Back to Backpacking

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We are sitting in a hostel in Tulum, having newly checked in, and reflecting on our last two weeks of vacationing in Playa. Traveling the world is an amazing, wonderful thing, but taking a break for a good vacation is a fulfilling reminder of what else is out there. We lived the good life in Playa, for a chunk of time solid enough to nearly forget the gritty nature of budget backpacking. We sipped on dirty martinis and ate out at restaurants with table service. We were spoiled with hot water showers, a washer/dryer, working kitchen appliances, air conditioning, and a clean and heavenly comfortable private room. We reacted like children to home cooked baked goods, good cheese, fancy beach chairs, and the ability to see American football games on television. The simple act of late night meals around a patio table- briquettes still smoking on the grill, laughter pouring through the cracks of our tired exteriors- it was a slice of home I had somehow misplaced in my mind. It was oh so easy to adjust to.

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It was in that mindset that we packed up our bags once more, and set off on our final 5 weeks of travel. The bus dropped us in Tulum. The hostel checked us into a cramped and overcrowded dorm room with fans too loud to operate and sleep at the same time. We went to the kitchen to place a few things in the fridge, and found the same stereotype of a hostel refrigerator we’ve seen all over the world: missing shelves, sauce stuck to the plastic tubs, and a pile of labeled bags stacked in a dangerously unstable pile at the bottom. It was that sudden moment where you snap back into your reality and say ‘oh, right, THIS is what my life is!’.

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We slept on and off as travelers came into the dorm abruptly with heavy bags– sifting through the dark for an open bed. Throughout the night, an array of different languages raised up in hushed nighttime conversations– always in a dorm is a slice of the world in a single small space.

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Early morning broke, and I was struck with the reminder that we’d neglected to pick up toilet paper– the one thing a backpacker should never be without. On top of that, the hostel didn’t seem to have any for purchase either. I took my first cold shower in two weeks, using the same small-packing travelers towel i’ve been carrying around for over a year, and brushed my teeth without water (a habit that’s become almost normal now).

I was suddenly reminded how fancy life had been these last few weeks, and laughed about being back on the backpacker road. There is comedy to it, because the shining bright side of this all, is that we get to keep traveling and keep seeing the world. We get these living quarters in exchange, and that’s not such a bad trade.

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