A lot of people ask me why I love life on the road, the constant uncertainty of where I’ll sleep next, how much I’ll spend, the distance from friends and family…
At the end of the day we are all animals, creatures of comfort and routine, so giving up everything you know, your security, isn’t going to be easy.
But whether it’s a one way ticket or an intrepid long holiday – here’s my reasons why everyone should live out of a backpack at least once in their lifetime…
You get to meet people from all walks of life.
Whether it is someone inspirational or completely whacky, you’ll get thrown together with people you would not usually socialise with.
I once spent two hours talking to a monk in a the mountains of Thailand… about anything and everything.
Or like when we rocked up at our homestay and the dutch landlord happened to have travelled the world as a Marlboro model but now lives with his filipino wife and loves model trains.
To staying with the first man to cross the Tasman Sea in a kayak and had broken two world records.
…and then there was the time we couldn’t even talk to the tribe on the Nile but football turned out to be an international language.
You’ll make friends with people you would never have in your usual social circle.
…people from different cultural backgrounds, with different world opinions.
You’ll get to hear about places they’ve travelled which you never thought to visit – you get to see what your country and culture looks like to an outsider… and at the end of it all you all share a common interest: to live the nomad life.
In South East Asia we hit it off with two American girls and bumped into them again and again. They even want to come to our wedding (and we are not even engaged!)
I can say I have friends all over the world and I can’t wait to visit all their home countries.
You will push your boundaries.
My favourite! You realise you don’t need to depend on all those everyday luxuries you had to leave back home and are capable of coping in situations you never imagined you would find yourself in.
Like the time I ended up sleeping in the car in 34 degree heat all night! because I literally had nowhere else to go.
Sometimes I look back on the things I’ve done and think, that was mad! But at the time you just got on with it because you had to.
Or like the time I got shit on by a cow while working on a dairy farm in Aus… (more on that later).
You appreciate the non-materialist things in life.
Firstly, there’s the matter of your small backpack. There’s only so much that fits in there so prepare to outfit repeat all over the globe.
But beyond that… you start to realise living is about breathing and not possessing objects or buildings… now I know I can camp in the middle of nowhere with no phone range and no amenities.
I’ve squatted in the Sahara desert, the outback, the mountains. I’ve washed butt naked in the outdoors in a plastic bucket with cold water.
I’ve slept in airports; as in full on rolled a sleeping bag out and gone to bed on the hard floor, woken to passengers throwing me coins – all because I wanted to save some money on a hostel.
You will gain new skills and work jobs you never thought would be on your CV.
While backpacking I’ve been a house sitter, looked after dogs, cats, a turtle, been a child minder, a bee-keeper, herded up sheep, cleaned homes, chased cows while on a quad bike, milked the cows and even checked the health and sex of a newborn calf.
When you need money or a visa, you will do anything…
You start to appreciate the free things in life.
Like your legs. Suddenly walking 22km in a day to see a city or vantage point doesn’t seem that far.
You suddenly love museums, and not just because they are free and have aircon and wifi – but because you actually want to learn about the place you’re visiting.
Nature becomes your best friend. From views to beaches to waterfalls, sunrise and sunset… the things that make you smile and feel alive are free.
You stop believing the news and realise the world isn’t evil.
When I touched down in Istanbul in my short shorts and flip-flops I was sure I was going to get mugged.
I was blonde, with my life on my back and I couldn’t run far… but I was absolutely fine.
Likewise I took one look at the streets of Hanoi and was sure I would be mowed down with all my belongings… I’m still here though!
You realise the kindness of strangers is all around.
After grabbing a bus to Eze, a mountain village outside Nice, France, we were completely lost looking for our Air B and B.
When we called our hosts, they only spoke French (and my French ended in year 9).
But a local lady overheard our struggle and translated the call, then offered us a lift 5km up the steepest hill so we didn’t have to walk with our backpacks.
Once, my tuk tuk driver stopped and bought me fresh fruit just because I’d offered him some crisps and he felt he had to return the deed.
In Aus, while having a coffee I got chatting to two ladies on the table next to me. One of them ended up offering me a place to stay and a month later, when I found myself homeless because mice had made a nest in my van – she opened her front door and welcomed me with a hug as if we were life long friends.
While dining out in Malaysia, the couple sharing our table, despite a language barrier which had made over-dinner conversation difficult, offered to settle the bill!
Then there is couch surfing – a whole social network of likeminded people offering rooms to fellow nomads.
You’ll learn to make ends meet.
Because money doesn’t grow on trees so you have to stick to a budget!
(and sometimes that means long, hot, sweaty bus journeys or hundreds of kilometres in a tuk tuk…)
The people who really matter in your world will become obvious.
It is hard to leave the people you love behind, but true friends will be excited for you and waiting to hear your travel tales when you get home.
You will eat so many new foods!
I never knew so many different curries, fruits and veg existed until I travelled.
Nor did I appreciate it can be fresher than you will ever get in the shops.
Bahn Mi to Laksa to dumplings… if you don’t know what these are book some tickets to Asia already!
You get to live in different cultures and realise a home can be anywhere.
Most of my homestay’s in Sri Lanka had just a single tap, outside, which the family washed in and prepared food in.
The family I lived with in Vietnam utilised one room for themselves. Their child played on the floor, they sat and shared meals at the table in the same room, and at night, when I crept past to go to bed, the whole family were curled up in blankets on the same floor.
They made a living from renting out the other rooms in their home, all complete with beds and balconies – but they didn’t need these luxuries.
I’ve slept on a single floating platform with ten others on the Nile, mooring up with local tribes to eat each night and I’ve driven around Australia with everything I need in my car and a tent on roof.
When things go wrong it isn’t the end of the world.
…I had to leave Cairo with a military escort during an uprising, couldn’t stop for a wee break on the road because of the risk of a raid by the local “sand people”.
I had to leave the country early when the local police station was targeted and country officially deemed it unsafe to tourists.
…I’ve passed out on a beach in Croatia and ended up in hospital, brought a parasite back to the UK in my intestines from Sri Lanka, had my van (my entire home) broken into on an Aussie roadtrip and my luggage has gone missing in Ukraine…
I’ve watched my boyfriend pass out and start fitting twice in a few hours, the second time when I thought he was in safe hands in a remote medical centre – and had to be shipped back to a main land hospital with no idea what was wrong.
But I’m still here and the best part is I have these epic stories to tell!
You get to live every day like it is your last.
Best of all though you learn to live in the moment.
Forget routine, 9-5 rules, bed and meal times.
You learn to listen to your body and your instinct and just be alive.