Ladies… Gentlemen… I present thee…

The Broke Backpacker Manifesto

Your Light for the Dark Roads Ahead

Below is our set of guiding principles for travelling the roads of life. Travel brings countless opportunities for personal growth provided you are ready to take the steps to become a better human. This manifesto reflects both mine and much of my team’s individual journeys, however, it is impossible to write something like this which is perfect for everybody.

There might be values in this manifesto that do not resonate as deeply with you, and that is ok. In fact, it’s better than ok! Use that as an opportunity to write your own manifesto; defining your own values in life is integral to growth. They will ground you in your most challenging times. This manifesto was a collaborative piece across over 100 hours of work and from many people I trust. We are proud of the result; we hope you find some wisdom in these words.

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    Be clear about what you want to be.

    Be honest and present with yourself.

    Always keep moving towards your goals.

    Be grateful for what you have and what you have done.

    And never forget…

    Growth Begins at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone

    Travel and life are two very similar experiences – journeys into the unknown that send us on trajectories of change and growth that we could never predict. A life well lived and a journey well taken always leave us standing stronger at the end than when we began.

    Both travel and life are beautiful. The world is filled with so much wonder, so much joy, and so many inspiring stories and people that sometimes it can simply sap the words from us. However, as with all things in this world, there must be balance. The beauty and light of life CANNOT exist without the chaos and darkness that define its perimeters.

    Sometimes, our lives as travellers take us into chaos. Sometimes, we lose our way on the dark, moonless roads. Sometimes, we need a light.

    For those moments when you seek guidance, you have The Broke Backpacker Manifesto.

    These are the guiding principles of The Broke Backpacker and define what it means to be a broke backpacker. These are the tenets that I have gained; the perspectives and values that I have formed over my last twelve years of backpacking and adventuring around the globe. Setting one’s own value system is an incredibly powerful exercise. Without this set of founding principles to fall back on, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

    These principles lay the founding cornerstone for your life as a traveller; they will accompany you on your journey and guide you as you strive to become all that you can be. With these values, you’ll embark on your own incredible adventures, and in turn, you’ll learn your own lessons about life, travel, yourself, humanity, and this wild and wonderful spinning ball of water and dirt we call home.

    Travel is the best possible opportunity for personal development. It takes you right out of your comfort zone and puts you right where real growth happens.

    Travel crystalises what is truly important to you; what your strengths, weaknesses, and values are. To travel is to grow, to evolve, to face hardship and peril, and, ultimately, to emerge from the fires refined and tempered as a better, stronger person. For yourself, the people you love, our global community, and hell, even for the world itself.

    And so, amigos, here it is: The Broke Backpacker Manifesto.

    The 20 Tenets to Being an Epic Traveller and a Legendary Human

    These principles are for EVERYBODY. Aspiring adventurers, backpackers new and old, nomads, swashbucklers, vagrants, vagabonds, and even young students on their first gap year. To all travellers, I implore you to not just stop at reading these…

    Print them off. Keep them in your wallet, travel belt, backpack, pocket, phone, and shoe.

    Use this manifesto to ask yourself the questions that need to be asked. Find what your own values are, what drives you, and how you best can shine. Because there will be times when the way becomes dark. There will be times when you feel sad, lonely, homesick, and lost. There will be times when you feel unsure and the monkey flashes its evil grin at you, imploring you to seek shallow and destructive pleasures.

    And it is these moments that will define you.  When you are unsure, take a moment to be calm, breathe deeply, read these tenets, and do what is right for you. You will know what to do.

    1. Connect With Nature

    From the dirt we come and to the dirt we return. In the busy density of the urban sprawl, we lose touch with ourselves; we forget to convene with the place our ancestors called home: nature.

    Travel is an opportunity to connect once more with our former home. Camp, hike, and climb trees just as you did when you were a kid. Hug them too; there’s ancient magic still remaining in the wilder parts of our world.

    2. Put Your Phone Down

    There is a place for technology in the modern nomadic life. However, the backlit screen is a wall that divides you from an authentic travel experience. It separates you from real connection. The filtered and photoshopped quest for likes leads only to vanity, and vanity is the antithesis of conscious travel.

    Ask for directions, let locals teach you the language, and roll into a new town without pre-booked accommodation. If the ancient nomads we respect so much could do it, so can YOU. And the world will reward you for it.

    3. Never Stop Journalling

    Journalling teaches us to listen to ourselves and talk to ourselves. It allows us to see who we are now and envision who we want to become. 

    The journey you are on is not only one of travel; it is one of life, so write that story down. When you have a powerful epiphany or experience, note it. Journal about the lessons you have learnt so you do not have to learn them time and time again… 

    The stories you write are the ones that may one day inspire your kids, your grandkids, and your dearest loved ones. And when you do return to the dirt, these writings will become the treasures that they remember you by. Someday, SOMEONE will read your stories – and they’ll be grateful that you wrote them.

    4. Step Off the Beaten Path

    The gods of fortune favour the brave, and so too do people. Talk to strangers and listen to their words; people are kind to those who show courage.

