When you pack for a long term backpacking journey one of the first things you realize is that you can’t take that much with you. You are limited for space. At first this might feel quiet daunting, even scary for many people. For the first time ever you are forced to make decisions on what you are going to take with you and what you aren’t, knowing full well that you will be leaving them behind for months or even years. It makes you stop for a minute (or even a few days!) and consider what is truly needed and what is not – what goes in the backpack and what must be left at home. This “practice” is one of the first confrontations you’ll come to face that will in some ways teach you what is essential in life and what is not. Many travelers setting out for the first time have a hard time with this and over pack, taking things with them that they very soon realize that in all honestly they could – and should – have left at home. That extra pair of shoes; their pillow; several sets of clothes; a whole bunch of healthcare products; a suit (yep, I met a guy who traveled with a full suit in his backpack).
While you’re out there on this journey of yours, after a while you’ll come to realize something you’ve never understood before. That actually, you don’t need half as much stuff as you thought you did to live a happy life. In fact, you come to realize you actually need very little. Just a few clothes, a toothbrush, a piece of soap, shampoo, a few personal items (laptop, camera, notebook, etc.) and that’s it. The result of having to simplify your life because of your backpack will make you feel more at peace inside because you have less to worry about and less to take care of. This in turn gives you more time than you have ever had before, time that was spent with the materialistic things you had to leave behind – your car, your house, bike, TV, those extra shoes, that suit (I still can’t believe he had it with him)… It will also teach you – by forcing you to make these sacrifices – that it isn’t so much the actual materialistic things that lead to a happy life, but rather it is the experience of living that is the true essential of life.
Didn’t see that one coming did you? By forcing yourself out of the space of the very materialistic world we live in (which it has to be said, a vast majority of us are unhappy in), you’ll come to learn how crazy and obsessed we have become and how much we have forgotten what life and living is truly all about.
Many amongst us will live a lifetime never having to ask the question “What do I really need?” They will never be forced to make the decision to leave almost everything behind and only take the essentials. Our lives of luxury don’t require us to do so. However, a long term backpacking journey does. Of course no one really has that thought – what they are about to learn – when they are packing for their journey. It’s just something that they come to acknowledge and understand on their travels, and afterwards when they are back. There are many more layers to traveling than just as a way to seek adventure and excitement. It’s also a way to get educated on life in certain aspects that can’t be taught any other way. And all that it requires is a backpack and a journey to look forward too.