Posts Tagged ‘hostels’

Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Link to article: Can you ever be too old for backpacking?

Apparently not.

Apparently not.

A few weeks ago (July 28), Kim Wildman wrote an article for MSN.co.nz saying you’re never too old to go backpacking. She’s 41. The people in the above photo are closer to 71. That’s false advertising, MSN. Come on, now.

Wildman is honest: Having gone on her first backpacking trip at 27 (across some southern African countries) and her first solo trip (to Eastern Europe) at 30, she admits to often being the oldest person in the dorm room.

“For me, age always has been, and hopefully always will be, a number,” she writes. “It’s more about how you live your life rather than how many candles are on your cake. At the same time, as the years have marched on I’ve noticed the gap between myself and younger travelers at hostels is indeed widening.”

I disagree. You can be too old for backpacking. When you can’t carry your luggage on your back anymore* or you can’t stand “roughing it” in cheap, dirty accommodations, that’s when you’re too old to be backpacking.

In spite of her surname, Kim is no party animal. She proceeds to identify the following features of the young backpacker’s landscape:

And yet, Wildman is accepting of her counterparts, regardless of their age. “No matter whether my dorm mates belong to gen Y, gen X or the baby boomers, as long as they share my independent traveling spirit then, as far as I’m concerned, they can only make my hosteling experience richer.”

Her tolerance should be commended.

*About luggage: “I’ve already traded in my traditional rucksack for a far more practical and convenient (and might I add less backbreaking) trolley backpack,” Wildman writes.

I stand corrected.

Share Button

48. Party Hostels… with your parents

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

One day, when I get old, will I hate something I used to love dearly? Will I become jaded or just realistic?

These are questions I asked myself when I recently saw the Kabul Hostel listed among The Guardian‘s 10 Best Hostels in Barcelona.

Kabul Hostel, Barcelona: "An institution in the best possible sense."

Kabul Hostel, Barcelona: "An institution in the best possible sense."

I have stayed at Kabul on two occasions: Once, when I was 22, on my first backpacking trip to Europe, and a second time, when I was 30, on my first backpacking trip with — get this — my brother and my parents. No joke. My parents are cheap. They didn’t want to stay in a hotel. They wanted an “authentic” backpacking experience. They were also the only people over 30 in the entire building, cleaning staff included.

The receptionist took pity on us. He at least put is in a room with only four bunks; our family had our own room.

The party atmosphere was a shock not only to my parents, but also to the young people we met in the hostel bar.

“We’re here with our parents,” my brother told an American girl we met. “You’re fucking kidding, right?” she said. “Nope,” I said. “They’re upstairs sleeping, or trying to sleep. They have earplugs.” People were incredulous.

“Why on Earth would your parents want to stay here?” she asked.

“Well, I stayed here years ago and loved it,” I explained. “The location is perfect and it’s dirt cheap. I warned my mom that it would be a little crazy and the funny thing is, her eyes lit up when I told her that. I think she wanted a glimpse of what the young backpacker scene is like.”

We asked for it.

“A Barcelona institution in the best possible sense, the recently renovated Kabul has been housing backpackers since the pre-Olympic days, before the sailors and prostitutes patrolling the nearby Rambla were replaced by Geordie stag parties,” writes The Guardian‘s Sally Davies. “It’s an unbeatable location, right on the arcaded Plaça Reial in the centre of the Barri Gòtic, but is really aimed at hard-core party people –- the cheap beer and all-night comings and goings of the clubbers make it less fun for anyone here for a quiet weekend of sightseeing, especially in the larger rooms (mixed dorms sleep up to 20 people).”

After three sleepless nights in Barcelona (which my brother and I thoroughly enjoyed), my ‘rents had seen enough. Or maybe they’d heard enough: girls shrieking in the hallways, people shouting, listening to loud music and drinking boxed wine in the adjacent rooms before going out (with all the windows open, as there was no air conditioning).

“This is unbelievable. These kids do not sleep!” said my mom, on the second night. My dad grunted from behind his sleep mask. The earplugs offered little relief.

But we were operating on opposite schedules. Mom and Dad were getting ready to go to bed, just as we were all getting dressed to go out.

We stayed in a private guest house in Venice, the next stop on our trip. No more party hostels for Mom and Dad. NOW, they realized the peace and quiet was worth the extra money.

Honestly, I don’t hate the Kabul Hostel. I had a blast both times I was there. My parents hate it.

Growing up kinda sucks. And so, I resist (see 44. Finishing school/Quitting your job).

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Link to article: Backpackers trek the globe with tech toys

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as applications like Skype, are allowing backpackers to connect with family and friends more easily than ever before, wrote Natalie Armstrong of Reuters (Dec. 7).

