Stop Glamorizing Backpacking!

Today I stumbled across an article entitled “Don’t date a girl who travels!”  Intrigued, I started reading:

“She’s the one with the messy unkempt hair colored by the sun. Her skin is now far from fair like it once was. ”  Yeah… that sounds exactly like me when I travel… Not.  

The real “girl who travels” has greasy, mangled split-ends; bug-bitten, unshaven, peeling sun-burnt legs; and a collection of ratty, sea-soaked hemp-bracelets dripping off her wrists.  Not to mention the green growing thing that lives between her toes, picked up in your average hostel shower.

When did backpacking get so glamorized?  I could not connect at all with the type of traveler that this blog was trying to procure.  I tried not to spew up my lunch when I read the lines: “She goes with the flow and follows her heart. She dances to the beat of her own drum. She doesn’t wear a watch. Her days are ruled by the sun and the moon. When the waves are calling, life stops and she will be oblivious to everything else for a moment.”

…. Seriously?

I was hoping to read something a little more honest: “Don’t date a girl who travels, because she’s probably grungy, unwashed, and hopelessly lost.”

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Too often, travel gets glamorized.  Day-dreaming adventurers read the Disney version of backpacking on blogs and begin to pack their bags, only to realize once they arrive that travelling is hard.  It’s nothing like their expectations.  As bloggers and seasoned backpackers, we need to be a little more honest and compassionate towards new travelers venturing out into the great unknown.

The Backpacker Blues

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Welcome to the world!  Feel uncomfortable?  Get used to it.  Things are nothing like home, but isn’t that why you left?  The beds are lumpy, the dishes in the hostel are dirty, the walls are dented, and the toilet is nothing more than a hole in the ground – if you can find one.  The air hurts your lungs, the food in the grocery store is strange, and it’s so bloody hot, why didn’t anyone mention the heat?  Or the massive spiders in the bathroom?!  How do they do it – how does everyone else blend in?

Surprisingly enough, backpackers aren’t born into difficult, diverse environments – they learn to endure (and even sometimes enjoy) them.  And you will too.

Chances are, you’ll be lonely.  More than once, your highly-anticipated plans will fall through and crash and burn around you.  You will cower in your hostel bunk and try not to cry.  Then, when everyone else is asleep and snoring, you will cry.

You will fall in love with a person or place and find your heart shattered when you have to leave.  Everywhere you go, you will leave pieces of yourself, until one day, you have nothing left to give.

Travelling is challenging.  You have to lug your entire life on your back.  You have to count your coins carefully.  You have to watch your valuables constantly.  You have to fend for yourself.  You have to figure out directions.  You have to meet people, form friendships, and leave them or be left.  Every.  Single.  Day.

You will miss flights.  You will have delays.  You will be afraid.  You will be exhausted. You will get frustrated. You will find yourself in undesirable (and even dangerous) situations.  You will be alone.  You will take an unfortunate amount of selfies.   You will be ridiculously unhappy.  You will get lost.

And Thank God.

Backpacking is not easy, but it is good.  It is in your moments of most intense agony that your character is revealed.  When you spend all day every day alone, you will get to know yourself.  You’ll discover things you don’t like – and have the opportunity away from home to change them.  If you are open and optimistic, you will mature, grow, and learn.  You will prosper in times of hardship.  Keep your eyes open and absorb the world exactly as it is, and you’ll find more than you ever bargained for.

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You will have days you don’t feel like leaving your bed.  Don’t.  Don’t worry about missing out, just breathe, and do exactly what you want.  You’ll have days you want to be surrounded by awesome people and party like crazy, but no one is around or willing.  Go out anyways.  You’ll waste days in coffee shops writing blog posts, damning yourself for wasting your adventure and cringing at what your friends back home think.  Soon enough, you’ll realize that this is your trip – your life.  You’ll start to realize that no one around you knows your name or your background, and you’ll begin to see that you are free to be exactly who you want to be.

The “Backpacker Blues” are natural. I cannot count the number of times I’ve cursed my decision to devote my life to travelling.  It’s healthy to cry, scream, dance, laugh, and hide.  

You will get through it.  I promise.

Backpacking is an exciting, terrifying, unpredictable, whirlwind journey of extreme highs and lows that will show you a lot more than just the world.

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So, there you have it.  The elusive, idealized “girl who travels” is really emotional, afraid, and lonely.  But she is also strong, spontaneous, and brave.  And that, my friends, is exactly who I want to be.

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8 comments

  1. I hated the post you’re referring to, too. I adore travel, but there are many different types. Backpacking just isn’t for me right now. I feel like a lot if writers glamorize moving abroad or long term travel. Sometimes it’s not practical. Sometimes it’s not fun. Thanks for your honesty, it’s refreshing.

    • I’m so glad this resonated with you! I know exactly what you mean, and it’s fantastic that you can admit backpacking isn’t for you right now. It isn’t for everyone! Cheers 🙂

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