I just finished reading this great book called “This Book Belongs To” by Nick Levy. It’s about a girl who needs a change, so she decides to go backpacking solo through South America for about 6 months. I love the idea of traveling around the world and I have written previous posts about my ultimate travel fantasy, but I don’t know if I could backpack solo…could you?
I would love to think I was adventurous enough to slap on a huge backpack, grab my passport and go explore, but I don’t know…I don’t think I could actually handle all the ins and outs of long-term on the road life. (Forgive me, Jack Kerouac, wherever you are.) Maybe 30 years ago, but even then, I don’t know. Have you ever thought about it?
When I was 19 years old a group from my church went on a two-week missions trip to Germany and Austria. It was my first time out of the country…it was my first time on an airplane. I was so excited! We were going there with a big group called Operation Mobilization and we were meeting thousands of people from all over the world who would be going all over Europe after a week of training in Germany. The program was set up for 1-5 weeks after the training, but my group could only go for the one, due to work schedules.
I borrowed a big duffle bag from a friend who had done a summer missions trip, grabbed my passport and was off for an adventure of a lifetime. We arrived in Germany and stayed at this big conference center in dorm like settings (read sleeping bags on the floor) I remember an older lady named Carol came with us and she actually brought an inflatable mattress. She said she was ready to rough it like the rest of us…but only to a point. So, there we were, bad dorm living and bad food…and I had a blast. I met people from every corner of the world and we became good friends. After the week of training we set off to Austria.
In Austria, my team from church was split up into different groups doing different projects. I ended up on the street ministry team performing skits and talking to people. Again, I met people from everywhere. A large part of my team was from England, and they taught me how to have a proper cup of tea. The tea at the mission house was really bad, but they insisted on having it the English way. I was so into this setting that I actually considered coming back with the program for a year of missions. But then I got back home, and life happened, and I never went back. I do regret it sometimes, but I think it was just the high of the moment; I don’t think I could have done it long term. I think the fact that I had friends from home there, even if I didn’t see them everyday, made it easier.
In this book, the girl went on hiking expeditions, signed up for excursions in the rain forest with only the guide she hired and got on buses in the middle of the night to cross the border into other countries…alone. It is great to read about and I love travel stories, but I don’t know. Ellie, the main character, was a typical city girl with a lot of issues and fears when she got on the plane but was totally transformed before coming back to the states. It was great to live vicariously as I read the book, but I don’t see any long-term backpacking journeys in my future.
Nice hotels and walking tours in big cities like London and Rome are more my speed these days. Maybe an ocean view from a room at the Carleton Hotel in Cannes, France too. But I will always have the memories of sitting in a cramped van, stuck in a traffic jam on the Autobahn in Germany and visiting the Burgermeister’s (mayor) offices in Graz, Austria where we were fed the most delicious food and pastries. It was heavenly after a week of weak nasty tea and hard brown bread.
Broken down buses, cold showers, and sketchy surroundings will remain a lovely dream to pursue in books and when my head hits the pillow at night, but in real life…I will take extra towels and pillow mints at a nice hotel any day. How about you?
***Question for the comments…Do you think you could travel solo? Would you stay in nice places or hit the hostel backpacking trail?
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