We started to think about the time before our backpacking trip and how much we have changed in one year. Many people say that a long trip changes a person and we can totally agree with this statement. A lot has changed in one year, both physically and mentally. In this article, we take a bit deeper look to how nomad life and backpacking in Asia have affected us.
One year ago we still sat in the office eight hours a day and lived a usual life that includes going to gym, doing grocery shopping and cleaning. When we decided to become backpackers without a home or job, our whole life changed. We will not forget that feeling of freedom that we had when we shut our apartment door for the last time and walked to the bus station with our backpacks.
Before our trip, we sold most of the stuff we owned, quit our jobs and eagerly waited for the step to the unknown. We had no idea where we would end up. The only certain thing about the future at that moment were the flight tickets to Japan and after that to South Korea. After this, our journey found its form step by step on the way. Suddenly we are at a point where we never thought we would end up. Instead of returning to Europe, we decided to continue even further and soon found ourselves in New Zealand with working holiday visas in the pocket.
Afterward, we can say that we are not the same persons as we were before the trip. We have indeed learned a lot about different cultures, people and everyday surviving. Many things that we learned during our trip have also brought us new points of view to our everyday lives. Anyway, let’s start with the physical changes first.
Changes in weight
For some people, backpacking is destructive when it comes to weight. Then again, for some a new diet and traveling around are a very good change. We have heard before from other travelers that men normally lose weight during traveling while women gain weight. In our case, this was at least partially true. Where Johanna’s weight didn’t change that much, Jarkko lost considerably many kilos during the first months. One reason might be the lack of Polish beer and greasy foods 🙂 The fact that we normally ate the same amount of food while traveling probably also affected this as our weight difference is easily over 20 kg.
Asian lifestyle with its diet and tropical climate are good for the skin. Especially Johanna got rid of all her skin problems during our trip. Besides the diet, also other things like decreased stress levels also probably affected this. Overall, a warm climate and Asian food culture seemed to suit us quite well.
Less athletic body
To be honest, we didn’t exercise much during our trip. We rarely had enough energy for that, it was simply too hot or we couldn’t find a proper place for exercising. Of course all of these things are only excuses but maintaining a good fitness while traveling is easier said than done. We didn’t want to take any stress of this though. Luckily lots of walking helps to maintain the basic level of condition. And we did have some sweaty training sessions from time to time as well. Now we have got back to the gym in New Zealand and the situation can only get better!
Then we move to deeper topics which means mental changes. What have we learned and how has our thinking changed on the way?
Gratitude and appreciating small things
As we traveled on a small budget, we didn’t get used to luxury during the trip. Most of our accommodations were basic, sometimes even primitive, rooms with a bed and if we were lucky, a private bathroom. A soft and comfy bed was a reason to celebrate every time. Especially after not so pleasant accommodations, we have often noted to each other how nice it is when the toilet doesn’t flood on the floor or the room doesn’t smell like death.
After spending some nights in Japanese internet cafes and napping through the night in McDonalds’, we were so happy to get to our Airbnb apartment that had an own bed and bathroom. Now when we life in New Zealand, we have been so excited to have an oven where we can cook and bake yummy Finnish food. A bottle of red wine with good cheese has also been luxurious after Asia.
Shortly we could say that instead of money, we have found the happiness in the most basic things in the life. We fully enjoy waking up without an alarm, having a slow breakfast and all the freedom in general.
Seeing poverty in many countries makes us also think how lucky we are to travel the world and do the things that we want to do. Those children living in a shaggy house in a Cambodian village don’t have the same opportunities to achieve their dreams than we do. Our appreciation toward our home country has also got to a whole new level. Many Asian people know about the high-quality education system in Finland and dream of studying in Finland. The Finnish education is effective but also relaxed compared for example to South Korea where the pupils sit at the school for 15 hours every day without summer holidays or other holidays.
A wider worldview
On our trip, we have got to know many cultures and local life. We have noticed how differently people can see things and how much the culture and family background affect people’s opinions. In Asian cultures, the family is extremely important. In contrast to Finland, parents’ opinions don’t stop affecting even after the children turn 18 years old. We have seen many people struggling with the demands set by the family and society even though the own dreams are somewhere else. On the other hand, we have also met interesting and brave people who dare to break these traditions. Even though we cannot always understand the ways of living in some cultures, being aware of these habits helps to understand the people and their opinions better.
