The Scientific Reason Backpacking Makes You a Better Person
If you’re anything like us, you regularly dream of dropping everything and traveling the world — and for some, that daydream includes walking shoes and a multi-day pack.
While this may seem like a far-off fantasy or a frivolous undertaking, it turns out it’s not only achievable, but it's also really good for your health.
A recent study in the Journal of Travel Research found that backpacking doesn't just improve your physical health — it can make you a better and more successful person, too.
The study looked at approximately 500 backpackers from different backgrounds and found that spending time outdoors, exploring new places and discovering different cultures boosts your productivity and problem-solving skills.
By traveling to destinations that put you outside of your comfort zone, you are forced to use and strengthen these skills while also adjusting to new emotions in an organic, natural way. That makes these abilities that much stronger and more developed when you return to your normal life.
To be clear, you don't have to spend five months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to consider yourself a backpacker. Backpacking is typically any trip that has you living out of a single pack, moving from place to place often, usually staying in hostels or Airbnbs and sticking to a tight budget.
This is why backpacking requires a degree of time and money management that luxury travel does not. All of this together results in higher confidence and self-esteem long after you’ve returned from your rugged adventure.
ABC spoke to Sam Huang, the professor behind the study, who explained, "It's not a waste of time, it's not a waste of money, it's a worthwhile investment ... because you can grow your self-confidence and you increase your self-efficacy, which is important in your workplace. And you increase your self-esteem, which is quite important to maintain your mental health."
TPG's resident points and miles backpacker, Brian Biros, said that when he first quit his corporate job to backpack around the world, people thought he was crazy. But the benefits he gained from the trip are similar to those Huang described.
"The widened perspective and global understanding I gained on that trip shifted my priorities once I got home," Biros said. "I returned to the same corporate job, but with far less stress and a better work-life balance. I had become a more confident and poised person and employee."
So go ahead, and take that time off to pursue your dream of backpacking through Europe or exploring Southeast Asia on foot. Just consider it an investment in yourself.
Best of all, you can still use points and miles to fund parts of your backpacking trip. And if you need a great flight deal to get there, don't worry. We’ve got those, too.