This past week my journal pages were filled with observations about life in an Asian hostel. I had settled in Osaka and the sightseeing honeymoon phase in Japan was over. I was getting down to business, looking for a real job to help finance the rest of my time away. A proper apartment was part of my future plans, but until the money started to roll in, my home was a super-cheap backpacker hostel.
Looking back on it all – the noisy chaos and unhygienic toilets; the lack of privacy; the mysterious food disappearances (Don’t look at me! I don’t know anything about that missing half-eaten sandwich in the back of the fridge with your name on it.); sneaking in past curfews; the aroma of unwashed laundry and sweaty shoes – I realize this era actually prepared me for my current reality: life with my three teenage boys!
I don’t have a WWW list this week since I stayed put in one place during this period; but I’d love to share something else instead. One of the fun byproducts of the DustyJournals project has been getting to know my followers and fellow travel bloggers. Their tales, and styles of storytelling, are as diverse as the myriad destinations they visit and describe. Some travel bloggers are serious and cultured, others wild and adventurous, some retirees, others high-school dropouts. Male, female, gay, straight, couples, solos, and everything in between.
One of my favourites is a blogger from the UK who calls himself “The Broke Backpacker.” This dude, Will Hatton, has been everywhere and has a wicked eye for local detail. And being a former el cheapo myself, I have a deep respect for his frugal ways. Best of all, he’s hilarious. So, in honour of my 25-years-ago immersion into backpacker life, I’d like to share an excerpt from Will’s excellent round-up of characters found in Backpackistan. (His term, not mine. Wish it were mine, though. Brilliant.)
He totally hits the nail on the head – I encountered all of these types at some point or other during my year away. If you’ve ever spent time on a backpack adventure, I’ll bet you know some of these characters too! (Check out Will’s blog for even more Backpackistanis…)
Travelling is not all about the places you go, it’s largely about the people you meet. Whenever I hit the road I meet a whole range of eccentric, sexy, hilarious and downright wonderful people. Unfortunately, the nation of Backpackistan is cursed with a stubborn horde of assholes who you will want to do your best to avoid. Luckily for you, avid explorer, I have designed this list of the worst offenders so that you can identify your foes from a distance and steer well clear.
Perhaps one of the most annoying people you will meet on the road, the Yoga Mystic tries way too hard to be cool and is somewhat obsessed with doing yoga in as crowded a place as possible. Unfortunately, yoga mystics tend to be rather good looking so you may find yourself lured into an idiotic conversation by accident. They are a fan of patronizing, non-sensical comments and are usually out on a short trip to ‘reinvent’ themselves. When drunk, the Yoga Mystic has a tendency to dance in a floatey, rather hilarious, manner and flash everyone.
Catch Phrase: “It’s OK that you don’t want to try Tibetan Chakra Rain Dance Massage today, everybody has to take their own journey and one day you will arrive at the higher level of being at which I reside.”
A frequent visitor to the fast food stalls, Captain Pancake is often obscured in a haze of marijuana smoke. He is a great person to hang out with for an afternoon, just don’t get stuck – he’s really quite boring and in desperate need of a shower.
Catch Phrase: “Hey man, shall we try a weed pancake?”
Dreadlocks should be your first warning. A guitar slung across the back is your second. If they have tattered Ali Baba trousers, run… you’re in for a full blown douche-bag attack. The wannabe adventurer is obsessed with being ‘the best’ and will aim to outdo everyone they meet with a long list of the places they have travelled and the deeds they have accomplished. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to get away from them before they start showing you how many stamps they have in their passports or telling you which countries they have ‘done.’
Catch Phrase: Yeah man, Burma’s pretty cool, of course you had to go ten years ago to really feelthe culture, you know?”
Avoid at all costs. These are the backpackers who give the rest of us a bad name. Convinced that they are being ripped off, even when they aren’t, they will argue for up to an hour over ridiculously small sums of money. They usually travel in packs and seem uninterested in learning anything about the place they have come to visit. They have a tendency to get loud, drunk and aggressive.
Catch Phrase: “No, no, no! I know for a fact that the price is under one dollar, I was here ten years ago and that was the price then!”
Convinced that all the locals do in fact speak multiple international languages this specimen will ask the same questions again and again in gradually louder tones. Do not be near them when they start to shout, it gets embarrassing. They are usually found in international restaurant chains and are fond of bright shirts and stupid hats.
Catch Phrase: “You tell me – good price – nice McDonalds – where?”