Lessons Learned From 13 Months Backpacking Asia
On October 31st, 2018 I left Miami with a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. I had no plan other than the idea of traveling Asia for an extended period of time.
Every day was a mystery filled with new experiences. The fun I had everyday made me quickly forget about the previous days. The variability of not having a routine while learning about new cultures, foods, and people is an amazing way to live.
After 403 eventful days, I return to my hometown of Miami. I am extra grateful for this last year and want to provide some valuable takeaways.
Learn to be uncomfortable
Being uncomfortable puts you in the present. It provides a challenge to face at that moment in time. I encountered many situations that took me out of my comfort zone. It made me mentally stronger and more appreciative of life’s luxuries.
🛏️ One thing I got used to is not sleeping on the same bed. I slept on many different surfaces whether it be the floor, hard mattresses, soft mattresses, hostels with others snoring, villages, treehouses, hammocks and more. I went from someone who slept on a memory-foam mattress to being able to sleep anywhere. The trick is to get tired from doing fun things all day, it won’t matter where you sleep.
🌳If you’re someone who enjoys nature, you’ll most likely go on many hikes and do other outdoor activities. Along with the beautiful views comes many bug bites, big-ass mosquitos, cuts, and other battle scars. Mother nature will get to you.
💩While on the subject of nature…trying new foods comes with irregular bowel movements. Your body needs to adjust to the foods it never tried before. My stomach went through every cycle from diarrhea to constipation. Oh yeah, and many of the toilets in Asia are holes in the ground without proper plumbing. It’s all worth it though :)
🈸️Additionally, there are times you witness language barriers. To get around, I learned vital phrases and relied on hand motions. Some may find it frustrating finding yourself in a restaurant with a non-English menu. I saw it as a fun challenge resulting in me learning the basics of many languages.
👍And last…hitchhiking. Not knowing how long you will be standing on a corner hoping to get picked up tests your will. It ends up being worth it. You don’t have to wait as long as you think and the people that pick you up (your saviors) want to learn about you. I made many great friends while hitchhiking that I still keep in touch with!
Help others by teaching
Traveling is about encountering special experiences. Interactions with people from different countries provide new learning opportunities. As much as I was eager to learn about their culture, locals were just as enthusiastic to learn about mine.
Given I come from a “first world” technology-driven part of the world, I saw an opportunity to teach them new things. I focused on teaching people to utilize the internet and improving their English.
My goal was to expose others to a world not constrained by geographical, educational, or political limitations. I write about this in more detail in my previous post “Leveraging the Internet to Level the Playing Field”.
Freedom of choice is the greatest gift
It takes courage to travel alone but it’s the best way to travel. “The world is yours” is a saying that becomes more true than ever. There’s no better feeling when nobody can tell you:
What to do.
Where to go.
When to go.
When to wake up.
What to wear.
What to think.
What not to say.
What to eat.
Where to be.
Having no plan puts you in the present while not looking ahead of the unknown future.
Asia is safe and friendly
Not once in 13 months did I feel at harm. You can walk freely down the street without having to worry about your valuables or any other kind of assault. It’s completely different than being in other continents where you need to develop a “defensive” mentality.
What I appreciate about Asian culture is even if there is poverty, people respect each other. There is a communal effort when it comes to supporting others.
Additionally, there is barely any theft. I spent many months traveling around via motorbike. Many times you leave your helmet on your parked bike and no one takes it! Sometimes I would accidentally leave the key in the bike and it never got stolen. Maybe I was lucky. :)
Walking is active meditation
Walking became second nature to me. I explored many new cities and towns by walking everywhere. My phone recorded an average of 10 miles a day spent walking!
I noticed that walking is one of the best things for one’s wellbeing. Besides the physical benefits, it provides the perfect pace to put your mind in a meditative state. Make sure to avoid music for less mental distraction.
Get the body off autopilot and start moving!
Thank you to everyone I met!
Thanks to everyone that made this last year special! This trip has changed me in many ways.
I learned the importance of enjoying life, being outgoing, thinking freely, and being open to new experiences.
You never know how one interaction changes your experience for the rest of the time. A simple hello and getting to know people has made me great friends and travel stories. You can find some of these stories in my post “The Beauty of Travel”.
If anyone is looking to travel…just go! It’s never the “right” time. Feel free to reach out to me if you need help with packing, recommendations, where to go and what to eat.