Travelling the world as a man is not always easy. And nor should it be. But being a male backpacker is awesome and for all those men travelling the world it should be a celebration of masculinity with as much testosterone fuelled adventure as possible. Here is a list of the top manliness asserting gap year goals that all men need to do on their gap year.
Travelling the world is already a pretty awesome thing to do in and of itself, and can absolutely push you out of your comfort zone, hone your self reliance and turn you into into a stronger, tougher, better and more rounded version of yourself. It can test your masculine mettle and make you worthy of the manly ideals set out in every action movie from the 80s!
In short, backpacking around the world makes you a better man.
But what can make that travel experience even better? A ton of manly activities to show that there is nothing wrong with having a boatload of testosterone, a strong desire to put yourself at risk and a tendency to blow some shit up once in a while!
So in a world where masculinity is demonized more often than not, how exactly do you go about achieving your full masculine potential as you travel and make sure that your gap year is as manly and testosterone filled as it can be? You crank the A Team theme music up on your phone, tie your makeshift Superman cape around your neck, step on that plane and make sure you fill your gap year with as many tough and manly activities as possible of course! So here are the best masculine, testosterone filled activities that every man should be doing on their gap years!
Climb a mountain.
What can be more manly than following in the footsteps of great mountaineers like Edmund Hillary and pitting yourself against the unconquerable peaks of great mountains? Of battling against the sheer drops, the danger and the mental and physical challenge with no other reason behind you than ‘because it is there’?
Travelling the world gives you countless opportunities to do just that at any level, from the basic hikes that test your basic fitness to the full on expeditions required for mountains like Everest and everything in between. You can easily find a tour operator for some of the easier treks, especially those that may take a few days or so and require accommodation along the way such as mount Kinabalu in Borneo or Ceahlau Mountain in Romania, and finding an operator who will show you the ropes so to speak for actual mountain climbing is easy no matter at what level you are at.
Once you reach the top of a mountain, especially if you have actually rock climbed parts of it and used the active skills required to conquer that environment, there really is no better feeling to know you have been tested and not been found wanting!
Go rock climbing.
Climbing a mountain is one thing, but for man hiking up a steep incline just isn’t enough and you will need to know the skills of using ropes, harnesses and carabiners to get you up and down those mountains. Rock climbing is a time honoured tradition in masculine fitness, from those early Tarzan inspired gym ropes in primary schools to full on special forces climbing and abseiling courses, you never know when you will need to scale a castle wall, be stuck in the wilderness and be forced to climb to survive or even just compete on the climbing wall in an episode of Ninja Warrior, every man needs to know how to climb!
Become a martial artist.
A man should be able to defend himself and his family when necessary, and combat sports and martial arts are an activity that every man should do, not just for the health and fitness benefits but for the discipline and skill required for the focused control over applied force and the unquestionable self confidence that comes with being able to defend and look after yourself in any situation.
I have trained in martial arts my entire life, mostly Japanese arts, and when I started to travel the world I loved the opportunity to be able to train in a range of different arts in their spiritual homes to supplement those skills, from Judo and Karate in Tokyo and Okinawa and Kung Fu and Tai Chi in China, to Muay Thai in Thailand and BJJ in Brazil, and if 80s action movies taught us nothing else it is that no matter how tough you are, little old men in out of the way villages can still kick your arse!
Obviously which martial art you study depends on your own tastes and where you travel to as well, and it should go without saying that you will need to travel slowly and devote a significant amount of time to your training, but learning a life skill like this on your travels will give your gap year a lot more meaning and ensure you rack up the man points!
Get some target practice.
Guns and masculinity have been inextricably linked since their invention, even long before that as it taps into the same warrior and protector psyche and physical need of carrying bows, swords and shields. It is every mans prerogative to be proficient in an array of weaponry and marksmanship is a true masculine skill. There really is nothing like proving your skills with a firearm or getting a solid boost of testosterone by firing off a high powered rifle into a paper target.
Fortunately there are many countries throughout the world with sensible firearm laws where you can still practice this skill, from Sweden and the Czech Republic to Thailand and the more obvious America, so go and practice the ancient masculine skill of marksmanship and harken back to a seemingly long forgotten time where men were protectors and hunters.
“There is one rule, above all others, for being a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet.” Robert Jordan.
Do some adventure sports.
Every man needs to stay fit and healthy but sometimes the gym just doesn’t give you enough man points on the masculinity scale, and that is where adventure sports come in! Adventure travel is a booming business and backpacker destinations like Thailand or India are full of options to mix adrenaline with a bit of fitness, and in most cases any equipment you may need can be rented there and then so there is no need to carry a lot of gear with you. It’s fine for the rest of the crowd to concentrate on doing squat thrusts in the gym, but when you come back from your gap year with awesome muscles honed by free diving in south east Asia, sea Kayaking in south America or mountain biking in the Alps you can be assured of that instant alpha male status!
White water rafting.
Nothing is more masculine than pitting yourself against nature, and nothing does that more than throwing yourself down a raging river in a little rubber raft. You are completely in the control of the elements here with only your skill, strength and ability to command a crew between you and being thrown into a raging river. And even if you do get thrown in, then you get to tap into your inner wildman and test your manly survival skills as you try and cross the river!
