The Musings of a Backpacker in Canada
There are many things that I have come to realize throughout the last few months of travels. Things that under normal circumstances, surrounded by familiarity and comforts, one would likely never think about. With everything I need stuffed indecently into my 75 liter backpack – spontaneity is no longer a luxury, but a lifestyle.
It did not take long to become aware of the fact that the life I was living prior to departure carried on despite my absence. Everything continues – people stop at the same red lights, open the same doors, and take the same classes. No matter how egotistical it is, when you leave that behind there is a part of you that assumes life pauses while you roam. Your old life seems frozen in time and space. Or perhaps I imagine that there is a Kayla shaped hole in the wall – my absence physically manifesting in a negative space which everyone must take notice of, step around, and comment on. Life continues whether I am there or not. This is quite the humbling realization. It is not swallowed easily and it is thought about often. There are, however, some incredible benefits that come with taking what you can carry and following an unprecedented path of your own making.
Backpackers learn something early on – necessity demands that the public becomes the private. Without a home, where a door can be closed to the outside world the only option you are left with is to perform private acts in public. Whether clipping toenails on the beach, applying deodorant next to someone in a cafe, or giving yourself a sponge bath in a public washroom- there is no sanctuary to escape to. Your grungy exterior becomes a shield, with the unwashed clothing spilling out of your bag, the dirty hiking boots unceremoniously fastened to the outside, and a headband covering up your unkempt hair – people often avoid looking at you. There is another device in the backpackers tool kit that must be implemented in any act of publicly abandoning your modesty – if you act like what you are doing is normal the average person, so caught up with their own happenings, will skim over your existence with glazed eyes and not even register that you – or that taboo you are committing – is there.
There is something unbelievably freeing about living entirely outside normal life. The people you meet are united by their liminal existence. On the threshold of real life and adventure people can come together and share their time – desperately grasping onto any sense of community that they have so willingly left behind. Pulled in so many directions, with so many options, it has been surrendering myself to the universe, to the signs and omens that pass by, that I have had some of the greatest moments of my life.
Travelers come together in the in between space – the borderlands, the black line on the map that signals the end of one nation and the beginning of another. Roaming without ties, responsibility, and normal social etiquette will quickly make you realize that you can be friends with anyone. The anonymity of travel means that you can be completely genuine because interactions are free from preconceived notions. You are whom you demonstrate, there is no previous knowledge about a person to color an interaction. You show people who you are and in that moment they choose to accept you. It’s that simple.
It’s almost like there are people all over the world who carry a bit of your soul with them and you theirs. You are drawn to each other by some magnetic pull for any duration of time. When you part ways, whether after two hours or two weeks, you return the missing piece of the other person and become more whole as you say goodbye. These people are rare. If you find a connection with someone – that click or piece that just seems to slide so naturally into place – don’t let shyness or fatigue stop you from exploring the possibility. Those people were meant to be in your life, meant to pass on some vital piece of knowledge, or cause you to think about something – creating a ripple affect that may change the course of your life. I have only been traveling for five or so months and I can say without a doubt that I have met at least 6 people who have given back a little piece of me that I was missing. Whether I see those people again or not (let’s hope so) they have contributed to my growth and given me something completely priceless – the knowledge that there are people in the world that truly understand you and that genuinely believe you are worthwhile. Even if they are not near you, they exist even on your darkest days.
It just goes to show that whether you left a few of your pieces at home in the safekeeping of a best friend or you encountered some you didn’t know you were missing, it is the people in your life that you surround yourself with that allow you to be your whole self.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.