Posts Tagged ‘partying’

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.

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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).

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Backpacking in the News

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Link to article: Residents of Berlin’s hippest district lash out  at backpacker influx

Dunno if I'd want these hipsters eating watermelon off my doorstep, either.

Dunno if I'd want these hipsters eating watermelon near my doorstep, either.

A recent report by The Independent‘s Tony Paterson reveals how residents of the Kreuzberg district of Berlin are fed up with the scores of young, budget backpackers invading their neighbourhood.

“The culprits are mostly young British, Scandinavian and Italian tourists coming to the city via easyJet and other budget airlines for mini-break holidays,” he writes. “They are accused of rowdy all-night partying, and offensive drunken behaviour such as leaving trails of broken bottles and vomit in their wake.”

Sounds pretty standard to me.

Also standard: Guidebooks leading them to the promised land. “At night they flock to (Kreuzberg’s) trendy all-night bars, which are advertised in guide books as a ‘must for party animals,’” adds Paterson.

As if it weren’t bad enough, these traveling degenerates have allegedly been playing loud techno music until the early hours of the morning. Oh my.

Official tourism statistics indicate the number of visitors to Berlin has risen dramatically in recent years due to increased flight traffic via easyJet and Ryanair.

In the end, it seems to be a classic case of old hipsters complaining about young hipsters trespassing on their turf. Boo-hoo. Burkard Kieker, director of Berlin’s tourist marketing agency, effectively told residents to suck it up. “Berlin is becoming a world city again,” he said. “We have to get used to that.”

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45. Bedbugs

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times

Photo: Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times

Recent reports of bedbug issues in major cities (New York, Toronto, Montreal, Prince Albert — you know, big cities — etc.), stirred a faint but disturbing memory of my first run-in with the aptly named bloodsucking pests, which are as familiar to globetrotting backpackers as communal bathrooms.

It was in Amsterdam, on the last night of my buddy Mitch’s and my first backpacking trip to Europe (beenou). We were set to fly home to Canada. We’d wanted to stay at the Flying Pig Hostel ‘cuz it was recommended by an English dude we met in Prague as “the best party hostel in Amstahdaahm,” but given its bacchanal reputation, it was full. So we picked the cheapest place(1) down the street, and it was a little grimy(2), but would have to do.

Of course, we partied like rock stars that night and passed out in a fog, in our 16-bunk dorm room(1). I vaguely remember a burly, hairy orc of a man(3) drunkenly opening the dorm door to the bright hallway lights, stumbling in with a giggling wench(3) literally carrying her over his shoulder, caveman-style. Our cohabitants sneered at the light like vampires, rolled over and went back to sleep. He grunted and tossed her onto his bed, incidentally the bunk below Mitch’s. He proceeded to make it with her(3), beneath Mitch (a light sleeper to begin with), who was tossing and turning, kicking the creaky aluminum bed frame out of sheer frustration.

As white Greg Oden thrusted away, I lied there on the hostel sheet thinking: a) I hope they fucking wash these sheets well, and b) THIS is why you bring a sleep sheet — what if there are bedbugs in these mattresses?

We eventually fell back asleep, awakened by the alarm, the sunlight coming in and the disgusting stench(2) of 17 drunk people’s unconscious breathing. Always running late, we didn’t have time to shower(3); we simply grabbed our bags and rushed to the airport. On the train to the airport, I felt itchy under my t-shirt. Really itchy. I peeled back my shirt to find red little welts all over my chest. Bedbug bites. Just as I was coming home. Perfect. These were itchier than mosquito bites. It was terrible. I didn’t want to scratch them, ‘cuz I would’ve easily scratched ’til the skin broke, so I remember slapping myself constantly while checking in and going through customs.

But then on the plane, my face got mumpy and flushed. My cheeks were hot to touch. Mitch got worried, saying, “Dude, drink some water or something. You look terrible. They’re gonna think you’re an OD’ing drug mule.” It was unbearable. I asked the flight attendant for some anti-histamines(4), which she promptly brought me. I kept slapping away at my chest, arms and behind my knees. Then, my face cleared.

“Oh, the anti-histamines must be working. You look better,” Mitch said. I peeled back my shirt and my whole chest was mumpy and flushed — the rash was just moving downward. Mitch was laughing his ass off. “Sorry to laugh, man. It’s just so funny.”

Mitch later wrote, in an e-mail: “This bedbug thing is true. On our way home, Al developed some strange rash from what we think are bedbug bites, making his skin swollen and red. He looked like Woogie from Something About Mary. I was also covered in tiny bites but didn’t develop quite as painful a rash.”

