THE LONG TERM BACKPACKER

I backpacked a couple of times before becoming an immigrant. The backpacking experience has helped me to ease the difficult task of migration. I don’t refer myself as an immigrant – I prefer to use the term “Long Term Backpacker”.

See, immigrants and backpackers are both audacious travellers that started a new adventure which will change their lives forever. They start this journey under quite different circumstances. An immigrant is heading to a new home and a backpacker is leaving home for a while and will return. These circumstances make them approach the journey in contrasting ways.

In general Immigrants arrive to the new country missing home and trying to protect every memory and memento from their culture, history and past. Those memories, experiences and cultural know-how are their most valuable treasure. Instinctively and unconsciously immigrants will share as less as possible with the new culture and relate mostly with compatriots. The immigrant approach is more of a survival approach. This is for the survival of the culture, the language, customs and, of course, the fulfilment of the basic needs for food, housing, health, education and work. I call it a close approach or a centripetal approach – it spins inwards.

On the other hand, backpackers have an open or centrifugal approach. They can’t waste time on their trip. The goal is to experience every place, every culture, every language and every dish in its full in a short time. They make long time friends overnight; they can learn new expressions in a new language while they are dancing a strange ethnic dance and playing a new instrument. Backpackers ‘seize the second’, cause time is finite and they must absorb and enjoy as much as they can, as soon they’ll be back home.

Sharing is key to being a successful backpacker! You can’t know everything about your new friend, about the new culture, new country, new food or new music unless they know everything about you, your culture, your country, your food and your music.

Also, the weight load limit of their backpacks stops backpackers from hoarding souvenirs and presents that they’ve received from the ‘good old friends’ they met the night before. The only way a backpacker can put something new in their backpack is by taking something out of it. The content of the backpack is quite different before and after the trip.

If you are an immigrant, I strongly recommend you behave a little more like a backpacker, to keep your culture alive by sharing it with others and absorbing as much as you can from your new hosts. Seize the second and share more!