As a boy growing up in the other corner of the world, reading books and watching movies about people who backpacked the world, it ingrained in my brain the romantic idea of this lifestyle; of carefree, freedom, forming friendships, meeting interesting people, seeing the world.
I owed it a lot to the book ‘Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. The main message for me was that “when you follow your destiny, the universe conspires to help you”. Carrying this belief in my heart, I packed my bag and left home. Taking the very first step in the new and completely different chapter of my life. (Actually it is a completely different book).
I am a late started, as backpacking goes. The first time I really backpacked was 1 month after my 31st birthday. I remember I was very excited and scared at the same time, but I embraced the identity of a backpacker whole-heartedly without any reservation. I stayed in youth hostel, met other backpackers, exchanged stories, formed instant friendship, explored countries and cities dictated by "the bible" - Lonelyplanet, etc. This was what I had dreamt of. This was my destiny.
What is this life on the road? It is a total surrendering and letting go of all educations and conditionings that I was brought up to believe in and act on. It means being weird and strange. It also means not-belonging, marginalised and misunderstood.
But, if it is such a negative thing, what attracts me so much to it? I guess it gives me a kind of freedom that life otherwise seems to be devoid of. It is this freedom that freed me to experience life at its very basic level and to see the beauties of both geographical and human. If I had chosen to lead a “normal”, societal-dictated lifestyle, I would never had had some of the most amazing experiences of my life: Have you ever been invited by a stranger to his house to share his food, and eventhough he has less than you, would not accept any compensation? Or sharing sleeping place on the floor of a train station with some homeless people who made you feel at home? Or find that instant, deep connection with someone from a completely different background just because you are at the right place at the right time?
I know the risk of living life on the road; I was almost robbed countless of times, been cheated by trouts, been sent in the wrong directions, etc... These are the normal thing in the life of a backpacker, but never in any moment I fear for my life. There’s a deep-seated reassurance that things would eventually right itself. You can call it instinct. I call it letting go and trust in the universe.
A sense of deep contentment settled in my soul everytime I am on the road. The kind of contentment that money cannot buy, and status cannot achieve. It is only found in the simplicity of life, the giving of and letting go of oneself.
I cannot say whether this will be the way of life for me for the rest of my life. But all I know is that these 5 years of life on the road is the one that I have lived to the fullest! And should it all end right now, I would have no regret. Because I have lived my life in the way that bring me a sense of contentment that few people have experienced in their long drown-out lives. And I have stopped measuring life the way we were taught by society; longevity, wealth, etc. It all sum up very nicely by the philosophy of life that I try to live by:
"Life is not measured by the amount of breath you take, but by the moments that take your breath away"