Many deserts around Dubai and Oman have become an adventure playground as men climb into dune buggies and SUVs and crash through the sand dunes with wild abandon, the shifting soft sand testing every mans driving ability to its limit. Imagine the Fast and the Furious, in the desert, with less explosions!
Climb a volcano.
If climbing a mountain is an activity worthy of the most adventurous men, then surely the peak of masculine bragging points has to be reaching the top and peering down into a bubbling cauldron of lava and sulphur at the top of an active volcano?
The ring of fire in Indonesia is full of active and dormant volcanoes that are just ripe for trekking and hiking, and some like Mount Bromo or the Dieng Plateau give you the opportunity to tick off the ultimate in adventure bucket list experiences.
Ride an ATV up a volcano.
What do you do when getting to the top of an active volcano just isn’t manly enough? You straddle a powerful engine and roar your way up to the top on an ATV of course! With a burgeoning adventure travel industry at its base, Mount Mayon in the Philippines is the perfect location to hire an ATV and ride roughshod over hard terrain right up to the edge of an actual solidified lava field!
Trek through a jungle.
Imagine retracing the footsteps of epic adventurers, crashing through tropical jungles, discovering hidden lagoons, emerging victorious on the other side looking like an extra from a Schwarzenegger movie after being stalked by a Predator! Okay that last bit might just be your imagination but the jungle trekking part is far from fantasy and has been a gap year staple activity for decades in the hills of northern Thailand, Malaysia and the Amazon, and with ever more countries such as Borneo, Belize and Nicaragua opening up to travellers the option to trek through tropical jungles is a very real one. So get out there and test your mettle against some truly awesome terrain.
Abseil down a waterfall.
When abseiling down a sheer rock face just isn’t manly enough, you need to add that extra element of danger that would test even the most masculine of special forces operatives, and that means finding a rock face with a raging torrent of water cascading down it and then abseiling down that! Because you can!
And then take a shower under one!
Trekking through tropical jungles is hot and sweaty work, but the hotel power shower and handy soap dispenser is for weak willed man boys. What you need is a shower of epic manly proportions and mother nature is ready and willing to provide! So get out there and take a shower under a waterfall!
Wild camp in a desert.
Being able to survive in a hostile environment is the epitome of masculinity, and pitting your wits against adversity and nature itself with a minimum of equipment will stand you in good stead for any other problem life throws at you.
No matter what desert you decide to camp in it should be obvious that you will need to do a little research and stick to local laws and regulations, and you will obviously need to have at least a few basic survival skills, but being out on your own in the middle of nowhere is an ideal escape from the world and all of its problems as well as being great for your mental health.
Out in the desert with minimal survival equipment and only your own wits and training to help you, there is no one to blame or rely on but yourself. You are the only one who is responsible for your actions and the consequences, and your ability to survive and thrive is wholly down to you. That level of self sufficiency is the ultimate achievement on the manliness scale.
Get your Indiana Jones on.
What man hasn’t wanted to be Indiana Jones at some point in their lives? Well taking a gap year can definitely let you live out your Indy fantasy by not only visiting some of the actual filming locations like Petra in Jordan, but actually going on your own historical and archaeological adventure. So whether you are scrambling inside ancient pyramids or going on epic quests to find the lost Ark of the Covenant, there are plenty of opportunities for you to don your fedora, hum that famous theme tune and ride a horse into the sunset!
Hug a dog. Or three. Or all of them.
Dogs are not known as mans best friend for nothing. There is an inescapable bond that exists between man and our canine friends, they are our protectors and our devoted lifelong companions, our true soulmates, the natural connection to our innate inner beast with a history that goes back to even the most primitive human society.
Modern science has proven the positive effects of this bond, something that men have instinctively known for tens of thousands of years. This connection shapes the way our brains develop, time spent with our canine counterparts boosts our immune systems and lowers the risk of a whole host of physical and mental health problems.
And frankly it is your duty as a man to give that love back wherever you can!
Wherever you travel in the world you will come across animals who may not be treated well. You will come across animals who are stray or who are looking for a little help. Wherever you can it is your mission, your duty, to answer the call of that instinctive and ancient bond.
There are a lot of animal shelters and dog charities all over the world such as BAWA in Bali for example, that need as much help as possible wether that is in the form of giving supplies, money or time. Whatever they need, there is no better, no more manly bucket list activity than helping them out.
Even if you don’t do something as formal as helping out an organised charity if you meet a dog on your travels then take some time out to give him or her a fuss, give them some attention, buy them a meal if they need one. Dogs have been there for men for millennia, it is the least we can do to give some of that loyalty back.
There are plenty more manly activities that you can do on your gap year of course, and many more ways you can ramp up that testosterone, kick danger in the balls and laugh in its face, this is just the start of your manly adventure toward the ultimate goal of world domination!
So no matter what society says, there is nothing wrong with being a real man and celebrating your masculinity, so get out there and enjoy your round the world adventure. Indulge in as many manly activities as possible and make yourself into a stronger, tougher, better man as a result.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.