Top 5 Things I Learned from Living Out of One Backpack for Four Years

We all have special and memorable dates.

Perhaps it’s a wedding date…or the birth of your child.

For me, I vividly remember the day of February 23, 2018.

It was the day I had to buy pants.

Yes, you read that right – I bought some friggin’ pants. Now, I know this may not seem like such a big deal to most, but for me it was the first time I was going to be the owner of a pair of pants in over two years.

Fear not, I promise you I wasn’t wandering around the world naked… I simply avoided winter and the cold and instead chose to chase the bright summer sun as much as I possibly could.

But here I was on a cold and dreary Philadelphian winter day with my “new” pair of pants – and I say “new” because I bought them from the Goodwill #savethatmoneyhoney. I had unexpectedly arrived back home in the USA after exploring tropical southeast Asia and going through an international break up.

Goodbye white sandy beaches. Hello freezing my ass off. I was now in winter weather with nothing but my backpack containing a silk robe I bought in Vietnam and and a tank top that said “Pho-king delicious”.  I was SO not prepared for this because…

Once upon a time…

Four years ago I quit my job as a Director of a Brain Training Center, sold all of my stuff in California, drove back to Pennsylvania to sleep on an air mattress at my mom’s house for 8 months to save money, and then bought a one-way ticket to Europe with no game plan other than to “travel the world”.

HOLY crap – right?

I legit had no freaking clue what I was doing and decided I would just make do along the way and hopefully not get myself Taken (as I was warned by multiple people “could happen”). If you don’t know what I am referring to, Taken is a movie in which a girl gets kidnapped while traveling –  and hell if I’m ever, EVER going to watch it. No thanks, I’ll pass.

Well, here I am four years and nearly forty countries later… and have lived out of nothing but one 40 liter backpack. I’m not going to lie, when this thing first arrived in the mail I took one look at the package and thought, “There is NO WAY my backpack is in this small box.”

Yup… yup…  it was.

So, I did the only logical thing to do and waited til the absolutely LAST minute to pack my bag before I left the country. I didn’t even know where to start in regards to planning how to fit my stuff in this bag! The whole act of packing is now what I refer to as “Backpacker’s Tetris” – it is both a game AND an art form.

The saying goes, “You live and you learn” – and I have most certainly learned a thing or two over the past few years of being a nomad.

Let’s just say I’ve not only become a bag packing ninja, but have also unpacked some valuable life lessons.

Top 5 Things I Learned from Living Out of One Backpack for Four Years:

One – You Don’t Need Much To Be Truly Happy

If there is one thing I have learned out of living out of one bag is that you really do not need much at all! I got over myself in regards to having to wear the SAME damn clothes day in and day out. But over time I started to appreciate the simplicity of it all. There were no decisions to be made – was I going with the black tank top or the tan one?  It was as easy as that.

I also started to recognize and learn that no one was judging me on what I was wearing – only I was! When I finally let that go and realized that no one really cared it was like a breath of fresh air. Being a kind and interesting person with stories and thoughts to share is far more valuable than owning “things”.

Now, I do like nice stuff – don’t get me wrong! However, now I have ONE purse that I use and use and use and use (whereas before travel I had over 15!). I’ve learned to only keep items in my life that are bringing me joy and of use to me NOW. If not – BYEEEEEEEE! I’m pretty sure I could have opened my own thrift store with all of the stuff I’ve gotten “rid of” over the years.

Two – Your Most Important Accessory Is Your MINDSET

It always brings me back to reality when someone says to me, “You’re living the dream.” This statement usually makes me want to explode in an explanation about the “real” side of travel that I don’t always share on social media.

Yes, traveling the world has been an absolute fantastic and life altering experience (excuse the cliche but it’s oh so true). However, I have had some rooooough moments over the years that have challenged my mindset.

I’ve always been an advocate for and a student of self improvement and personal development. I attribute my knack for reading these types of materials as being a catalyst for developing the mindset that has led me to create this alternative lifestyle I am living.

The skills I have learned over the past two decades of studying this stuff has been a lifesaver for me in regards to dealing with problems on the road.

Of course I’m going to post the awesome double rainbow I saw in Hawaii – but I’m definitely going to hold back on sharing the time I literally was going to poop my pants while walking around Hong Kong because I ate something weird. Yea, didn’t think you would care to know my global gastrointestinal adventures.

To get to the point (and off the subject of bowel movements), you can travel to wherever your heart desires but there will ALWAYS, always, always be one common factor…

Your mind.

Your thoughts will be with you wherever you go.

Therefore, make it a priority to cultivate a mindset of positivity, gratitude, and kindness.

Three – People Are Generally Awesome

I can’t even tell you how many times I have been asked if I am scared of traveling the world alone. Simply put – NO! I have experienced far more kindness, care, and generosity all around the world than I have negativity. Again, it all goes back to mindset and what you choose to focus on!

Four – You can listen to others… But then do what YOU WANT Anyway

I’m in my mid 30’s and single and if I had a damn dollar for every time I’ve been told (or better yet instructed) that I should be “settling down at my age”… I wouldn’t need to be home working a 9-5 job to restock my travel funds right now.

Guess what? I DON’T KNOW what my life is going to be like in 6 months or 6 years from now and I am perfectly happy making that statement. The thing I learned over the past four years is that life changes – and can change a lot – in a short amount of time! The beauty of life is that there are so many options for us to choose from.

I have learned to embrace my life in the NOW and take the necessary actions to make my life feel full and alive TODAY. I’ve learned to not let other people’s expectations of what life should be determine what I think MY life should be. I’ve learned to fully embrace who I am as a person and what I want – even if its different, crazy, or deemed bizarre.

Sure, you can listen while people tell you what they think, but then do what YOU want anyway!

Five – Everything is Figure-it-out-able

As a Virgo, I always liked to be organized and have “a plan”. That is until I started to travel and realized that NO PLAN was going to be my best plan!

Why?

Because there were so many things that needed to be figured out that it gave me tremendous anxiety and sucked the fun out of my adventure. Therefore, I learned to let it all go and just figure it out… step by step… country by country… ticket by ticket (ok I’m sure get the picture by now).  

I’ve learned that no matter how complicated or overwhelming a situation may seem, I’ll figure it out.

And you will too.

Final thoughts…

While writing each section, I had a moment in which I thought to myself, “THIS one is definitely the most valuable lesson I’ve learned”. But, then as soon as I moved on to the next section I found myself thinking, “NO, NO – THIS one is the most valuable lesson.”

Heck, I refuse to choose because each of the lessons I’ve learned above from living out of one backpack for four years has most certainly had a profound impact on my life.

I’m just a regular person who is trying to figure out this thing called life in a way that makes sense to me and makes me feel fulfilled and joyful.

At times I’ve succeeded and at other times I’ve failed miserably, but if there is there is one TOP lesson I’ve learned over the past four years, it’s…

GO FOR IT. Adventure awaits.

By Lindsay.

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