Mystical Backpacker


By Sherrin Fitzer

One of our editors and writers from The Tattooed Buddha team sat down with Hannah Papp, author of The Mystical Backpacker, for an interview to find out more about what a mystical backpacker actually is and how she became one.

When Hannah Papp was 26 years old she left college and backpacked throughout Western Europe–a trip that would forever change her life. She loved art–the impressionists, post-modernists and always wanted to see the Louvre. Her travels took her to Italy, France, Cypress and the Greek Islands.

This was a trip lived from moment-to-moment.  It was filled with synchronicity and coincidence, the world responding to her and she being aligned with her soul’s purpose. It was later in life that she gave name to this trip as a “mystical backpacking” experience. At the age of 40 she wrote a book so that others could have this life-changing experience as well.

The book is comprised of three sections—memoir, self-empowerment and lastly exercises to guide the reader on their own journey. The first chapter defines what a mystical backpacking experience is and helps the reader decide if they are in need of one.

If you find yourself like the main character in the film Shirley Valentine “talking to the wall while preparing her husband’s chip’n’egg, wondering what happened to her life” you may be in need of a mystical backpacking experience (IMBD).

Mystical backpacking is a “modern vision quest.” An individual leaves their community and goes into the wild to discover their purpose.

Hannah says that throughout history we can see the benefits of community, but points out that community can also be limiting. There is an expectation about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior by the community and individuals tend to censor themselves and make reactionary choices.

Our culture champions reactionary behavior. She illustrates this by giving the example of losing one’s job. Our community expects that when this happens a person simply picks up, moves on and gets another job.

When a person is taken out of their environment into the wild—which can be anywhere:  a city, museum, Yosemite–whatever or wherever it is that thrills you, you become the reference point, not the community. You become more aligned with your authentic self. You respond rather that react to life circumstances.

The mystical backpacking experience is both an outer and inner journey.  You must remove your self from your familiar comfortable surroundings so that it is possible for you to question belief systems and ideas that are just assumed to be true while living your everyday life. Hannah points out that we don’t realize how many limiting belief systems we have until we are alone and away from home, and then begin to see them as the learned behaviors that they are.

What are the essential tools for a mystical backpacking experience?

You do not have to have a lot of money to be a mystical backpacker.  Hannah’s trip happened when she was at her poorest.

You must however have a journal.  

Writing is essential to the inner journey. Each phase of life is different and offers you the opportunity for refection—a course correction if needed. This journey and journal can help you source your inner truth.  The journal can be filled with stickers and other memories and becomes a mystical portal that can take you back to this time.

Hannah has her journals and now her book; she also has a life-long friend who she met on her trip.  Synchronicity can abound on mystical backpacking journeys if you listen to your inner wisdom.

She was on a train from Naples to Nice and when the train arrived at its destination Hannah knew something was wrong.  She was not supposed to be in Nice. Of this she was certain. After negotiating with train personnel she randomly chose Barcelona as her next destination.

Arriving late in the evening, she thought she had found a place to stay, but then had to relocate to a different hostel.  The hostel held a couple of hundred people and she was in a dormitory with eight other women. She was assigned her bunk and went to sleep.

Later a woman came in and told Hannah that she was sleeping in her bunk.  Hannah had been told the wrong bunk and was in fact sleeping in this other person’s bed.  They discovered they were both traveling alone and the woman asked her if she would like to go dancing that night as it was her birthday. Hannah was born in New York City and the other woman in New Zealand.

Hannah did the math. With the time difference these two women were born minutes apart from each other. Same bunk, same city, same birthday. This soul-mate and kindred spirit flew in for Hannah’s wedding and they just visited together this last October.

When asked what her mystical backpacking experience did for her, Hannah said that before her trip she was afraid of risk, and played it safe. She lived a flatter, more cautious life, but now is connected with her soul and spirit. She feels more adventurous and lives her life more bravely. She is more comfortable with fear and does not allow it to hold her back. As a self-employed, published author, she writes blogs and no longer follows the main stream path.

Hannah feels that if her book helps someone find their soul’s purpose, helps someone feel worthy, then she has done her job.

I have always loved the questions James Tipton asks actors at the end of his interviews on the television show Inside the Actor’s Studio and Hannah was kind enough to play along (actually we both quite enjoyed it).

Q: What is your favorite word?

A: Thrilling

Q: What is your least favorite word?

A: Stupid

Q: What turns you on?

A: Books

Q: What turns you off?

A: Ugliness (internal)

Q: What sound or noise do you love?

A: Music

Q: What sound or noise do you hate?

A: Heavy machinery

Q: What is your favorite curse word?

A: For fuck’s sake

Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

A: A host on a television travel show

Q: What profession would you not like to do?

A: Accountant

Q: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

A: “I’m so glad you’re back.”


hannah papp

Are You a Mystical Backpacker? from Hannah Papp on Vimeo.

*To find out more about Hannah Papp and The Mystical Backpacker, check out her author page on Simon & Schuster.


Photo: Publisher’s website

Editor: Dana Gornall