What am I doing? Every backpacker has asked themselves this question at least once. Whether that question came when the bus broke down for the third time that night on a muddy road in rural Vietnam, when your bank account has twenty one dollars in it and you have to find accommodation for another four days in Rome or getting slightly lost in the mountains in Canada.
I have heard multiple stories acted out in hostel common rooms or whispered around campfires on my travels of exactly when people asked themselves this question. I, myself, have had multiple occasions, the most recent of which being boarding a plane from out the back of an airport in Ireland booked through an incredibly low budget airline. A plane that looked like it would have been questionable in 1950 to the point that other passengers were taking photos of said plane before boarding it.
Ah, the joys of being a backpacker. We romanticise the stories and carefully edit and stage the Instagram photos but the real adventure lays somewhere in between. Somewhere that a carefully planned itinerary of a bus tour will never be able to capture.
That five star dinner will never taste as good as the pasta the girl in the hostel makes that is just like her Nonna’s. An airport transfer would never have included 87 year old Norma that I met on a bus in Edinburgh, that had grown up in the Old Town and knew every corner in the city and had a story to go with each of them. Few views from hotel rooms could compete with the view of the moon rising over the cathedral on a summer night from the top bunk of hostel dorm room in Bath.
Getting lost in rural England and stumbling into a quaint museum that held stories from the Blitz and bonding with strangers over broken down bus rides and train delays. Learning that the best food in Dublin isn’t from a fancy restaurant, but from a takeaway chip shop near the Ha’Penny bridge where you can sit on the steps and hear the buskers. These are the stories that stay with us.
I would recommend every person to, at least once in their life, grab a backpack and experience the world through this wonderful form of travel. I won’t sugar coat it, there were will be hard days and hungry days and at least one occasion where you will ask yourself, why am I doing this? But these days will only make it all so much more worth it. Ah, the joys of backpacking, the thing is, they really are joys.