Armstrong describes Canadian traveler Dave Arnold, who is on a one-year trip after taking a buyout from his telecom employer (see 44. Quitting your job). Carrying about $9,000 worth of electronic devices, Arnold is a walking Price Is Right Showcase for third-world muggers. He’s also an example of what’s become known as a “flashpacker” (see Backpacker Types, by Nomadic Matt).

It appears the folks over at the L.P. finally heard our call (see 8. The Lonely Planet; and The L.P. on iTunes), making their guidebooks downloadable to iPods and iPhones. Arnold has 100 downloaded guidebooks on his iPod, plus 10 books and his entire music collection.

In fact, Armstrong also writes about a South Korean girl who used her iPhone 4 for everything old fogeys like I used to use the L.P. for: maps, hostels, and information on local sights, food, etc.

All this is fine and dandy, just as long as you don’t slip and fall into a swimming pool or something while carrying all your gear.

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Link to article: 10 Stereotypical Backpacker Nationalities

canadianbackpacker

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!”

Share Button

33. The Need to Masturbate

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

“Pssst.” No response.

“Pssst. Are you sleeping?” Still no response from the bunk across the room. He’s asleep. It’s go time.

While the need to flush the lovepipes during a long trip may be more urgent to men than to women, I’m sure the ladies must pleasure themselves from time to time in shared-room settings. Whether or not they can be as stealthy doing it, I have no idea. I suppose that means yes, they have been.

Many a real man has admitted to jacking off in the hostel shower (see 20. Getting “wubes”). Makes sense. If you’re traveling with other people, the shower is one of the few moments of “alone time” you get in the day. Although I enjoy that method (particularly if it involves conditioner), I’m simply more of a lie-down masturbator.

And I don’t need to explain how pleasuring yourself is, ironically, more of a selfless act than a selfish one. For me, it’s simply because I am an extremely dangerous person if I try to wait out a wet dream (haven’t had one since 1997). I’m looking out for the safety of others. As Chris Elliott’s character, Woogie, exclaimed in There’s Something About Mary, not “flogging the dolphin” before a big date is like “going out with a loaded gun!”

spacey

Discreet self-disarmament, however, can be tricky during group travel. While the scene in American Beauty, where Kevin Spacey spanks his monkey laying beside his sleeping wife, is not farfetched, I wouldn’t recommend it. (Note: Spacey jerks off in the shower too, at the beginning of the film.) And as anybody who’s been in a hostel dorm room with two people fucking in it already knows, some people get drunk and make mincemeat of discretion anyway.

But I continue to hide it and bust my nuts like a ninja when the time is right. I’m a classy guy. What can I say?

It has to be done. The following are reasons why I am a regular chicken choker, especially while traveling:

  • No game. I have no game, so I’m forced to attend to my own needs more than the Don Juan backpacker-types, musicians (esp. acoustic guitarists) or Aussie guys for that matter. I’m OK with that.
  • Plenty of material. Although no hot chicks backpack, you definitely encounter a lot of hot chicks while backpacking (local girls, hot girls staying in hotels, hot girls traveling with their douche boyfriends, etc.) so your mental photo album is bursting at the seams daily. There’s deece everywhere. No game + full spank bank = an overwhelming need to masturbate.
  • Stopped in the red zone. It was a big night. You tried scraping out some semblance of game. You may have been vying to score. You may even have gotten DFMOs. Everything looked good, but she didn’t want to try doing it in the hostel broom closet, her girlfriend dragged her home, etc. Damned if you should go to bed with blue balls!
  • Homesickness/Loneliness. Traveling alone sucks.
  • Insomnia. Traveling alone and not being able to sleep sucks even worse. Plus, skeet-skeeting makes me sleepy.
  • Low self-esteem. Sigh.

And there you have it. Masturbation should be an integral part of your physical and mental health regimen. Absolutely nothing keeps a single, male backpacker as confident, well rested and alert as some good ol’ hands-on therapy. But careful with the bar soap rub-out in the shower. That shit stings like a motherfucker.

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Link to article: 10 Things Backpackers Do But Don’t Often Talk About

stolentp

Share Button

28. Rich kids pretending to be poor

Friday, December 4th, 2009

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.

Share Button

20. Getting “wubes”

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I mean I’m a big eater to begin with. That’s not a beenou. It’s a problem. I don’t have a primo metabolism anymore. That about ended at 16. I’m more of an Oprah type now — a major weight fluctuator. If I don’t do cardio, I’m in big trouble. The love handles and double chin come out and then it all starts to unravel.