    The tourist trail – while beautiful in its own way – is over-stepped and carries a jaded disposition for ‘just another tourist’. The grandest and most rewarding adventures are to be found in the lesser-ventured frontiers of our planet. And while sometimes exploring the darkest fringes of the world can be frightening, you will learn from the lessons they hide.

    Travel to the places that scare you: growth begins at the edges of our comfort zone.

    5. Let Travel Teach You to Define Your Values

    When far from home, it’s not just the reassurance of our loved ones we lack – it’s their guidance. People are a mirror: they show us the parts of ourselves we love as well as the parts we hate. And when we travel solo, we have to be our own mirror.

    Travel will show you your strengths and weaknesses, your passions, and ultimately, your values. You will make mistakes on the road, and there may be times you do things you’re not proud of. When your gut tells you that you’re not being all you can be, listen.

    That means you are growing.

    6. Always Be Kind, But Be Strong

    Give what you can, but do not let yourself be taken advantage of. A sincere life is constructed through honesty, trust, and generosity: the same is true of travel. Take leaps of faith in strangers for the connections they will bring, but learn how to trust and give love in a way that doesn’t also leave you vulnerable.

    Everybody has their story: EVERY person on this planet knows something you do not. A kind heart, open mind, and fortified soul will bring you to the most enlightening conversations and, through them, open the way for magical experiences.

    7. And Share

    Travel will bring you closer to people. As a traveller, it’s easy to stress about budgeting, but possessions and money… these things are temporary. They will always disappear, and there will always be more.

    But people? Love? That’s what makes life truly meaningful. Share what you have, give what you can, and be unattached to the material; the rewards you receive in return will put any amount of money to shame.

    8. Travel Slow and Travel Raw

    Live in the places you visit. Slow down, integrate into communities, and forgo the opulence of luxury tourism to instead share in the lives of the local people. It’s ok to treat yourself from time to time, but you can never say that you’ve truly travelled a country until you’ve LIVED there.

    If you let go of the ego’s desire to hammer out a well-crafted itinerary and have the “ultimate travel experience”, what you will instead find is a genuine travel experience. Catch rickety buses, eat at steaming holes-in-the-wall, and sit down in coffee shops to speak to locals who don’t even know your language. A destination is not just a series of attractions – it’s somebody’s home.

    9. Never Forget Why You Travel

    Every traveller has their own reasons to travel and their own ‘why’: don’t forget yours. When the road becomes dark and unclear, that foundation and the character you previously constructed is what will steady you.

    Why are you travelling? What do you hope to gain? Who do you want to become? Ask yourself these things time and time again; check in with yourself, journal, and don’t lose yourself to the vainglory of ‘wanderlust’. Remember WHY you travel.

    10. Leave No Effing Trace

    Seriously. A traveller should leave a place better than when they arrived, and they certainly shouldn’t leave it WORSE. Bin your food scraps, pocket your ciggie butts, and SAY ‘NO’ TO SINGLE-USE PLASTIC.

    As travellers of the planet, we have a duty to Mother Nature to respect and protect her. Because without her, we have nothing.

    There are places you will travel where you will see mountains of rubbish cluttering the waterways. You may think “It doesn’t matter then”, but it does, more than anything. We can be better.

    11. Learn New Skills, and Do So With Enthusiasm

    Don’t waste all your spare moments in airports and on trains scrolling your phone. Use them to learn something! Learn a new language, some magic tricks, an instrument; read books and write down their knowledge.

    There will be infinite chances on the road to learn new skills, both through free time and from the volunteering and working opportunities that you encounter. Dive in with gusto and relish those moments of learning. Every new thing you learn makes you stronger.

    12. Dance With Misfortune

    And laugh too. Find the humour in everything, especially the mistakes and mishaps. Those misadventures are where travel happens.

    Without the unplanned moments of misfortune, travel simply wouldn’t be as colourful. And without those challenges, it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding. Learn to laugh when things go wrong because they WILL go wrong. And then let it go and keep moving forward. This cultivates a good humour for life… 

    The kind that people want to be around.

    13. Do Not Numb Yourself to the World

    At every corner you turn, you will find opportunities to party and people to get loose with. The booze, the drugs, the chilling, the casual hookups – these things are like muddy water. They haze you over and disengage you from travel.

    Enjoy your wild moments, but remember that’s not what travel is about. Not ALL people are the RIGHT people to spend your time with. When you feel the numbing creep in and the knowing that you’ve deviated from the path you want to be on, it’s time to do something more meaningful.

    14. Go With the Flow, Trust Your Gut, and Remember to Breathe

    Platitudes? Perhaps. But these tested cliches keep us on the right path. Trust your gut: it will take you to where you need to go. The gut is more than some vague and undefined aspect of spiritualism; it is your intuition. Listen to it.

    When you travel, it’s good to have a direction and no plan. Go with the flow, stay open to opportunity, and be flexible with your desires. The most magical happenstances of travel can only occur when we give them the freedom to.

    And when moments do go wrong, anxiety creeps in, and things aren’t “going to plan”, remember to breathe. Trust yourself and trust what the world has in store for you. Good things will come.

