Archive for March, 2010

Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Link to article: What Type of Backpacker Are You?

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That's Matt, in Australia

This article was originally posted to Nomadicmatt.com in July 2009 by Matt from Boston, a self-professed travel junkie.

Some things I like about Matt (from his About Me page):

  • His favorite country is Thailand and his favorite city is Amsterdam. Both solid choices.
  • He’s down with buying bootlegged movies on the street in Asia.
  • Everything he owns fits into one bag. Very Clooney, on Up In The Air!
  • He hates people who brag about travel. “(They) are insecure and aggravate me,” he writes.
  • He wishes he had a better ear for languages. Don’t we all.
  • He doesn’t have a strong desire to go to China. I’ve also felt this way.
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Backpacking in the News

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Link to article: 10 Stereotypical Backpacker Nationalities

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Only a Canuck would suntan with the tube socks on.

This article was originally posted on BootsnAll.com by Amy Heading back in July 2009.

I got a kick out of a comment posted on Heading’s article by Beachcombers (05 March 2010): “Not to sure about the Israeli backpacker description. Friendly was not the first thing that leaped to mind. Aggressive, arrogant, rude, nihilistic perhaps….But Israeli chicks are super hot!”

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35. Budget Airlines

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

“This is why we Brits call RyanAir ‘Ryan Scare,'” said the 40-year-old lady beside me, gripping her armrests as the plane prepared to land. There was a characteristically heavy bump, the cabin shook, a couple kids shrieked and about half the passengers cheered and applauded.

It was funny but weird. I’d never witnessed a landing like that before. It was as though the entire plane knew it was a rookie pilot’s first landing. In fact, people have come to expect bad landings — bad service and an all-around bad experience — from Ireland’s popular budget airline. And while everybody complains about it and other airlines like it around the world (the UK’s easyJet, Malaysia’s Air Asia, Thailand’s One-Two-GO Airlines and Australia’s Jetstar, are a few examples*), the planes are full.

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You could pin it on the recession, but budget airlines are profitable because passengers are willing to accept inconveniences in exchange for a cheaper fare. These airlines are a necessary evil for travelers and backpackers on tight budgets, people who accept dealing with loads of crap in order to save a couple hundred bucks on a one-way flight — just one of many legs on a long, transcontinental tour.

And why not? Every traveler knows that a trip is only limited by two things, time and money, the latter of which explains why budget airlines exist: If everybody had unlimited cash, absolutely nobody would actually CHOOSE to fly on a budget airline. All you naysayers would have to beat a polygraph to convince me that if you won the lottery, you’d still fly budget. No fucking way.

The following are reasons why, budget airlines are a luxury traveler’s worst nightmare:

  • Remote, suburban airports. Anybody who’s flown out of Paris-Beauvais at the crack of dawn knows how much of a hassle it is. If your flight departs at 8 a.m. you have to leave downtown Paris by 4:30 to get to the subway, ride it for an hour (5 to 6 a.m.) to the end of the line, hope it doesn’t have any line delays, and sprint with your luggage to a bus that takes you from the end of the line (45 min.) to the suburb of Beauvais. Once there, you stand (not enough seating in there for everyone)  in a terminal full of tired and annoyed fellow passengers until the bitter end of the boarding process because you didn’t pay the extra 4€, you don’t get priority boarding.
  • Early morning or late evening flights. You can’t avoid the above scenario, unless you take the late evening flight, which arrives at your destination at 9:30 p.m. By the time you get through customs and take the shuttle bus all the way into the city, all the hostels are full.
  • “Air bus” efficiency. There’s no time to wait. Because the plane you just landed on must be immediately filled and sent back to its city of origin, the overworked flight attendants are spraying and wiping down the sweaty leather seats as passengers are deplaning. I’ve gotten on planes with seats still wet with disinfectant. It’s disgusting.
  • Cramped seating. The Dutch are apparently the world’s tallest people. They must loathe budget airlines.
  • No frills. Absolutely none. You gotta pay for baggage, priority boarding, food and even water. While purchasing an a ticket on RyanAir.com, the shysters actually make you check “No insurance” among a list of nationalities, so if you’re not paying attention, you’ll just check your country name and inadvertently pay for insurance.
  • Shitty pilots. Just kidding. I honestly have no idea if this is true or not, but it may be safe to assume budget airlines do not offer pilot salaries competitive with those of  major airlines. It may also be safe to assume the best pilots go to the highest bidder.

* To see a complete list of the world’s budget airlines check out Wikipedia’s List of low-cost Airlines.

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34. ‘Departures’

Friday, March 5th, 2010

It’s a fantastic show, made by my fellow Canadian backpackers, but I hate it.

The award-winning reality show drives me up the wall with jealousy. Having done the buddy travel thing so many times (beenou), watching Departures on OLN Canada continually brings back me to the same question: WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS?

Well, I don’t have a cinematic genius of a third friend willing to accompany buddy and me on trips to obscure and exciting destinations. Wait a second. I do have such a third friend. What the hell am I doing working a nine to five?!

See what I mean? The show drives me crazy.

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I’d been able to avoid the show as much as possible until two days ago, when I came across a Lindsay Post article  (by Brian Gorman of ZAP2IT): ‘Departures’ a dream come true for three adventurers. Damn you, Gorman, for reminding me of missed travel, TV stardom and wealth opportunities!

I feel like one of the pimps on Dave Chappelle’s sketch “The Player Haters’ Ball,” where each character takes his turn ripping into the other, as well as into celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell and The Osbournes. The pimps pull no punches, regardless of their victims’ good intentions — it’s all for the sake of hating (see 27. One-uppers). Is the hatred driven by jealously? Probably. But my job, as with theirs, is to hate and hate well.

The reality show is successful — it has “a cult following and eight Gemini nominations under its belt, including a best photography win for (cameraman Andre) Dupuis,” Gorman writes — because it’s genuine. The two travelers, Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach, are longtime buddies from Brantford, Ontario (indeed, the hometown of another affable Canadian hero, Wayne Gretzky). Their conversations, tribulations, discoveries and overall enthusiasm are candid, but more importantly, they’re believable.

I understand that saying a reality show is good because it’s genuine may be stating the obvious, but after watching the shit-eater supreme Jake Pavelka compete on The Bachelorette last year for the affections of Canadian Jillian Harris (That’s the third Canadian reference this entry. Call it post-Olympic patriotism, people. I kinda hate the Olympics too, by the way), only to be granted extended C-list fame with his own show entitled The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love (Note: Pavelka is a commercial pilot), let’s just say my faith in reality TV, not to mention in the intelligence of the general public, has taken a nose dive.

I digress. From one honest episode to the next, the Departures duo struggles with common backpacker issues, including money transfer hassles, long-distance relationships and break-ups, scheduling stress and missed flights, travel companion tension, foreign hospitals, constant hangovers and homesickness before the otherworldly backdrops of Antarctica, Ascension Island (in the South Atlantic; I know, I didn’t know it existed either), Libya, Mongolia, the Cook Islands and Iceland. Not your typical backpacking haunts. To call what they do a dream job is like saying Kevin Durant is proving to be an alright NBA player.

“The biggest quest for us is to find real authentic places that, when you walk up to people, they look at you like you’re from another world,” said Lukach, in the article. “We have found those places, but it takes so much to get to those spots. We don’t get off a plane and drive for an hour. We get off a plane and trek in the jungle for three or four days.” BEENOU.

So, to Andre, Scott and Justin, I say: Kudos and keep up the good work, fellas. Keep living the dream. And, I hate you all.

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