That’s why traveling does a number on my body. “Wubes” is short for W.U.B.A.R. (Washed Up Beyond Any Recognition), which at my age works on so many levels: athletic ability (used to be deece at basketball, beenou — now I can barely get off the ground), party stamina (I’m old — I can’t drink all day and stay up past midnight like I did at 21), scoring game (I can admit it), the list goes on. But when it comes to overall physical fitness, however, backpacking makes me wubes.

drinking-on-the-beach2I know I’m not alone here. Every fit girl I know that spent a year in Australia came back fat. No joke. One hundred percent of ’em. “OMG the partying over there is insane. And like, after the bar, we like all go and eat kebabs, Tim Tams and these weird meat pies.” Yeah, no shit, I can tell. You’re looking wubes. Don’t worry, I know what it’s like.

Here are a few reasons backpacking makes you wubes:

1. Heavy boozing. After spending the entire day sightseeing, hiking, or even just lying on the beach, everybody is in the mood to party. You’re on vacation, so you might as well have a few drinks. Even when you plan on taking it easy, a few drinks quickly turn into a wild night. Soon enough, you’re absolutely lit. And you do this five nights a week. If you’re over 21 with an average or less metabolic rate, the calories quickly add up.

2. Unhealthy eating. It’s not just the drunken eats that get you. You’re in a foreign country, so you always have the excuse of trying some local fare. No matter that you’re on a 17-day bender and haven’t done any physical activity (apart from masturbating in the hostel shower) in months, you simply HAVE to try the deep-fried pork hocks. It’s a local delicacy, so fuck it — you’re on vacation.

3. Sleeping irregularly. You try sleeping on a bus or train that may or may not be going to the right town (which you can’t pronounce, in a language you don’t speak) next to people whose feet stink and who have no concept of Western personal space. And when you arrive at 3 a.m. you need to wake up, pick up your heavy backpack, find something (unhealthy) to eat and figure out why you’re in the wrong town. And when you are in the right town, you eventually lock into the sightseeing-by-day, partying-by-night routine anyway, so there goes the quality shut eye. Oh and you have to rush to the airport tomorrow at 4 a.m., too.

4. No exercise. I hate  guys that try to work out while backpacking. Some might argue that surfing should be considered an exception. I suck at surfing. Surfing is fucking difficult. I hate surfers too, mostly because they’re way cooler than me, jacked and get more vibes. They also wear white sunglasses, so whatever. I don’t really want to be the guy doing push-ups and sit-ups on the hostel floor, either. Others would insist that all the daytime sightseeing/hiking/biking/[insert eco-tourism activity here]/etc. is sufficient exercise, but it’s not when you’re eating fatty delicacies at every turn, boozing all night and sleeping irregularly.

5. Smoking and drug use. I don’t smoke while at home; I smoke when I travel. There’s so much idle time spent waiting in line for tickets, hostels, information, currency, food, vehicles… Smoking helps pass the time. And did I mention you’re boozing non-stop? From my experience, smoking accompanies boozing fairly well. As for drugs, well, suffice it to say that nobody is as experimental as when they’re backpacking.

6. Stress. See #3. Backpacking can be extremely stressful: constant travel, visa acquisition, sexual frustration, perpetual hangovers, tight budgets, douchebag/thief aversion, and unexpected catastrophes can get to a person. Whoever said the journey is more important than the destination clearly never went backpacking.

If you’re able to stay trim while on a hardcore backpacking trip, please share your secret. As long as it doesn’t require me to stay sober, watch my diet, go to bed early, or work out, I may give it a shot.

Share Button

15. Dormitories

Friday, June 26th, 2009

If you don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a dormitory, you’ve obviously never backpacked in Europe (beenou), North America  or Down Under. The reason there’s a difference is because backpacking in the developed world is expensive as hell (See 8. The Lonely Planet). Meanwhile, in underdeveloped countries, one can procure a luxurious private hotel room for the price of a Happy Meal in Western currency.

hostel-dorm1Because affordable lodging space is so limited in the former, it becomes possible to charge a premium for not only a room, but for a tiny fraction of a room (literally one-16th). There are, of course, varying levels of expensiveness. For example, North American backpackers know what it feels like to pay outrageous sums of money (after converting their meager dollars to English Pounds or Euros) for half of a bunk bed. It’s a sensation akin to non-consensual jailhouse sodomy (i.e. ass rape).

Aside from obvious disparities in global currency and real estate values, the inflation in high-traffic tourist areas is senseless. The average minimum cost of a dorm bed in Prague in July is 15 Euros (21 USD) per night; 23 Euros in Rome; 26 Euros in Barcelona; 22 Pounds (36 USD) in London; 30 Euros (43 USD) in Paris;  and a whopping 35 Euros (49 USD) in Amsterdam. Go to the same cities in, say, November and the price is 30 to 40 percent cheaper. That’s the beauty of supply and demand, folks.

