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.


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.


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.)


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.


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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11 thoughts on “On Backpacking: What do we really become after we’ve traveled?

  1. I love your comparison with yoga and travelling – how we need to take what we learn while we travel into daily life, in the same we we try to take our yoga practise off the mat. A lovely post xo

  2. Steph

    Holy crap, this has been on my mind for weeks. I’ve been struggling so much with it and you have wrote it out so eloquently that my jumbled up thoughts make sense! This is so true and so important to consider! I have been feeling like I can’t relate the same way to people back home anymore, but maybe its not them, its me having trouble relating to myself. Also love the yoga parallel <3

  3. Sarah

    I am currently struggling with what to do with my life after traveling full-time for quite a long time. And as I am in this period of flux in my life, I am drawn to what you wrote. Being humbled by everything is a great mindset. I continue to try and import the lessons I learned living a different life while traveling to a more consistent, mundane routine. Hopefully I will succeed!

  4. Alex

    Very apt. I meet plenty of people who like to show off how well traveled they are, or brag about the suffering they’ve seen, but rarely do I meet someone who talks about—or, better, demonstrates!—how travel tangibly changed them for the better. I think most people expect travel to automatically provide answers in their lives and make them better people, but like you said, the motivation for that change comes from within.

  5. Wow I love this article and agree so much with what you have written about! Going home and implementing what we learned while travelling, opening our hearts and eyes, and bringing that into daily life is extremely difficult and challenging. But like you said, that is part of the journey and of the lesson travelling will have given us.
    Love how openly you wrote about this and laid all your thoughts and questions out! It is so important to do that!

  6. This post resonates with me as my boyfriend and I are heading home in a mon5 after a year of backpacking. I am curious to see how we adapt to normal life again, and if we feel at all different… this post sparked some interesting thoughts.

  7. Max

    Interesting observations. I’ve heard lots of people talk about how much travel has changed them, but I think that travel often just enhances the characteristics we already have. It makes us MORE patient or humble or giving, or rude or selfish or stingy, not mater how minimal those characteristics seemed before. Bringing the same level of those traits home can be good or bad, depending on the person, but I agree; it’s important to be vigilant of what we learned from traveling and how to turn that into actionable change in our own communities. Humility towards yourself & others is definitely the first step to making your travel work for you.

  8. I think it depends on a person, how many things impacted him or her … some people don’t need much to evolve a lot, while many people can go around the world and still be stuck in their own mind 🙂

  9. This is such a thought evoking piece! Really what do we become? I always say I grow so much from travel but do I really.

  10. I agree mostly. Especially your last line. I find that because I travel so much, who I am at home isn’t who I really am. If that makes sense? I don’t like being grounded. I don’t like being comfortable. I don’t like it when I do something that I wouldn’t do when I was travelling. Being an ethically minded traveller is kind of who I am now.

    One big thing I’ve noticed that I learnt on my travels that I have taken in and built into my being is the greater understanding that “In the grand scheme of things, my problems are so much smaller than others'” Travel has helped with my depression in a way that psychologists and pills never could…

  11. So beautifully written 🙂 It’s not what we bring back with us from our travels it’s how we bring ourselves back to our home society that makes a difference. I do only short-term travels so I cannot completely say I understand the difficulty of adjusting after I return. But I can definitely say that taking these short breaks every time I get sucked into the routine helps me realize the importance of being humble and modest again. PS: love the term humble-bragging . lol

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