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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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