Posts Tagged ‘McDonalds’

Backpacking in the News

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Link to article: Have a Happy Meal in a Pagoda: McDonalds Invades Scenic China

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Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

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

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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.

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5. Available Multinationals

Monday, May 18th, 2009

mcdonalds-russia“I just need to get away from it all” is standard rationale for departing on a long backpacking adventure. You want to switch it up. You envision exploring new lands, meeting fascinating people from all over, interacting with locals, experiencing foreign culture and at once absorbing the jarring visceral stimuli that surround you.

While all of those objectives may eventually be met, a few common hiccups occur. A few examples:

  • Coca-Cola: So charming in that timeless glass bottle.
  • McDonalds: Sushi in Japan, deep-fried camembert in France, who says this stuff isn’t local?
  • Marlboro: Even if you don’t smoke, you will. “It’s so cheap here!”
  • 7-Eleven: Everything you need. Condom labels you can read. Gatorade for that hangover. Mmm, Pringles. Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle, Pfizer – only the essentials.
  • KFC: Regardless of religion, race or creed, people like fried chicken. Not just black people. All people.
  • Starbucks: Combine elements of otherwise conflicting yuppie and backpacker culture in a modern and urban setting! Also available in fair trade blends for the most delicate of consciences.

Ironically, most backpackers stay close to the herd. The beaten path is by no coincidence dotted with the above brands and companies. The convenient access to all these familiar flavors and comforts makes it nearly impossible for backpackers to resist temptation and indulge in them.

Doing so, however, runs contrary to the idealistic tenets the prototypical backpacker ascribes to, such as respect for the environment, leftist ideals, support for local economies and equitable labor practices. Sanctimonious, tree-hugging and bleeding heart principles the likes of Greenpeace, Habitat for Humanity and Adbusters want you to believe in.

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That's NOT Manny Pacquiao.

Thus, most members of the backpacking community are conflicted. It’s understandable. You didn’t drop two grand on a plane ticket to eat the same noxious crap you can buy at a strip mall in your hometown.

But you get homesick. You tire of local food or rolling the dice on substandard hygenic conditions. You just want something familiar for a change. No surprises. Besides, how could something so corporate and evil taste so good?

So you swallow your pride with a super-sized Coke to wash it down. You resign to the notion that globalization is an inevitability in our forever capitalist, commoditized world. One little purchase can’t hurt…

Globalization is a bitch ain’t it? It’s like the atomic bomb – somebody else invented it. Not your problem. Enjoy your Bic Mac. We’re no holier than thou. We all savored ours.

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