Anybody who has been on a significant backpacking trip has likely changed as a result, in one way or another. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. Travel does change us. Whether it is profound personality discoveries, self-acceptance, life path guidance, or anything else, the list goes on and on and crosses over many times. For me, the impact has probably been in a lot of these areas, but the one I am going to focus on today is something entirely physical. It may seem small in comparison to some of the major transformations that can happen, but it significantly impacts the way I live my life now. Here’s what happened.
When preparing for my South American backpacking trip, I knew I was going to be hiking the Torres del Paine W Trek within the first month. It was booked, paid for, and happening for sure. I did not really know what to expect except that it was going to be gorgeous, and thought that five days of camping sounded simple enough. I packed a pair of running shoes and a couple of pairs of what I considered “hiking clothes” and was on my way. I had no idea what I was in for.
A rude awakening
Although I was quite prepared in terms of food and gear for the five days and 80-kilometre hike in Patagonia, I was not prepared mentally. Day one was supposed to be the “easy day” at only 14 kilometres and not all that steep – I thought I was going to die. No exaggeration here either, by the time I reached camp my feet and back ached so much I could barely walk. I had dinner and went straight to bed after having a little cry out of self-pity. I did not know how I was going to make it over the next few days and regretted my decision to be there at all.
Over the next couple of days, it didn’t get any easier, but I learned to love the challenge and accomplishment. Each night coming to camp I felt proud of myself for making it, and that sense of accomplishment kept me going. At the end of the five days, my knees were very sore, and I was exhausted, but I was so proud of myself, and I had seen some amazing sights. Sightseeing is so much more rewarding when you must hike to get there.
A surprising development
After spending a couple of days relaxing after my big Torres del Paine hike, my body had recovered, and I was ready to go again! I headed to El Chalten in Argentina to do even more hiking! Over the next eight weeks, I hiked in countless places in Patagonia, sometimes sore or tired, but I still did it.
Hiking didn’t stop when I left Patagonia either; I accomplished many hikes in Brazil, Bolivia, and even the 8-day Huayhuash trek in Peru.
I discovered a new hobby! I know, I know, it doesn’t quite compare to those who “found themselves”, but I discovered my love for hiking. Seems simple, but it has been a great discovery for myself over these last couple of months.
I never knew when I left for South America that I would be spending so much time hiking, but I never knew I liked it until I got there either. Now, being from Canada and all, I feel a bit silly that I never gave hiking a fair shot back at home. Now, I will never again plan a trip that doesn’t include some spectacular hikes. I think that it is pretty special that a backpacking trip helped me discover this new passion - something I may never have realised had I not started travelling.
Author - Bailey Busslinger
Bailey is a full-time traveler and blogger currently exploring Latin America. She is on a never-ending (hopefully) journey around the world sharing what she’s learned and loved on her blog www.DestinationlessTravel.com.
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