As I mentioned a couple posts ago (see 27. The Light Skin Paradox), human beings long for what they don’t have. Undiscovered people want to become famous. Famous people want privacy. Poor people want to be rich. Rich people want to, well, blend in.
Sure, there are wealthy people who are more than happy to floss on the regular, but backpacking is the antithesis of flossing. Makes sense because just like hot women, rich people don’t usually backpack anyway — they stay in 5-star accomodations, not 16-bunk dorm rooms.
A small minority of affluent travelers, however, are willing to slum it on the backpacking scene. These people are invariably young, adventurous types from good families, with good educations. Bursting with idealism and a desire to “see the world,” these rich kids quickly adopt the typical backpacker affections for leftist politics, environmentalism, spontanaeity and frugality.
Obviously, it’s the frugality part that is unconvincing. I’d compare it to how rich kids shop at thrift stores to find grungy retro duds, while poor people are there out of necessity. Backpacking is about survival, about scraping by on nickels and dimes, eating sparingly and sleeping on trains to avoid paying for a night’s stay in a hostel. Most backpackers would rather stay in nice hotels, but they can’t afford to, so they go backpacking and in doing so, learn to appreciate the minimalist charms of traveling on the cheap. Indeed, rich kids learn to appreciate them too (maybe mom and dad only give them cash in certain increments, I don’t know), but they occasionally slip up.
Common slip-ups include:
- Getting drunk and buying the entire bar a round of drinks.
- Staying in a hotel after scouring the city for two whole hours and discovering all the hostels are full. Meanwhile, your friends opt to sleep in the train station, but you insist they should stay with you. But they get denied in the lobby as the hotel is hip to your game and they end up sleeping in the train station after all.
- Missing your flight, but miraculously arriving at your destination on the next possible one.
- Buying lavish souvenirs and shipping them home immediately.
- Consistenly buying expensive meals and playing it down as taking advantage of a favorable currency exchange rate.
- Calling home all the time, on mom and dad’s calling card.
- Enduring what normally would be a trip-ending calamity and not having to go home at all.
- Telling everybody back home you’re going to said country to work for six months to a year and spending six months to a year traveling and not working at all.
Why have I paid such close attention to the mundane tendencies of rich-kid backpackers? I’m just jealous… and poor. And poor people want to be rich.