The Irony of Backpacking

While most people are hesitant to hit the road carrying nothing but a backpack on their shoulders, I cherish every single moment i spend with my backpack. From the pressure of its straps on my shoulders, to having to take out everything just to find a single misplaced item. I’ve never thought of any of these as a burden. In fact, I enjoy every second of it. Why wouldn’t I?  Imagine travelling with both hands free from the shackles of a trolley handle and the confines of time while waiting in suspense for airport conveyor belts to spit out your luggage. Backpacking gives me the feeling of complete freedom.

Of course any backpacking experience is not always sunshine or we wouldn’t have the chance to dance in the rain, not always daylight or we wouldn’t enjoy the bright full moon, not always calm waters or we wouldn’t be able to surf knee-high waves.

Hate to be leaving Koh Tao

Hate to be leaving Koh Tao

Years of backpacking has led me to realize some ironies that come with the experience. Some of which still cracks me up every now and then…


AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE COUNTRY. Yes you get to travel the world while being stuck in one country. Doesn’t make sense, right? But try travelling the off-beaten path or at least to some small island in Southeast Asia. You won’t just experience the culture of the country you’re in by mingling with the locals. But meeting, and actually getting to know other travellers from different countries over a bottle of Bintang or Chang? It’s like travelling the world while simply sitting in some worn out couch right outside the hostel. Or simply chit-chatting with the roommate at the bottom bunk is enough to teleport you all the way to Europe or South America for a night.

Photo Credit: NomadsHostels

Photo Credit: NomadsHostels


DIFFERENT PEOPLE, DIFFERENT BELIEFS, ONE CULTURE. You share a small place with people from different corners of the world and with different cultures and beliefs. Yet as backpackers, there’s this common culture that we share. It might be unwritten but it is one where there’s no such thing as skin color or race or religion. Where prejudice is the only thing not welcomed. It’s just “Where you’ve been”, “Where you’re going next” and “Maybe we’ll meet again someday, somewhere”. But don’t worry, you’ll never grow tired of getting asked these questions over and over again by new acquaintances. You’ll enjoy answering them and you’ll enjoy hearing their answers as well. Oh by the way, don’t bother asking “Where’s the best place you’ve been to?”.  If you might ask, just expect an answer like “I don’t know, everything’s just so amazing”.


RAGS AND RICHES. This is when you are both rich and poor at the same time. No, I’m not talking about money here. In fact, money doesn’t really amount to anything here. You are rich…in experience. And you own priceless stories and invaluable smiles. Yet, while you listen to other travellers tell you stories about how they got lost in some place you’ve never even heard of, or how they fell flat on their back while trekking some weird-sounding mountain peak, you can’t help but feel poor. You might start to think about how little experience you have under your belt compared to others who have been to 6 continents. But sooner or later, you’ll begin to understand that experience is immeasurable and that its quantity doesn’t affect its value. In the end, somehow you meet halfway when you come across a similar place or adventure that you both have experienced. And most likely, you share the same budget for the day, or week or month. You can ask any traveller in your hostel about their budget, and more often than not, they’ll tell you “I’m just trying to get by in the cheapest possible way”. Then without even thinking about yours, the words “Yeah, Me too” just come rushing out.

Photo Credit: Mies Heerma via Sole Sisters

Life is full of ironies and ironies are based on extremes. NO! These extremes are not limitations. They’re merely borders that remind us where our comfort zone ends and should serve as a challenge for us to go beyond them. Once we’re past these boundaries, our potentials become endless.

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  1. Lakbay Diva says:

    i agree. i get to hang out in backpacker inns in the country, and there are plenty of foreigners you get acquainted to!

    same reply, everything’s just so amazing!

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