Asian communality means not only that the whole family from grandpa to aunts lives under the same roof, but it also means spending time together. Neighbors, elderly people, teenagers and children spend evenings outside in a big group, meeting up with all the people and chatting. The people spend hours drinking their coffee or tea and generally spend more time outside than in Europe. We like this kind of communality and would sometimes like to have a similar atmosphere in our culture as well.
During our travels, we have got to experience people’s hospitality and friendliness without limits. So many times we were invited to eat or drink and got help with many things. We would also like to share this kind of hospitality to others in the future.
More relaxed way of living
Even though we are back in the everyday work life at the moment (just not in Finland but on the other side of the world), we have maintained the relaxed lifestyle we found in Southeast Asian paradise beaches. We can easily deal with everyday challenges and don’t see any reason to stress about work or other things. We know that we won’t stay here forever but will continue traveling at some point. Backpacking has also increased our patience as many things are handled slowly and in a complicated way, especially in Southeast Asian countries.
Living in a moment
Every time we stop in some beautiful place, we close our eyes and take a deep breath. We sit and listen to the ocean or watch a sunset. On our trip we often didn’t know where we would spend the next night or to which city we would go next but that was totally fine. It’s easy to enjoy the moment when you lay on a paradise beach with a fresh coconut in your hand. Anyhow, this skill helps also in coping in the everyday life. Enjoying the small things makes the life so much better. Concentrating on the present helps especially when you are uncertain about the future.
Living in a moment is also connected with the relaxed way of living we mentioned above. It’s just easier to take it easy when you don’t worry about the future. We don’t normally plan our trip very long before but sort the things out when they are actual. Sometimes we even postpone planning a bit too much. We have sometimes realised that oh yeah, should we book some accommodation as we have a flight to Malaysia in the morning. This hasn’t caused any problems to us though as it is easy to travel with open plans in Asia.
When you have spent almost a year with under 10 kg backpack, there is no place for extra stuff in your life anymore. We have noticed that we feel happier when we don’t own many things. This simply makes a flexible lifestyle easier. We can move from place to place without planning or hiring a removal van. We just throw the backpack on the shoulder and go! Minimalism also includes the economical side as traveling on a small budget and controlling the costs has made us think about money from a new angle also in the everyday life.
Creativity and finding own dreams
Meeting different people and hearing many stories have made us realize that yeah, why couldn’t we do that as well and live that kind of life. We have met many inspiring people on the way. Many of them live their dream life, earn their living on the road and travel indefinitely. We have also realized that maybe we could also make our living in other ways than just sitting in the office.
Going on a one-way trip has been a great encouragement for us. It has made us understand how many doors are open for us if we just dare to see all the opportunities. For us, continuous traveling is a dream life. At least after this trip, we can say that traveling has become our lifestyle. Even if we settle down somewhere for a longer period, it doesn’t mean that our travel life was over.
Also doing volunteering has taught us new skills and we have found a great way to travel cheaply for a long time. During the journey, we have also started writing this blog. It has taught us many new things about writing, making websites and many other areas. All of these are things that we weren’t even interested in one year ago as we had never even thought we could write a blog.
Standing up for own rights
In Southeast Asia, you have to learn to bargain prices and stay strong if you don’t want to lose all the money very soon. As foreigners, we had to get used to the fact that we are asked for an overprice for almost everything or even get scammed. While backpacking, we have grown a thick skin and learned to speak aloud if someone tries to step on our feet. When we traveled, we normally read about each country’s habits beforehand and checked detailed tips for example for crossing borders. Those are places where the corruption normally blooms. Maybe thanks to this, we avoided the worst scams and managed to keep our travel budget small.
Just to warn everyone who is planning a long trip – once you go travel there is no going back. Anyway, this is mostly just a positive thing. That’s why we recommend everyone to make their dreams come true, pack the backpack and go toward the unknown!
Can you relate to these thoughts and when kind of things you have notice of yourself after a long trip?