ING PRECIOUS!! And AMAZING! Just look at it! And if you can transform yourself….each time that you return home you’ll become a better version of you, with a new lease on life. Of course you’ll tell your boss that he’s an @$$hole and get fired. Of course you’ll ask the girl out that you were always shy around. Of course you’ll call an estranged friend that you haven’t seen in 5 years. Of course you’ll tell someone that you love them. Because it’s such a laugh, isn’t it? All those shortcomings and imaginary fears. We all die. It’s inevitable. And we have this gift of a life……to live… and to be free. Truly free. Not the freedom that George W. talked about.
No matter how perfect you feel after the journey ends. No matter how clear headed you’ve become. You’ll always get dragged back into human drama, pain and suffering (greatest movie ever, watch it). You’ll spin in the same circles that you’ve spun in before. You might make mistakes….but you’ll know why. You’ll take the risks….knowing that things may end poorly….and you’ll do it because you’ll know that there’s no point to life unless you take risks. Big ones. You’ll keep stepping outside of your comfort zone because you won’t want to become stale….so you’ll try to be a little unpredictable, just to hang on to that travelers mind. And you might pull stunts to keep that feeling. And it might leave you. For a long time. Who knows…you might turn into who you once were before the journey began. But if you’re looking for it….it’ll come back around. The winds always change.
You might be saying, ‘Great. You feel awesome. I’m happy for you…weirdo. You’ve got a good lease on life. Why do I need to save my money and allocate all this time to travel just to find….a better outlook on life? What if I don’t find it? What if I don’t need it?’ Well, you might not find it. I’ve traveled at times and didn’t have the same explosive experience as others. It has a lot to do with your head space when the journey begins. But if you’re open to it….there’s a good chance that you’ll have a great experience. It’s entirely up to you. The meaning of life is your own meaning. Your purpose in life is the purpose that you give to yourself. I can’t tell you who you are. I can’t tell you what to do. Neither can your boss, or your lover, or the President, or the Pope. It’s your call. Always. I’m just a guy sharing my experiences. And I’m sure that you’ll do the right thing for yourself….but I hope that some of my words have rubbed off. And maybe you will go backpacking, however close to or far from your home. And maybe you’ll open your mind to see just how unbelievably amazing this world is, how unbelievably amazing you are and how important you are to this world that you live in. And here I am….trying to push you off the cliff.
Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G and learning about the backpackers mind. As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. And follow The Golden Rule. Have a great day.