    15. Stay Safe and Take Care of Yourself

    Embrace every challenge and have only enough fear to keep you safe. The world will bring you many opportunities for grand adventure, but when something is too dangerous, it’s important to listen to the voice that says: this is stupid.

    Safety isn’t just about you: it’s about those who love you. If something happens to you on the road, it’s your loved ones that have to bear the tragedy. Your friends, your family, your mum… they want you home in one piece.

    Do it for them.

    16. Leave Them Animals Alone

    The animal tourism industry is marred by indecency and corruption. The creatures of the wild are meant to be just that – wild. Ask yourself what has to happen to an animal for it to allow itself to be ridden or put in a cage.

    Animals are not attractions for our amusement: they’re living creatures. Don’t fund an industry built on exploiting the wildlife we’re meant to protect – don’t engage with wildlife tourism. Be kind to animals.

    Especially the mangy stray doggos and kitties of the world. They need love more than anyone.

    17. Stay Active – Invest in Your Body

    It’s the greatest tool you have. A healthy body and a healthy mind are intrinsically linked; you can’t have one without the other. Life on the road can take you away from a healthy routine and into sluggishness: stay active.

    Hike up mountains, walk whenever you can, wake up with yoga and meditation; find what works for you and make a routine of it. As you travel, all the changing diets, spontaneous late nights, and general flux of everything DOES take its toll. Pause your travels and pump workouts for a week if need be; make time for your physical health.

    18. Smile

    And make it wide, cheesy, and earnest. A sincere smile will take you many places. And sometimes, a good smile is all someone needs to have a better day.

    When you catch a curious human staring at you in the street, smile. When you feel off and homesick, try smiling. And when you feel on top of your game, smile and share it with the world!

    A traveller should leave a place better when they arrived, and sometimes all that means is making one person smile.

    19. Travel With Your Heart

    It is only with the heart that one can rightly see; what is essential is invisible to the eye. It’s easy, in travel, to forget the heart. We might stay in places or with people that are wrong for longer than we should out of fear of being alone; we might choose our path based on our budget and financials.

    But ultimately, true travel is done with the heart. Our eyes see, our ears listen, but the heart knows. It’s good to think things through, but it’s also good to know when to stop thinking and simply feel.

    20. Keep Peace in Your Soul

    It’s simple, but sometimes the simplest truths are the ones we need most. The world needs peace; now, perhaps, more than ever. Be that force of peace.

    Gratitude, goodness, and hope – these things keep our peace. You have so much to be grateful for – little and big. And there is still so much to come to be hopeful for. The world IS deeply flawed, so let the gratitude and optimism you have for it feed the goodness of your soul. Stand against the tides of cynicism as a lighthouse would – a beacon of light.

    A life lived in goodness will bring you everlasting joy. People gravitate to goodness; you will never be alone. So no matter how noisy the confusion of life may get, stay grateful and stay hopeful. Keep peace in your soul.

    Those are the 20 guiding principles of The Broke Backpacker Manifesto. Keep them close, my friend. There WILL be times when they can serve you.

    “There’s no right and wrong way to travel.” That’s a platitude you’ll hear often in your time on the road. And to that I say, don’t be fooled. Just as there is a right and wrong way to live, so too is there a right and wrong way to travel.

    What is ‘the wrong way’? That is not for me to tell you. That is for you to decide.

    YOU must become your compass and your map. These tenets can help serve as a lantern in the dark, however, YOU must be your own guide and companion.

    Travel is life of another form: it must be lived with as much courage and respect as you would back home. Find your morals, define your values, and strive to be that person every day of your life. When you have strayed from the path you have chosen for yourself, then that’s when you know you are travelling in the wrong direction.

    To travel without conviction is to drift in the ocean of life, rudderless and unguided. Living free, easy, and without consideration of the impact of your actions may seem like the ultimate freedom, however, a life without values is the darkest prison of all.

    Because it’s the one you put yourself in.

    But to choose your values, choose who you want to be, and to live and travel in harmony with that choice… That is the ULTIMATE freedom.

    These 20 tenets comprise The Broke Backpacker Manifesto. But more than that, they entail what it means to be a broke backpacker. The best version of a broke backpacker.

    A broke backpacker is not just someone who travels on a budget. It’s not just an offbeat and upbeat human that slings a backpack and embarks on adventures.

    A broke backpacker is someone who seeks the growth and wisdom that this beautiful world has in store for us. And it’s someone who understands that to find that wisdom, you must first be willing to experience discomfort. To uncover the true transformational power of travel, you must first choose to journey into the eye of the storm and put yourself through challenges – physical and mental. 

    Once, a woman saw me down by a river where I’d been peacefully camped, alone, for several days. She said:

    “Are you homeless?”

    And I said…

    “Yes. But by choice.”

    And she smiled. Because she understood.

    And you will too, so long as you travel and you travel well. Go to the places and do the things that challenge you. Remember:

    Growth Begins at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone

    And when the time is right, return to the people who love you as the person you’ve become. They’ll be grateful you did. And so will you.

    Don’t be scared of the hard roads; that’s where life’s greatest treasures lie. And once you’ve reached their end, you’ll understand why you travelled them.

    Because you’ve lived a good life. And you were free.

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