Archive for July, 2009

18. Playing Guitar

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

guitar

Say what you will about people who play guitar on a backpacking trip, but there is no denying: IT IS A PLOY*.

But wait, there are people that just really love music. Some of them can play guitar and they want to share their talent with the world. I don’t believe it for a second. Not while backpacking. Carrying a guitar around while traveling is a huge hassle. (My buddy, Jeff, writes: Who actually travels with a guitar? It immediately puts you into excess baggage everywhere.  They are fragile, and temperature/humidity sensitive.) And you’re telling me these altruistic troubadours are inconveniencing themselves for the sake of a simple love of music? Not a chance. They do it to get laid.

It works. I’ve seen it. So have you — admit it. Some dude whips out a guitar at a beach/campground fire or in a hostel common area and proceeds to strum some of the lamest shit detectable by the human ear. Nevertheless, because most girls love musicians and manage to overlook the ugliness (or fatness/dreadlocks/dirtiness/awful hipster style) of supposedly talented (or, in other cases, wealthy) men, these guitarists indeed kill women softly… with their song. It’s a classic case of guys batting out of their league (i.e. score chicks who would otherwise ignore them completely). It’s unlikely, but it happens. It’s similar to how underdogs pull off upsets at March Madness.

The worst part is, they made Juicy Fruit commercials mocking this type of behavior (April 28, 2010: I just watched Animal House for the first time, and John Belushi smashes some kid’s guitar, too. It’s great!), yet the crime persists worldwide. While the perpetrators might not be wearing ski sweaters, they offend with covers of the usual suspects: Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, RHCP, Nirvana, Radiohead, Oasis (esp. “Wonderwall”), James Blunt, etc. (Jeff adds: I left out John Mayer and John Butler because usually the douchebags can’t figure out the tuning.) After witnessing a scruffy, nondescript guy woo a group of gorgeous Swiss girls with his rendition of “High and Dry” and proceed to sleep with two of the girls on consecutive nights, one of my friends had seen enough. He bought a guitar upon returning home that fall.

The best part? The guys’ game faces as they belt out the lyrics, often with their eyes closed. Priceless.

Some of these guys, however, don’t even play well. For example, there’s that scene in Role Models where the one guy brings a guitar on the camping trip and starts playing a song, only to screw it up, stop and start over again repeatedly. (Jeff: In between each song is a healthy beenou about how “my band back home puts on one hell of a show.”  Well sir, I have news for you. It doesn’t. Your band back home sucks. That’s why no one’s heard of you, you’re playing powerchords poorly, and you resort to just tapping the guitar and bobbing your head to cover the parts you don’t know.)

It always made me wonder, though: How much ass could the real Jack Johnson get, if he actually went backpacking (consider, too, that he’s a former pro surfer)? It blows my mind.

*Ploy (noun): A display of fake talent, intelligence or compassion performed in order to impress members of the opposite sex, and ultimately, to get laid. Men, particularly those on major sex droughts, are more likely to resort to ploys. Common backpacker ploys include: volunteering for NGOs; speaking a foreign language; being good with children and animals; caring about art, religion, world politics, the environment, feminism, gay rights, local inhabitants, and people with disabilities; disapproving of wild partying, drug use and promiscuity; and playing guitar.

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17. Long Distance Relationships (LDRs)

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

“hey stranger”

What’s that? Don’t act like you don’t know. You’ve been backpacking on an LDR and your significant other has hit you with the above e-mail subject. Don’t feel bad. It’s common.

It’s a common mistake. No offense if you’ve successfully done it or if you’re trying to convince your significant other to let you go backpacking, but come on. Get real.

(Cliche warning! Cliche warning!) Backpacking is about you, about discovering who you are. What makes you tick. How social you are in new and unfamiliar settings. How good you are at picking up members of the opposite sex. What you want to do with your life (if you don’t end up teaching English). How much you appreciate your family and where you’re from. Don’t fuck with it. (Without fear of sounding like the older brother of the LMS* douche from Rookie Of The Year, on American Pie 2): It’s a sacred rite of passage.

