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Traveller's Atlas

Positives and Negatives of Backpacker Life, Notes From a Year Overseas


After more than a year of travelling I feel inclined to reflect on my experiences and to wonder if it was all worth it.

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is that there’s a cost/benefit to every decision in life and while I have enjoyed the freedom to gallivant the globe, the truth is that I miss home terribly at times.

I miss my friends; I miss my family.

But that’s not to say I wish to go back to the life I had before all this started.

In fact, I’m looking forward to the next few years of my life with a curious anxiety. I mean that feeling of uneasiness just before a major life change, but in a good way.

I plan on spending 2 years in Australia on a working holiday visa (affiliate link) just working and touring the country, meeting new people, improving my writing while growing this blog, and improving my photography. All good things.

I’m excited for what the future holds but there are definitely some negative aspects to this backpacker life that I don’t think many people talk about or understand.

The point of this post is to try and reconcile within my own mind the positives and negatives of backpacker life and to encourage others to think critically if this is the life for them.

If I can inspire 1 person to leave their comfortable life behind and invite some chaotic backpacking into their life, then this post is a success.

So let’s get right in to it.


Negative Aspects of Backpacker Life

  • It’s expensive: Things cost money. No surprise here.
  • Every friendship is temporary: Everybody eventually goes their separate ways. While I’ve made some friends for life, it’s incredibly sad to have to say goodbye to good friends all the time. It also makes it hard to really bond deeply with people because I don’t know how long these people will be in my life. Even when I did develop a deep bond with a girl (who later became my girlfriend), sadly, we knew there was always an expiration date.
  • Harder to eat healthy: Not everybody will have this problem but on the road I eat out a lot and it’s not always the best food for my body. If a hostel like Nomads (affiliate link) or an Airbnb (affiliate link) has a kitchen I try to cook all my meals but good healthy ingredients are more expensive and pack/sizes are too large to carry around. (As I get older tho, I tend to spend more $ on quality food)
  • Loneliness is a real problem (for some): Loneliness as in the feeling rather than simply being alone. You won’t be doing crazy and new things every day and there’s lots of downtime between places or adventures. There’s a lingering feeling of loneliness at times as you move from place to place hoping the next spot is as good as the reviews.
  • There’s always people around: This may seem like the opposite of loneliness but it’s not. There’s never any privacy in hostels like Base (affiliate link), unless you got the coin for private accommodation like Airbnb (affiliate link). Most backpackers don’t have coin. Shared accommodation gets old after a few months and leads to a strong desire for some privacy.

So those are the biggest negatives of this Backpacker Life I could think of off the top of my head. Your list may be bigger or smaller depending on how far you want to go with the thought exercise.

But what about the good parts? See below.


Positive Aspects of Backpacker Life

  • You get to see the world: Pretty much the entire reason you wanted to leave home in the first place. Travelling while young (under 30) leaves plenty of room for a career after a world tour.
  • You meet people from all over the world: “Where are you from?” is my favorite conversation starter with other backpackers. I’ve met and am friends with Germans, Brits, Filipinos, Icelanders, Kiwis, and Finnish, etc. the list goes on. If I visit those places I feel like there would be a warm welcome waiting for me.
  • New cultures, new food: Pretty self-explanatory. It was great to leave the American culture bubble and see how the rest of the world lives and obviously Thai food in Thailand is better than you think.
  • There’s always people around: This is on the negative and positives list because while it gets annoying having no privacy, there’s always someone to share that complaint with! LOL
  • The learning never stops: I never would have started to learn German without my German girlfriend. Travelling keeps me with a student’s mindset as there’s always something to new to learn, try, and master.

So there you have it.

There are both advantages and drawbacks to almost decision in life but I feel the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to long term travel. It’s something that you’ll have to make up your mind for yourself.

I however, don’t think this life will be for me when I approach an age where I want to settle down and possibly have kids. All that is still up in the air but for now, I’m enjoying my time on this Earth to the best of my ability.

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