Remember: a) this is for a wretched dorm bed, and b) backpackers have no money.

So what makes dormitories so awful? Hygiene is a major issue. Before going on my first backpacking trip, I brought a sleepsack (a bedsheet folded over once and sewn) as it was suggested to me to avoid using hostel bedsheets, which could have bedbugs. Long story short, the sleepsack was excess baggage and I’d overpacked to begin with, so I ditched it early on. Besides, I was too lazy to use or wash it, so I went ahead and used the hostel bedsheets. Bad idea. I got bitten by bedbugs and it was terrible – but that’s for another post altogether.

hostel-dorm2Regardless of the hundreds of online reviews you read about competing hostels, they are all dirty. It’s not the hostel’s fault. Consider their clientele. A typical backpacker’s day consists of sightseeing and heavy drinking, both of which involve perpetual movement and perspiration. Piles of unwashed and reworn clothes, especially socks and underwear, contribute to the dormitory’s signature potpourri. At capacity, there can be 8 to 16 people in a room (on 4 to 8 bunk beds), depending on its size. The room smells of other people’s feet, breath and sweat. It’s disgusting. Every morning, a sour, humid stench hangs over the place as sunlight begins to cook it through the windows.

The mattresses are uncomfortable and sometimes squeaky. The really bad ones have uneven springs that dig into your back. So, it’s hard enough to fall asleep, and then there’s the element of noise. Whispering, giggling, snoring and, God forbid, fornicating. Like bedbugs, dorm sex requires its own post. There are also the drunks that stumble in, yelling belligerently, turning on all the lights and crashing violently into their bunk… which is incidentally right beneath yours.

Because other backpackers are generally untrustworthy, there are often large lockers in the corners of the dormitory, consuming whatever residual space that would have allowed for orderly room navigation. Lockers must be large enough to fit a 90-liter pack. Thus, occupants bump into and step over each other attempting to get from one end of the room to the other. Doing so in pitch darkness, while drunk, is no easy task.

Sleeping in close proximity to foreign strangers is creepy. Movies like Hostel or Taken are not particularly inspiring cinema to watch prior to going on a cross-Europe dormitory tour. You never know what kind of nutjobs are sleeping in there – above you, under you, or beside you. Some of them are Aussies, others are Israeli – both are crazy. Sweet dreams, everybody.

Share Button

3. Where are the Hot Girls?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

female-backpackers

Not backpacking, that’s where. It’s a known fact that hot chicks don’t rough it. Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but make no mistake: The vast majority of good-looking women will refuse to strap on a massive rucksack and throw caution to the wind. The ladies you meet on the backpacking circuit are of two predominant types – more on that later.

So why don’t the hotties pull a Sir Edmund Hillary? Come on. Think about it. The prospect of spending months overseas, on a tight budget, sleeping on shoddy trains, ferries, buses and dorm bunks, washing sparingly, shaving legs and armpits rarely, abandoning make-up, hairspray and nailpolish, trading designer handbag (or clutch) in for cumbersome moneybelt and being away from Facebook for inordinate periods of time simply doesn’t appeal to sexy bitches. Oh and I forgot to mention getting hit on FULL TIME by a constant lineup of desperate, broke, smelly dudes. And getting harassed by local pervs at every turn, who, in some countries, will go so far as to masturbate as you walk by in your bikini. Happy trails.

That’s bullshit, you say. There are plenty of babes out there backpacking. Yeah, there are. With their boyfriends.

Hot chicks travel with luggage. Rolling luggage. They drop the S out of the word “hostel.” They take cabs, not rickshaws. They don’t like being away from essential amenities and services, namely Starbucks (although it’s basically integrated with backpacker culture nowadays; see 5. Multinationals), a 12-lb. make-up crate, a blowdryer and hair straightener, and real-time gossip technology. They prefer rich, well-dressed, groomed men. They choose luxury over practicality seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Most of them pretend to care about world issues, politics and poverty, but they really don’t give a shit. They do, however, know everything about The Hills.

Yet some exceptions do exist. Consider women in the military or lady cops. Not a lot of hot ones. It takes a certain mental constitution to really get dirt under the fingernails, to tear the meat off the bone of traveling. Backpacking is like farting. It’s raw, curious, savage and, at times, inhumane. It’s generally more of a guys’ thing.

Indeed, some hot chicks are adventurous. Some will brave the aforementioned perils (and let go of their familiar comforts), without a b.f. in tow, to try something new. And that something new is Europe (see Star Picks Backpacking Over Work or Taken). Or Australia. The developing world? Sure, but preferably with a girlfriend or two… and expect tension if not a mid-trip parting of ways. Yeah right, a smokin’ hot broad rolling solo in the developing world. Now, you’re really pushing it.

Share Button