You know because you’ve seen it tried before. Maybe you’ve been that person. Maybe you broke up before your trip, maybe you didn’t. Maybe it was painfully ambiguous. Maybe you’ve travelled with an LDR backpacker. Whatever the case, you’ve seen somebody showing the symptoms: constantly stressing to check their e-mail or get to their phone, wondering what time it is back home, scrutinizing their significant other’s Facebook page with a detective’s eye for detail, sitting in dingy Internet cafes talking on Skype (“Can you hear me, now? How ’bout now?…  Haha, now?”) while other backpackers are out having fun, eating poorly, drinking heavily, losing sleep, talking to you about it endlessly in the hostel and making you lose sleep, trying to pick up chicks/guys but failing miserably because their heart’s just not into it, feeling bad because they’re being THAT person. That LDR backpacker.

So yeah, don’t do it. Break up and get back together afterward. Or if you really love her/him and you can’t let him/her go, just travel together.

*LMS (Little Man’s Syndrome): Pronounced “elms,” this syndrome is commonly known as a Napoleonic Complex, exhibited by men who are short in stature yet display aggressive and overcompensatory personality traits. Prone to peacocking, contact sports and rough horseplay (see 1. Aussie Guys), men with LMS often lift weights in order to “get jacked” and offset their unimpressive height. A common LMS greeting involves an iron-grip handshake, low-voiced laughter and a hug that turns into a lifting-taller-friend-off-the-ground (and thus displaying their great strength) exercise. Sometimes, LMS just applies to short guys in general.

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16. iPod Thieves

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

After being stolen from, no matter what the circumstance may be, a question you will inevitably ask yourself is, “Who would do such a thing?” The answer is: Assholes.

Don’t give me the sob story of Oliver Twist. These poor locals. They must steal from the rich travelers in order to survive! They desperately need to feed themselves and their families! They need the money in your wallets, so they’ll pick your pocket, take out the cash and ditch the rest – sorry for the inconvenience (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed). In reality, most of the iPods getting stolen along the backpacker trail are not taken by Oliver Twists.

Although impoverished locals (assholes) are responsible for the odd stolen iPod, the majority of iPod thieves are douchebag travelers (also assholes). Unlike pickpockets, who are predominantly poor people or gypsies, these iPod thieves are more in it for the device than for instant black market cash. I don’t know what the resale value is for a scratched up, poorly file-categorized and already obsolete iPod, but it’s probably not much.

It’s ironic because you would expect your fellow travelers to be people who look out for each other and turn in forgotten items to the hostel lost-and-found. Optimists would argue that most backpackers are trustworthy, but if this were the case, why all the lockers in the dorm rooms (see 15. Dormitories)? Cynics, however (myself included), would counter that the average backpacker isn’t as trustworthy as one might hope. No offense to all you good samaritans out there.

It’s the same with camera theft. Once you’ve lost a camera, you come to realize the content on the device is worth more than the device itself. An iPod contains a backpacker’s personal soundtrack to his/her trip. It took a long time to create and pirate that music (and sometimes movie) library. Tireless hours of last-minute leeching and seeding before you have to catch that flight. In some cases, your piracy went as far as syncing your library with those of other travelers you met and hung out with along the way.

Older backpackers may better relate to stolen CD wallets, which were much worse because original CDs cost so much. A good buddy of mine went on his first backpacking trip to Australia almost 10 years ago and got his CD wallet stolen. The thing was chock full of original CDs (72 in total) bought with money he worked thankless minimum wage hours to earn. Seventy-two CDs, at an average of 15 bucks per, is $1,080. That’s a lot of cash when you’re between the ages of 16 and 20. But the point is, when you’re on a big trip, your music collection is worth a hell of a lot more than that. It’s fucking priceless.

So here’s a modest request from good travelers to would-be douchebag travelers out there. Don’t be an asshole. Buy your own iPod. They’re cheap now anyway.

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