This may be quite a confusing blog to read considering I am a backpacker, but then again I have been travelling for a number of years now so it does give me a certain insight. And just to put the record straight early doors, I know that we aren’t all bad, and I’ve met many along the way who have become good friends and have given me invaluable advice. But anyway, here it goes…
1) We must have had the exact same conversation 1000 times
I’m sure we have all been there, that first awkward moment you get into your hostel room and get asked the same 5 questions every time. Where are you from? How long are you here for? What brings you here? How long are you travelling for? Where else have you been?
And it always begins with, so where are you from? Not oh hello I’m John what’s your name? It’s straight to where are you from? And this is usually ok for me as I’m from the UK, which most people can guess, not so much from my accent (as mentioned in a previous blog) but from my very British teeth. When it gets irritating is the “oh so from what part?” I’m actually from Yorkshire but I have started just saying from London because it just makes the conversation so much easier, I literally no longer have the patience trying to explain that there is a piece of land between York and Scotland where people do in fact live, even a lot of other people from the UK (namely southern fairies) aren’t even aware of this. And it’s probably because of this why you always find yourself referring to people as that French guy or that Italian chick, because we never bother to find out peoples names until we know we’ll know them long enough for it to be worth adding them on Facebook. Hence the “how long are you here for?” question.
But anyway we have all been there and done it, and it’s very typical small talk that’s good for breaking the ice and getting to know each other, but after a while you do become a little bored of it. A lot like how I’m always asked what my tattoos mean every time I take my top off, like they need to mean anything to anyone else other than myself. So mix it up a little bit!
2) We are a pretentious lot aren’t we?
Leading on from the annoying question that is often asked in hostels, “how many countries have you been to?”, comes the next point that irritates me. And this is because the person asking isn’t actually at all interested in where you have been, it’s because it’s the perfect in road for them to go bang on about themselves and where THEY have been to. And when describing the countries they have been to, it’s never “I recently visited” or “recently travelled to” it’s “I’ve DONE or I DID country x, y and z. I’m not really sure what constitutes DOING a country but it probably involves spending a few days getting hammered and then pissing all over some poor persons front garden.
I don’t know why some backpackers feel the need to try and one up other backpackers over “who’s the more experienced traveller?” And “that guy” who has the audacity to say to other travellers that if you didn’t do activity x then you didn’t really experience country y. For me one of the reasons I enjoy travelling is to get away from all of the hierarchiesation of normal day life, and everybody’s travelling experience is unique to themselves and this kind of talk can really dishearten the younger less experienced backpackers and make them feel bad about their own experiences. And this is wrong, it’s not what backpackers should be like and it’s definitely not what this blog is about. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of these pretentious ignoramuses are just simple pack followers who just follow the same well laid travel route that thousands have tread before them. And at the end of the day there is always going to be someone who has “done” more countries then you. So please get over yourself!
3) Just because we’re way from home doesn’t mean we have be lazy
Now this goes beyond the endless unclean dishes and disgusting kitchen surfaces. It is actually becoming a serious problem, an epidemic of sorts, that is beginning to negatively effect backpackers ability to backpack.
I remember my old taekwondo instructor once telling me that life is like a pot of gold, if you just keep taking from that pot it will eventually run out, unless people give something back. The reason I mention this is because during my experiences so far in Australia I have started to see the effect of a string of people taking and taking and taking and not giving anything back. People rock up expecting jobs and their 88 days to be handed out to them, and think that because it is “just” farmwork, whether voluntary or paid, then they don’t have ot take the job seriously. The problems this has now caused is well covered in another blog I recently wrote discussing the plight backpackers are now facing to complete their days in a legal and safe manner.
I recently saw this first hand on the farm where I am currently WWOOFING. Recently a new wwoofer who has been struggling, like many, to find paid work came in order to their days signed off. When volunteering to get your days signed off you are still required under the regulations to complete an 8 hour working day. This person on their first day stated that they weren’t willing to do more than 4 hours a day without being paid (they never even managed 4 hours) and took a whole day off before they had even been here a week. Unsurprisingly to the normal person, they were asked to leave, and the response from this backpackers was that this was grotesquely unfair and was everyone else’s fault for not finding her to work. I mean really? How can you be surprised, if you were in a new paid job back home and decided to take unauthorised leave in your first wee would you really expect that to make a good impression? Of course not. There are no more free 88 day tokens to be handed out anymore, it has to be earned and to do so you need to be willing to give that something back because there are hundreds of people willing to take your place. So please start caring, you don’t have to enjoy it, but please don’t take the piss and think about the problems you are causing for future backpackers.
4) We’re all a bunch of degenerate alcoholics
Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good drinking session now and then (quite often if you ever get the chance to ask someone who knows me from home). But yeah, I’m getting old now, and the last thing I want to be when I’m in some beautiful new paradise is hungover. I’m now at that point where my body no longer functions and it just ends up being a waste of a day. In the past I’ve even missed booked tours that started in the early hours because I got way too hammered the night before, meaning I miss out on something really memorable which according to hairy French guy means I never really “did” that country then.
And this leads me to my point, and a lot of it is from learning from my mistakes. The idea of going somewhere, to then just get extremely drunk with people who usually end up being from the same country as you, doesn’t really mean you have “done” that country. Yes it is definitely a great way of breaking the ice and meeting new like minded people, but it isn’t the only thing to do on a night out when on the road. What’s wrong with just having a nice meal, going to a movie, or just hanging out and playing a game of tennis or football. Does it always have to turn into a choice between Beer Pong or Never have I ever?
So again, get off the beaten track, don’t feel you have to follow the crowd, and go out and really experience the country and culture that you are in!