Many students dream about backpacking through Europe and traveling through the wonders of the world, meeting people of other cultures and different backgrounds. It is a big undertaking, one that challenges and shapes an individual for the rest of their life.
For senior Kip Peters, that backpacking trip became a reality over the summer of 2017.
For nearly two and a half months, Peters visited 10 countries around the world, staying in hostels from Nepal to Costa Rica.
He created an Instagram account, @kips.adventures, which he would use to share his experiences with his friends and family.
On the Instagram post announcing his travel plans, Peters said his reason for planning his journey was “sparked by the fear of missing out on the opportunity to travel once I graduate from college.”
“As I embark on this journey alone, I hope to discover more about myself and expand my perspective of the world,” he elaborated.
With only two backpacks, Peters’ trip started when he drove to Chicago from Indianapolis. From Chicago, he flew to Doha, Qatar, for a connecting flight to his first destination: Kathmandu, Nepal.
“In the beginning, flying internationally on my own was pretty scary and stressful,” says Peters. “I was constantly worried about getting to the airport on time, or not having the necessary documentation to enter a country.”
With only two international trips under his belt prior to heading out on his own, going through customs, navigating terminals and finding directions to his hostels were challenges that he soon embraced.
“The language barrier was not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be going into this trip,” Peters says. “There were always people who could speak enough English to get by in the tourist areas such as the airports, hotels and hostels and in major cities.”
From Nepal, Peters traveled to Thailand. “I thought I would travel more through Southeast Asia and visit Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia,” says Peters, “but I ended up enjoying Thailand and staying there the entire time.”
Peters explored Nepal on his own, but joined a tour group for 21 days in Thailand, then spent another week with people he met from the group.
His trip then went on through Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Easter Island before flying to South America. There, he visited Chile, Peru and Costa Rica.
In Indonesia, he stayed with a family he met through friends back home, and he hitchhiked across the island of Tahiti from his hostel to visit the beach.
On Easter Island, which is known for its carved figures with oversized heads called moai, Peters visited its sights in a two-day tour group before renting a dirtbike to go on his own.
He went surfing in Chile, and his mom joined him in Peru where they went hiking and went on tours together.
While the trip as a whole has left a lasting impression on Peters, certain moments stand out to him as especially impactful. “My favorite experiences from my trip include obtaining my scuba-diving certification in Thailand and hiking through Machu Picchu,” he says.
From all of these experiences across the globe and the exposure to different cultures and the people that inhabit them, Peters brought home what souvenirs he could given his limited packing space.
“Since I did not take a large pack, I was not able to bring many souvenirs home with me,” Peters says. “I decided to bring home a postcard from every country I visited.”
He also bought bracelets made by kids during his travels where he could. “I also saved all the tickets, passes or items that were given to me at each place I visited.”
If Peters could do the trip over again, he says he would bring a larger backpack. “I packed too light to be honest.”
He traveled with both a 40-liter backpack and a standard size backpack. “Next time I would take a 60 to 75-liter bag plus a normal sized backpack, which is what most people carried,” he says.
But more than any physical item, Peters brought home with him a kind of special souvenir.
“I was able to learn more about who I am and what I want in life,” he shares.
Being disconnected from his social media over the trip became an unexpected source of pleasure for Peters.
“In today’s world we can look up information about any country, culture or society and learn a lot about it,” he says, “but it’s still not the same as experiencing it in person.”
“I became more comfortable being alone,” Peters says. “I let go of my inhibitions and developed a trust in myself.”