It seems like a lifetime ago that I quit my job in South Korea, packed up my life into boxes, put a bag on my back, and left for my three month journey across Asia. Looking back on it now, I have come to realize that it was the most transformative period of my life thus far.
I am not going to tell you about the top ten places to eat in Nepal nor am I going to tell you about the top five places to get smashed on cocktails in Vietnam, but what I am going to share is the perspective that I have gained and the life lessons that I have learned having spent the last three months living out of a backpack and traveling through four beautiful and mind-altering countries.
Live simply – don’t complicate it.
If you have ever done any long-term traveling, you know how important it is to pack light. This is something that I struggled with, but when you survive for three months with only a backpack, you very quickly come to realize just how little you actually need in life to be happy; yet we insist on living in excess. Long term travel means you don’t have the comforts that you have at home. No tv, no wardrobe of clothes and shoes, and no drawer filled with jewelry. Living out of your backpack teaches you to revaluate what is truly essential in your life. How differently would you live life if you knew that everything you owned had to fit into your backpack – what would you regard as essential?
The present moment is all we have, so savor it.
Travel teaches you how to appreciate time. When you travel, time and the world slow down. There is no rush for anything, no office to get to, no boss screaming deadlines in your face and no social obligations and events to attend. Your only obligation becomes learning how to live in the present moment and learning how to savor it. For me, one of the greatest aspects of this journey has been the time given to me. For the first time in years, I have been able to just sit with my thoughts, appreciate what is in front of me, and not worry about what is to come next. This is something that I found incredibly difficult to do when I was working and living in a society that bases their entire existence around “Pali Pali” which translates to “Quickly quickly.” Eat your food “Pali pali,” enjoy the moment but “Pali pali.” What a contrast to what I have experienced in Nepal. “Don’t worry, you are in Nepali time aka take things slow.” I won’t lie, at times I really found it difficult to apply this very laid back attitude, especially when you have buses to catch and your food takes two hours to get to you, but again, you learn to just let it be, take things slow, and to live in the moment because this present moment is all that is guaranteed.
We live in a beautiful world – explore it.
It has been three months of witnessing the most jaw-dropping landscapes and discovering the most magical hidden places, places that I remember reading about in National Geographic and only ever dreaming about seeing for myself. Here I am years later witnessing those very same landscapes, except the un-photoshopped version. In the last three months, I have witnessed sunrises and sunsets in some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Just thinking about all that I have seen in a few short months overwhelms me. It overwhelms me because it makes one realize just how much magnificence exists in the world. This world has been given to us because the creator intended for us to see it. Life is not meant to be spent in one corner of the earth; he wants us to explore it, to marvel at his creation, and to appreciate the beauty that exists around us.
Your life is good – appreciate it.
Let’s talk about problems, our problems which are #firstworld compared to the REAL problems that the rest of the world faces.
Feeling tired from carrying your backpack on your back up to the Himalayas? Sore feet and feeling exhausted after a few hours of walking? It could be worse; you could be walking for over ten hours a day in flip flops and shorts with a heavy, metal gas jar on your back all the way up to base camp. Yes, this is the life of the local porters in the Himalayas: transporting goods up to the mountains. Goods to provide trekkers like you and me with comforts such as food, hot water, and gas. They get paid almost nothing to do this, yet they do it without complaining and with a smile on their face. #perspective
Frustrated with the slow wifi, and bad Facetime quality? It could be worse, you could have no connection at all.
Irritated by the cold shower and lack of water pressure? It could be worse. You could have no water at all and be forced to walk miles to the town well only to be told that there is no more water. It could be worse, you could be told that you can only shower once a week. Yes, I witnessed such things. Staying with local families truly opens up one’s eyes.
Complaining about your bedroom and the fact that it is too small? It could be worse, you could be sharing it with six other people.
Tired of sitting in the traffic in your lovely comfortable car or not happy about the car that you are driving? It could be worse, you could be on an overcrowded bus, standing for hours waiting to get to your city with people falling on top of you and with your baby crying in your arms, wanting to be fed.
These are just a few of the many real struggles that I witnessed during my journey. Challenges and struggles that really make you revaluate your own life problems. Having experienced some of these problems first hand, now I will never take things such as running water, wifi, food, and clothing for granted again. It is only when we leave our comfort and put ourselves and our lives in the shoes of those who have far less than us do we truly learn to appreciate all that we have.
Travel by faith, not by wifi.
There is a famous bible verse “For we walk by faith not by sight” and if there was ever a time to follow this verse, my time in the Himalayas would be it; although as a Christian traveler, I feel I need to tweak it slightly to “Travel by faith not by wifi.” I say this because as a traveller and digital nomad, we so often rely on wifi and internet to get us to our next destination. However, there’s no wifi guiding you when you are trekking in the Himalayas, not even Google maps is going to save you. Trekking to Annapurna base camp truly was a journey of “Travelling by faith and not by wifi.”
When you go with faith, then anything becomes possible. You become fearless and the world just becomes one huge place of possibilities
Always be looking forward.
Having experienced all that I have in the last three months, I have come to realize how life should be lived, which I believe is in the present moment, with minimal stress, an abundance of happiness, and a desire to give back to the world when we can.
I am back in Korea now, broke, unemployed, and currently living as an adopted family member under my boyfriend’s roof. It doesn’t seem ideal and I admit it is tough, but what I realized whilst traveling is that I want to keep living this nomad life. A life that allows me to meet fascinating people and hear their stories of struggle, suffering, and triumph. A life that allows me the freedom to see as much of the world as possible. But above all else, what I realized is that I want to live a life of value, a life that can give a voice to those who are silenced. So although my current situation isn’t #perfect, my life is still far better than most and I have plenty to be grateful for. I know that I am only able to think in this manner due to what I have witnessed in the last few months.
My words will never be able to truly express what I have experienced and no pictures, even with the fancy Instagram filters, will be able to recreate the scenes and landscapes that I have witnessed first hand, but what I hope you will take away from this is to have the courage to take that leap of faith, to leave your comfort zone, pack your bags, and go out and see as much of the world as possible, because it is only once you leave and experience all that the world has to offer that we are truly able to appreciate life in its entirety. So book that one way plane ticket and see where you end up. Choose freedom over captivity, serenity over stress, adventure over routine, risk over security, and the extraordinary over the ordinary. Live the life that you imagined.