Alternatives to conventional travel: Van Life vs Backpacking vs Adventure Travel
First of all, what do I mean by conventional travel?
To me conventional travel, is what most of us do when we need a rest from work. We book a room somewhere warm, fly there and enjoy doing nothing for some time. And there is nothing wrong with that. But because our holiday time is counted, we tend to not take the risk to try an alternative to this type of travel. It's the safe route, the pass of less resistance.. So my goal is to present alternative solutions to booking an all-inclusive package in a resort and to inspire you to try something new! There might be a little bit of stress involved the first time, but your comfort zone will catch up very quickly.
There is no need to build a van! I used to go on weekend trips, sleeping in the back of an old Suziki Swift back when I was living in New Zealand. Those where some of the best road trips I took! Also, rental is always possible, even for a weekend. I love this travel style because you can discover amazing places that are only a few hours drive form your home and that you didn't know about. The more time you have the further you can explore.
On a year-long basis, van life becomes a lifestyle more than a weekend gateway and you might want to consider buying a camper and make it your home. Van life is pretty cheap compared to living in a house, but it's not as comfy (no matter how good the Instagram pictures look, you're still basically living in your car). I'm still new to van life and it's an upgrade in terms of comfort for me so we'll see how it goes, but do think ahead about whether or not you can live on the road for long periods of time. Because if you sell all your stuff and move in a van it will be your home! Keep in mind that real life isn't as glamorous as it's portrayed on social media.
I love backpacking, and usually travel super light (no checked baggage). Backpacking is great because you have the freedom to go wherever you want without being tied to a car, a bicycle, a boat or whatever else; it's just you and your bag!
There's a lot of different styles of backpacking, some go for a week or two, others for a few years. Some only visit a few places and others put a new tick on their bucket list every day. This is a personal choice. Every backpacker does what he or she wants. Just be careful to not do things in a foreign country that you wouldn't do at home. Also something might be illegal there that was legal in your home country, so do think ahead.
As much as I love backpacking and it's the same as van life, if you feel like doing it for a long time it will become a lifestyle more than a holiday. I'd recommend not to book your plane tickets in advance, because once you're comfortable backpacking you will want the freedom to make decisions on a day to day basis. Having to hit a deadline to catch a plane won't be fun. At some point you won't even book hostels either; you'll just show up. I think it's the best way!
I feel like this is a whole topic in itself, but much like van life you can go on an adventure for a day or for a few years. It's probably the most accessible and cheap of all three but it can also be the most expensive depending on what you want to do.
I'll start with the short and cheap adventures. It only requires a little bit of hiking and camping equipment. You can pack a small backpack with a tent, a sleeping bag, a sandwich, a water bottle and a few cereal bars and start from your front door. Either on foot or on a bicycle. You can take the train or bus first to get out of the city if you live in one. This is the ultimate freedom and head-space generating way to travel that I know about. The most difficult is the first step and the first few nights in your tent but then it's a breeze. It will take a few days to understand that there is no real goal and that the journey itself is what's important. So slow down, enjoy the nature around you and the present moment.
This is by far the best solution to reduce your stress level. If only more people could take walks in nature our whole society would be different (it's as simple and life changing as that)
For longer adventures: once again it becomes a lifestyle, there are more costs and planning to do but you'll also go further and discover new cultures and ways of living. The time that you spend on your own and with people from different cultures will change you for ever (whether it's a positive or negative thing is for you to decide, but you'll never be the same).
Adventure is often associated with risks or long distance journeys, but it's mostly about breaking the routine and getting out of your comfort zone. It only gets risky because the comfort zone catches up very quickly. The first night I spent sleeping in my tent was the scariest and it was in a tiny forest next to a field in France, 8 months later i was sleeping like a baby in the jungle in Laos. Comfort zone expands...
To sum this up, i believe that mass tourism and conventional travel only exist because they are the easiest solution (just like fast food). But there are alternatives that are a lot better to get a break from a busy worklife. You just have to decide to gather a bit of courage and take the first step.