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Four Life Lessons I Learned While Backpacking

The truth about backpacking is: it can be intimidating. With all your possessions lying on your shoulders, and your resting place being anything from a hostel mattress to a bus seat, it’s a mystery why people choose to grab their essentials and head for the unknown. It was not until I took the leap of faith through South America that I realized how jam-packed it is with life-lessons that can be applied every single day. Here are a few things I learned on my journey:

Travel Light and Be the Light

While backpacking, I learned to go through life with only the necessary—without the extra load of mere stuff. One important lesson: carry only what you need and ditch the rest. Just like life, backpacking can be burdensome. Carrying our baggage, or more than we need can slow us down, cause us pain or just simply get in the way. So what do you do when there is just too much to carry? Well, it’s simple: you ditch the extra weight. While I was backpacking, I found myself carrying extra items I did not need or use. South America can get quite hot, why did I need to carry around two sweaters? I did not, therefore I gave one away, giving me the opportunity to provide for someone in need. Do you have an extra pair of jeans that are not being used and taking up room? I’m sure someone (without an equally cool pair of jeans) could use them. Do yourself (and others) the favor of letting go of the unnecessary—physically, but also spiritually. When you find yourself being freed of the baggage, you will be more available to give (of your stuff, but ultimately, of yourself).

Leap out of the Circle That Surrounds the Box

Backpacking can be challenging. Venturing out into a new place with nothing but your essentials on your back can sometimes get uncomfortable. One thing I’ve learned is that taking one step away from comfort and two-steps toward challenge is necessary for maturity and growth. Big changes happen when you are not in the safe harbor of the every-day. Hostel hopping encourages you to meet new people—have conversations that you would not normally have, introduce your palate to new foods and spices, and awaken hidden senses. Allow yourself to be challenged. With the whole world at your disposal, there is nothing holding you back. Before you know it, you will start to see a transformation that will lead you to becoming a bolder and more confident YOU.

The Core Self Guides the Way

While at home, we frequent the same places and are involved with the same things every day. This redundant cycle clouds us from getting to know the knitty-gritty about ourselves. Time alone backpacking helped me get to know myself—how I really react to certain situations, what I like, what I dislike, who I am, but ultimately, who I’m not. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin, minus all the extra chatter or opinions around me. I silenced the external voices that often shake and haunt our identity.

Be Present… and Aware

We spend most of our time on auto-pilot when we are stuck in the every-day humdrum. We are there, but not really present. Jim Elliott once said, “wherever you are, be all there.” There’s something remarkable that happens within us when we are present and aware in every moment. Backpacking gives you a new sense of appreciation for life. As you experience the raw creation and organic culture, you desire to soak it all in and be aware of your surroundings. Safety is key, and you have no choice but to “be all there,” wherever you are, in order to keep yourself out of danger. Still engaging in the beauty of everything that is surrounding and encompassing you.

By Kat Armas

Feature image by Daniela Leon