Europe is a backpacker’s paradise. You can experience vastly different cultures and landscapes in a short amount of time. It’s not only easy to do, it’s fairly inexpensive to hop from place to place. Backpacking allows you more freedom and flexibility, while giving you an experience of a lifetime. Here are five things you will likely take away from the experience:

1) You'll get into better shape.

If you aren’t used to lifting weights, you’re in for a treat. When you start to constantly carry a backpack from place to place, you’re bound to gain some muscle. While it may seem difficult at the beginning of your trip, by the end, you’ll be a pro at throwing your backpack over your shoulders with ease. Additionally, assuming that you’re in each city to experience as much as possible, you’re going to be doing a ton of walking. So, who needs the gym?  Just be sure to balance out all of the exercise with tons of water and delicious food.

2) You'll meet people from all over the world.

You’re probably expecting to meet people from the country that you are visiting, but when you’re backpacking, you’re going to meet people from all over the place. In your hostel, you’re likely to meet a mix of people, a large population being from Canada, Australia, The UK or the United States. Doing a free tour? You’ll see more people from all aspects of life around the globe. Asking for directions from a stranger? 50/50 shot they’re tourists as well. This is one of the great things about traveling. You not only get to meet people from the country you’re visiting and get to understand their culture better through them, but you also get to meet fellow travellers who are bound to have some great travel stories themselves.

3) You'll be challenged.

Depending on your attitude, this could be a good or bad thing. When you’re backpacking, there are going to be times when you are exhausted, hungry, hot and can’t seem to find that hostel that looked so easy to get to online. Maybe you’ll miss your train or bus (because more often than not, they’re very prompt) and you have to figure out a new plan. There might even be times when the power goes out at your Airbnb, it’s 10:00 at night, and you can’t contact your host to fix it, but you desperately need the air conditioner and internet to book your plans for the next day. You’re going to be frustrated from time to time, and that’s okay.

4) You'll be able to handle a variety of situations.

Backpacking forces you to be adaptable.  Not everything is going to go according to plan. But with unexpected complications, you’re forced to bring out your problem solving skills.  Soon enough, you’ll learn how to handle anything that is thrown your way. Backpacking also tends to provide you access to many like-minded people. You can learn through them and with them how to handle anything unexpected that may throw a curveball in plans.

5) You'll learn about yourself.

For better or for worse, you’ll learn about yourself. Maybe you’ll learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable or how to cope with homesickness. Or perhaps you’ll find a new passion in something you never would’ve expected. Learning about yourself is an important thing to do in this life to find true happiness. What better way to figure it out than through traveling?

Backpacking is an adventure of a lifetime that will give you memories, friendships, and lessons that will stick with you for years to come.