I’m a backpacker now. You know, those sweaty, elephant-print-wearing young people that seem to be part of a tribe. The ones that look like they haven’t showered in days and are carrying their entire lives on their backs. I’m one of those. As much as I’ve traveled, I’ve never truly been a part of this tribe until now. I’ve stayed in hostels and used a backpack to travel before, but to call yourself a “backpacker” means that you’re on more than just a vacation—for the time being, travel is your life. (Note: Elephant-print pants not required, but they’re all the rage.)
The backpacker life is both exciting and exhausting. If you find yourself at a particularly social hostel—which is great for a solo traveler—the lack of sleep and alone time can drain you. And I’m only a week in. But the community is a vibrant one, where no one minds a conversation with a stranger and strangers quickly become friends.
If you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone, you’re never truly alone. That’s one thing I didn’t expect about backpacking, and especially traveling alone: the people. When you plan a trip you expect to see certain sights and do certain things, but you never expect the people you’ll meet.
The most heartening thing about backpacking (aside from taking a break from Trump headlines), is meeting people from all over the world.
Since arriving in Bangkok a few days ago, I’ve met people from: Germany, England, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, and more. I met a Brit who was escaping the 9 to 5 grind in London. I met an Aussie who spent the last year traveling the world. I met a Dutch guy who only bought his plane ticket two weeks ago after having surgery on a tumor.
Before even knowing each other’s names and backgrounds, we were having a beer, bonded by our common interest in seeing the world.
Backpacking serves as a simple reminder that everyone has a story, and that in a world that seems increasingly anxious and divided, we’re all a lot more alike than we think.
Follow along on my travels through Southeast Asia on Instagram: @alex_vickery