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5 Reasons Why You Should Travel As A Backpacker At Least Once

5 Reasons Why You Should Travel As A Backpacker At Least Once

Most kids dream of toys and games and roller-coasters. I dreamed of travel. But It wasn’t until I finished college with some extra cash from Uncle Sam, that my dream came true.

Magically all the stars aligned: The movie Taken wasn’t yet out (thank the lord or my parents would have freaked), I scored a 400 dollar flight to Heathrow (CHEAP), a friend lent me his 70 liter travel pack (saved me a few hundred bucks), and my girlfriends were 100 percent in (fun factor).

We hit seven European countries in two months: saw more ruins, naked statues, and frescoes than we’d ever imagined. We made loads of friends and bonded over our fear of Italian drivers, pickpockets, and horribly mistranslated conversations.

We fell in love with Swiss guards, chocolate crepes, and Nessie; sang the Hills are Alive in Austria;  and sunbathed on the rocky beaches of Nice. It was the trip of a lifetime.

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Of course, it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting without a visit to the U.S. Embassy–where else would one go to feel like Jason Bourne–and recover a friend’s lost passport.

Looking back, this trip changed my life–It forced me out of my comfort zone, away from everything I knew and everything I was. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. So here are 5 reasons why you should travel as a backpacker at least once in your lifetime.

1. You’ll have more fun

Sure. I may only be saying this because I can’t afford the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton, but here’s the thing–Backpackers live in spontaneity. When everything is on your back, and countries are mere train rides away, it’s easy to go with the flow. You’re not locked into reservations or others’ expectations.  Travel is at your whim. You go where you want, when you want. If it’s raining in Germany and Greek sunsets call–Go! If you want to stay an extra day somewhere–do it! Nothing holds you back.

When you’re staying at a hostel in a room for 20, you’re bound to make new friends–or the very least–have wildly entertaining stories. You may choose to hang with folks for a day, or for the duration of your trip–it’s up to you! But chugging German beer, dancing in the Scottish highlands, and getting lost on the Paris Métro feel far more exhilarating when shared with others who are just as psyched to be backpacking as you.

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2. You’ll mingle with locals

Believe it or not, you’re far more interesting bulked up with a killer-size pack than toting a “First class only” Prada bag. People will strike up conversations because they’re curious: They want to know where you’re from, where you’re headed, and why on earth you’re lugging around a giant pack that could knock you down. Can you blame them? It’s awesome.

If it weren’t for our packs, we wouldn’t have met the British football player who drove us around Bath in his fancy Bimmer (Jane Austen would have been proud), or the Scot on the train who invited us to dinner in Inverness, or the Italian hostel owner who took us out for pasta and live music in the square. These are experiences we had because of our backpacks, because we left our every day lives, and stuffy way of doing things in pursuit of adventure.

So live a little–let the pack take you where adventure calls.

3. You’ll feel free

There’s something to be said about having everything you need in one place. It’s simple. You don’t need to worry about all the stuff you left at home: your car, apartment, bills, will still be there when you return. You won’t need the mail key or your crock pot. Hungry? Stroll a Paris market for some bread, cheese, and wine. That bulky hair dryer you can’t live without–leave it, and let the Tuscan sun dry your hair. The sunglasses you left on the train–buy a knockoff pair in Rome. When we let the freedom of backpacking sink in, we appreciate each moment.

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Life is only as complicated as we make it. Backpacking frees us of the things that don’t really matter anyway.

4. You’ll learn about the world and yourself

When you’re immersed in a foreign country, everything is new: from the language to the currency, to the food and etiquette. It’s no wonder you learn so much about others and yourself. I learned I was capable, fearless, and determined.

Capable: I  carried my fully loaded pack over 4,000 miles without losing my money or my passport.  I got lost a few times, but always managed to find my way (pre-smartphone).  I thought I’d get homesick, but the only thing I missed was Mexican food. Note: I tried a place in Salzburg and that was a mistake (don’t buy guacamole in Austria).

Fearless: I struck up conversations with strangers, tried new foods (haggis-yuck), and spent hours exploring Venice alleyways by myself.

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Determined: I saw everything I dreamed of seeing– from the flying buttresses of Notre Dame to the ornate ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

When backpacking, you learn what’s important to you and what’s not. It’s amazing the clarity one finds when abroad. Sometimes it takes leaving what’s familiar to find oneself.

5. You’ll make memories to last a lifetime

Studies show that life experiences bring us more happiness than money. Why? Because experiences can never be stripped away. The memories I made while backpacking Europe will remain with me for the rest of my life. They’ve made me into the person I am today.

Rather than tearing through your wallet to buy the latest tech–consider this. When tech falls apart, when it’s no longer the latest and the greatest, will you still feel fulfilled? I guarantee you traveling the world, either by backpack or otherwise, is the best decision you’ll ever make.

Who knows, maybe this time next year, you’ll be off gallivanting the Scottish highlands.

Featured photo credit: Backpacking Europe/Lori De La Cruz via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

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The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

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While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

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While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

If You’re Staying In

  1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
  2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
  3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
  4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
    • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
    • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
    • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
    • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
      • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
      • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
      • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
        • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

        If You Want to Get Away

        1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
        2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
        3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
          • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
          • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
          • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
          • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
          • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
          • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
            • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
            • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

            New & Exciting Experiences

            1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
            2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
              experience.
              • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
              • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
              • Experience white water rafting.
              • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
              • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                  • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                  • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                  • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                  Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                  Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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