The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why. — Mark Twain
Appreciating the small things in life that slowly become small daily victories, and this morning for me, it arrives in the form of a bag of clean laundry. I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to put on a pair of clean shorts. It’s almost better than ice cream! And for those that know me, realize what a bold statement this is for me to make, but after leaving the comforts of the States and having been backpacking for almost 6 months, you claim these small victories when you can. The topic of, “what I miss most,” from back home tends to be a favorite subject when Skyping or talking with friends in the States and Canada. I am honest, when I tell them that I’d really love to be able to throw toilet paper in the toilet again instead of the often-overflowing containers that sit next to your porcelain throne. Hearing and often seeing the expressions on people’s faces is priceless, especially the girls as they cannot even fathom this image. Once I mention that it’s equivalent to camping, they realize this perspective for a moment and are soon over the stomach-churning thoughts that were running through their head just seconds ago. I also tell them that once you are over the mindset of what you feel is a necessity in life, your perspective of the world and what you value and appreciate changes, and this is part of the beauty of traveling. Yes, you can go to Cancun, Tahiti, Paris, or Sydney and still be surrounded by the lap of luxury of the same conveniences that exist at the nearest hotel in your city, but this is still the very big difference between tourists/vacationers and backpackers. Tourists seek to visit places but sadly miss out on truly experiencing them, while backpackers, we often prefer traveling on local buses, eating from the markets, and throwing ourselves into complete immersion of our new environment–no longer afraid of the unknown, but charging it with an adventurous spirit, relishing in the excitement of purchasing a one-way ticket to a place you have never even heard of–this is when it no longer becomes a hobby but a passionate way of life. When I think of the freedoms that we carry with us, I am reminded of my friend Nikki who I met in Guatemala several months ago, who was currently debating between traveling to Colombia, Berlin, or Barcelona in the next few days. These are often the incredible decisions of living life more free than you can ever imagine, that happily plague us. I’m not sure about other backpackers, but I feel as though with each overland border crossing that is a success, there is a quiet growing confidence that continues to place me in more of a veteran status than that of a newbie, and I can’t help but smile at this feeling. That is, until I am humbled as I hear how many more places and longer travel itineraries have been for others, the endless list of a backpacker.