On Backpacking: What do we really become after we’ve traveled?

In everything that we do, we always have a reason, whether it be about walking, studying, cooking, or traveling. More often than not, we set an intention.

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As I was trying to force myself to write, I remembered a conversation I had with a fellow backpacker a few weeks ago. It was mainly about the person we think we’ve become after we’ve traveled. I recall her saying that, “when we come back home, we are still the same person. Nothing has really changed except that we traveled a lot.”

I couldn’t help but agree.  To some extent, this is true.

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Back when I still haven’t had my spinal fusion, I used to practice yoga (a lot!). I believe in its core objectives, of being centered physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually all at the same time. It’s a discipline that allows you to practice at your own pace, challenge yourself while maintaining peace within, without judgement.

Once during a session, our instructor told us that “the biggest challenge in yoga is not the practice within the room. It’s about taking your practice with you once you leave this room.” She later on elaborated that on her way to our class, she had to cut a vehicle otherwise, she’ll miss her turn. The driver of that said vehicle gave her a middle finger. This driver also happened to be one of her students in yoga, who of course, didn’t know that it was our instructor whom she gave the middle finger to. Thus, the lesson.

As with traveling, it’s almost the same yet quite the opposite.

Most of us would say that traveling will not only allow us to see the world on a different perspective, it will also change us and make us a better person. It will teach us a lot about ourselves and guide us to be the person we want to be.

6302 (1280x960)Exhibit at Al Quoz, 2012

So, we go out there and try to acknowledge our flaws, our faults and our fears. Then, we try overcome it.

We face the unknown and chase adventurous possibilities just as we allow ourselves to evolve with the world.

We go backpacking and live the minimalist kind of life. We even go green and reuse water bottles whenever we can. Every penny counts.

We immerse with a lot of people, both locals and travelers alike. We try to learn about local living, about the different walks of life.

We see poverty, abuse, refugees, and victims of the society. Our hearts break into a million pieces. We appreciate the things we have and promise to help out when we can.

We become more independent.

We become more confident, social, and friendly. We smile a lot, laugh a lot.

We become insightful and worldly. We become genuine.

Indeed, we try to become a better human being. That was our intention after all.

(Either that, or we just want to see something really cool and beautiful then later on, tick that place off the bucket-list.)

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But what happens when it’s all done?

What happens when we finally come back to the comfort of our home?

We tell stories of the things we’ve experienced. We try to paint them a picture through our photos. We give our best shot to inspire and encourage everyone to go out and about. In some cases, we subconsciously (or not) “humble-brag.”

Grateful for all the privileges, the opportunities and the experiences, we feel accomplished and proud of who we’ve become.

And then we move on and get back to the routine. Eventually, some of the things that we had learned while on the road either turn into just a beautiful memory that maybe one day, will be a forgotten history, or, a prologue of the greater things that are yet to happen.

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Honestly, what have we really — truly become?

We still buy a lot of unnecessary things, even the overpriced ones. We love the luxury of what our home could give us. Sometimes, we see a beggar and then we look away. We point fingers, blame social injustice to the government and yet, we do nothing. We complain a lot on the smallest issues. Our sense of entitlement comes out, just because we’ve been everywhere. Sometimes, we feel so worldly that we think we’ve seen it, experienced it and so we think that we know it all. We always talk and we forget to listen. In some cases, we even fail to allow others to really come in within our hearts.

Have nothing really changed at all? Have we really just become “well-traveled” and still end up as the same person?

We failed to realize that our biggest challenge is not out there, as we travel. That is only part of the process. Our biggest challenge is faced once we get home. It’s about becoming the person that we’ve learned to be when we were wanderers, even if we aren’t traveling anymore.

That’s the hardest part, to remember what you’ve learned and put that into your daily practice. No matter what it is, no matter where you are.

If there’s one thing that we should really be after we traveled, it is to be humbled by everything. Because only then will we truly allow ourselves to be grounded. Only then will change really affect us. And, perhaps only then will we become a better version of ourselves–even without us saying. 

Maybe, once we practice humility, wherever we are, we really become the person we’ve always wanted to be.

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