Lessons Learned from Backpacking

Me backpacking in Madrid, Spain (2014). Over packing and wearing uncomfortable shoes were two rookie mistakes I learned from, among many others,

Have you ever dreamt of backpacking around a continent, freely wandering between cities and countries seeing all the things you’ve always wanted to and experiencing the exhilarating thrill of checking off bucket list items one by one?

For me personally, it was once something I fantasized about but never imagined I’d have the courage to do. It seemed so intimidating and far too adventurous for me. Plus, I knew I was too high maintenance to fit all my belongings in a backpack I’d have to carry everywhere or to stay in hostels with complete strangers.

But three years ago, I decided I needed to go for it [and I did]. As a gift to myself for finishing my Master’s, I booked a trip to Europe and began planning an epic journey to explore five cities across four countries. And since I didn’t know anyone brave (or crazy) enough to join me, I did a majority of it all by myself.

I admit that I was a bit nervous but I knew it was the perfect timing for this trip since I had reached such an exciting point in my life. For years, I worked so hard on my career and school, and it was all paying off as I reached some major milestones in life- completing my education and landing a job that allowed me to move 5,000 miles away to follow my dream of living in Hawaii. I asked myself, who knows how much my life is about to change or if I will ever get the chance to do this kind of trip again? I knew I had to go for it and seize this opportunity.

It ended up being the most defining trip of my life. I felt so liberated and happy the entire two and a half weeks. It had a massive impact on me by changing who I am as a person and igniting a fire in me to be fearless in the pursuit of my dreams. It made me even more addicted to travel and more determined than ever to explore every inch of this earth that I can.

It turns out that I was right about how much my life would change in the three years following this trip. I had an incredible experience living in Hawaii that awakened my soul and helped me find who I am. I got to travel throughout Asia and now live back on the mainland in California as a military spouse. I never would have imagined the path my life took but the experience of this backpacking trip has definitely influenced me so much along the way.

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How To Get the Most Out of Your Trip

The Eifel Tower just after sunset in Paris, France (2014)

People travel many different ways. Some like to party or gamble, others want to relax on a beach, some want to hike the highest mountain or go on wild adventures like sky diving. Regardless of how you travel, the memories made are always a priceless experience.

One thing I have learned is that each trip will be exactly what you make it. In all my years of traveling, I have seen some people get the most out of their trips and others who seem to miss out. Even I have learned my fair share of lessons through trial and error over many trips. I believe that no matter who you are, where you go, and how you like to travel there are some very simple things to do and not to do in order to maximize your time and have a more soulful experience.

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Why I Am Not a Fan of Shanghai

It is pretty rare for me to say the words “I am not a fan of” when it comes to somewhere I have visited. In fact, I am pretty sure there is only one place I can ever remember feeling that way about in all my travels and that is Shanghai, China.

Before I explain, I will caveat this by saying my travel buddy and I did not have a lot of time in Shanghai and probably missed out on things that would have made us fall in love due to lack of knowing. Maybe we just had a bad experience that does not truly represent the city and need to try it again. I would never label a city as one that I don’t like or do not recommend. I am just stating that I did not particularly enjoy my time there or become a fan. Most of the time when I travel, I am wowed and constantly in amazement. That is exactly why I love to travel so much. Somehow, I just did not experience that here for the first time ever. In fact, I could not wait to get home.

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Finding Bliss in Bali

            

When one thinks of exotic places in the world worthy of a top bucket list spot, Bali often comes to mind for many people. This tropical island in Indonesia is unlike any other place in the world, with an extremely unique culture and geography. Here you can find dreamy beaches, jungles, volcanoes, bustling urban life, and rural farming villages that seem to be stuck in an older time. It became a trendy destination due to Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ book/movie. But for me, it has always been at the top of my “places my soul needs to visit” list because this is without a doubt one of the best places on earth for those looking for a spiritual awakening or renewal.

After visiting this past November with my perfect travel buddy, I found Bali to be a paradox in many ways. Known as an intensely spiritual and scared place, many go to Bali seeking peace and the answers to questions they’ve asked their whole lives. It is famous for a plethora of spas, yoga centers, and new age retreats. However, there are also starkly contrasting aspects, such as a crazy Vegas-esque nightlife area, extremely hectic driving, overwhelming strips lined with endless boutiques and restaurants, and a completely oversaturated market for souvenir shopping and tourist activities. Some go here for luxury and pampering, while others go for the exact opposite – to be completely humbled. It is truly a place that can offer something to anyone. Personally, I found the mix to be delightful. If I wanted to relax and connect with nature, I could. If I wanted to party, shop, or go on an adventure, I could too. And I did a little bit of everything. The options available were limitless.

The Balinese claim that Bali is the center of the universe, and therefore, extremely sacred land. The energy found here is said to be cleansing and rejuvenating for the spirit. So in many ways, this trip was a pilgrimage for me to find out for myself if this was true.

Well, I can report that all the fuss is for good reason. Bali not only earned a new fan in me, but it quickly became one of my favorite places. If you’re thinking of visiting someday, here’s some information and details on the ups and downs of my overall amazing experience and one of the best trips in my life.

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Must Have Items for Jet Setters

Travel is wonderful and without a doubt my greatest passion in life. So it may surprise you to learn that as much as I hit the friendly skies, I absolutely hate flying. It doesn’t help that I live in the middle of the Pacific ocean, where any flight I take is going to be long – at least 5-6 hours to get to to the mainland or 8-9 to get to Asia. It can be pretty miserable. Passengers are crammed like sardines onto the packed plane for hours, surrounded by germs, and fed inedible food (if any at all). To alleviate this, I try my best to be prepared so my flights are as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. I always make sure my carry-on bag is packed with everything I’ll need during the trip to my destination.

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