How Living out of a Backpack Teaches You to Appreciate the Small Things

When you’re backpacking, you’re literally living out of a backpack. You’re living for however many weeks you’re traveling with off of what you’ve packed in your backpack and if you forgot something or need something extra like cold medicine you can buy it at the store, if you’ve got the money to spare, but for the most part you’ve got what you need to survive on your back.

The simplicity of this kind of lifestyle is romantic in a way, but also challenging, at times. It’s a different kind of mindset and teaches you to think more creatively about solving problems. It can also really make you think about what you need to bring and what you don’t need when you’re walking 1.5 km to your next hostel every night.

Also, I ate a lot of bananas and biscuits abroad because they’re cheap and non perishable, and here’s some pictures of them. 


I was grateful when we were in a country where we could read the street signs. In France, it was concerning to hear a PSA on a train and not know what the announcement was saying. Trying to ask for directions somewhere, it was not guaranteed that who you asked would understand what you were saying. Traveling somewhere like England or Dublin where they spoke English well, and where we could understand the directions given on public transportation made me realize that being in an English speaking country is something we take for granted until we can’t understand the other country’s language.

I bought these biscuits at the grocery store in Nice, France. Turns out “PUR BEURRE” means “pure butter” in French. I did not previously know that Also, I don’t like butter.



I was grateful when we got to a hostel that gave us free towels to use for showering. If they didn’t, Conner and I would either have to both share the beach towel I got for free when I moved into my California apartment last year or pay extra money to rent towels from the hostel. I was grateful when we got to a hostel and they would tell us breakfast was included with our stay even if “breakfast” meant white bread and jelly (and sometimes even NUTELLA!) because it was free energy for a start to a day of walking.

Free hostel breakfast in Paris! Coffee, bread, and Nutella… I stole more than a couple Nutella packets. Sorry, French hostels

Having to buy clean water in many of the cities because we didn’t have access to potable water was something that I had never experienced in California where we are lucky enough to have water fountains literally everywhere. Free water was something that I took for granted before I traveled.

I mean, geez going from backpacking and being excited when you’re given free bread, water, and coffee at a hostel breakfast to getting home and having a cabinet stocked with 8 kinds of free bread and coffee (my mom really likes bread and coffee) is great but I had no idea what to pick and it made me think about how much stuff we have that we don’t appreciate (and I’m not just talking about the bread and coffee).

Exhausted Molly after walking a mile one night to the next hostel in Nice

When I returned to my home in the U.S. I was overwhelmed by the amount of choices I had of food to eat in my household and the amount of clutter and stuff I had I didn’t NEED in my bedroom. It made me think about simplifying life and appreciating what we have and cleansing ourselves of what we don’t actually need, maybe even donating it to places or people who could use it more. Now, I’m cleaning out my room at home and donating everything that I no longer need. I also realized that it’s the simple things in life that can really give us the most joy that and it’s important to slow down every once in a while and appreciate them.

We spend so much money and time on things that we think can make us happy when the right mindset and will do the trick for faster and cheaper. We spend every moment of our day scheduled constantly, when it’s important to step back every once in a while and slow down to “smell the roses” as they say.

Here’s some times I stopped and smelled the roses and ate some “food with a view…” in parks we probably found because we got lost.


Before backpacking, my expectations of many things in life would sometimes be too high. I needed the perfect view for a picture or a meal with certain criteria of what I considered “healthy.” But after traveling and just being grateful to go to a place to spend a night that had a hairdryer I could plug into their outlets (different countries have different shaped outlets) or sunny weather so that we didn’t have to walk to our new hostel at night in the rain, I appreciate the little things.

It’s made me happy to just be able to use my outlet in the U.S. again without a power converter, and not have to pay a foreign currency conversion fee every time I use my debit/credit card or take money out of an ATM. 

Using foreign ATM’s and paying lots of fee’s and stuff isn’t fun

Backpacking was an amazing experience and it gave me the opportunity to learn so much about the world and about myself. It made me realize that you don’t need a room full of material stuff or a loaded bank account to make you happy… all you need is the right company, basic living necessities like food/water/a place to sleep, and the right attitude.

And you don’t need to travel for a month without clean towels to have this realization. So, my advice is to go out and smell the roses! Donate the clutter in your room that you don’t really need. And appreciate the drinkable water from your faucet! I know that I currently am 🙂


1 thought on “How Living out of a Backpack Teaches You to Appreciate the Small Things

  1. I like your backpacking story and the truth about simple things can go a distance and happiness.

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