In closing, I’ve compiled a list of reasons/red flags/considerations for possible bedbug encounters while backpacking:
1. Low budget
2. Second-rate hostel hygiene
3. Second-rate guest hygiene
4. Allergic reactions

- Nov. 22: It seems for some people, hostels aren’t all “dirty, noisy (or) packed with party hounds.” Jane E. Fraser of the Sydney Morning Herald explains: Youth hostels: how the dorm became the norm

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43. Reading the book about the place

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

alex-garlands-the-beachBackpackers are a pretentious lot. Actually, people who travel, in general, are full of shit. Some will tell you they’ve lived somewhere, but they were really just visiting. Or they’ve been to a place, but were actually just on a layover there, and didn’t leave the airport. These types of people insist they are into photography, global culture, art, film, music, and of course literature.

They’re remarkably insecure, which is why they constantly attempt to reaffirm their sense of enlightenment on all topics. “Have you see that movie?” Oh yeah, it’s fantastic. “Have you been to…” Yes, three times. “Have you seen Buddha?” Mm-hmm, when I was in Cambodia. “Are you better than me?” (Unspoken: Yes.)

Just as they will refuse to see the movie before they read the book, they won’t travel somewhere without having read THE book about it. Some will be leafing through the book while on the plane, train or bus en route to the place. But make no mistake, there is only ONE BOOK you simply must read before you go somewhere. Some examples:

Thailand: The Beach
No book has tickled the global backpacker imagination as much as this Alex Garland neo-classic, and the Leo DiCaprio movie didn’t hurt either. Poignant use of Nintendo metaphors amid differing interpretations of “paradise” and the “parasites” trying to find it ring true for anybody born after 1970. Ko Phi Phi has the movie to thank for the millions of parasites that descend upon it every year.

Spain: The Sun Also Rises
What Garland has done for Generation X, Hemingway did for young people in the 20s and 30s, members of the “Lost Generation.” His book is still doing it today. After all, the book is about love, partying and living overseas in France and Spain, so it should come as no surprise that it inspires countless readers to pack up and give it a go. Just as DiCaprio put Ko Phi Phi on the map, Hemingway informed the world of Pamplona’s frenzied San Fermin Festival.

India: Midnight’s Children
I tried reading this a few years ago and couldn’t get past the first 70 pages. If Rushdie were employing his own version of “magical realism,” I wish he would have used less magic and more realism. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. It was convoluted and senseless. Maybe if I finally get to India, it will all become clear… or at least I could find some enlightened backpackers who would be able explain it to me.

South America: 100 Years of Solitude
This book confirmed it for me: I’m not a huge fan of magical realism. Too much extraneous detail. But just like you have to try the chicken feet at the dim sum restaurant, you have to read Marquez if you want to do right by South American literature. Thankfully, the copy I bought didn’t have the Oprah’s Book Club logo on it. I’m pretentious like that.

Vietnam: The Quiet American
Like Hemingway and Orwell, Greene is a foreign correspondent-turned author who likes the sauce and in this case, opium. F.E.T. enthusiasts (i.e. white guys who like Asian chicks) will dig the protagonist, who locks down a primo local gal and enjoys the spoils of expat life and moral superiority during Vietnam’s French colonial war in the early 1950s.

The United States: On The Road
Garland to Generation X = Hemingway to Lost Generation = Kerouac to Beat Generation. The underlying theme to this wanderer’s journal is that it’s fun to hang with arty rich kids who drink booze like it’s water, listen to black music and drive wildly down the open highway. Sounds a lot like the backpacking scene to me. Oh and that San Francisco was the shit in the 50s. Still is today.

Any other geographically-specific books you’ve seen while traveling? There are tons. Please post comments to let me know which ones you’ve run into.

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Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Link to article: What Type of Backpacker Are You?

matt-from-boston1

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

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!”

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30. Female Backpacker Type B

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

female-backpacker-type-b11The majority of female backpackers fall under two main types: the Type A and the Type B.

Female Backpacker Type B is a bookish explorer. She gets straight As. She used to sing in the high school choir, or play clarinet in the school band. A self-declared “citizen of the world,” she turns her nose up to the general crudeness of the “party backpacker” scene (a scene openly embraced by her counterpart, Miss Type A).

In a movie, she’d be played by Emmy Rossum, Erika Christensen or Rebecca Hall. Who the F are they? Exactly. That’s why those actresses play her. She’s not a scene stealer. More like a cute dork. But make no mistake : She is NOT HOT.

She studied psychology, anthopology or art history in university and has no idea what she wants to do with her life (a common condition among post-grad backpackers). She’s considering teaching English overseas or working for an NGO before making a real career decision (also a common condition among backpackers).

Female Backpacker Type B is a militant vegetarian and can be seen making a stink about the lack of vegetarian options on the menu, in restaurants the world over. Due to her keen sense of social justice, she is more than happy to cause a scene defending her rights or somebody else’s.

She is unafraid to fuse styles and resemble a crazy old hippie lady, wearing local souvenir garb alongside designer sunglasses and quality outdoor gear (see above photo). She wears grandma panties and refuses to show unnecessary cleavage. In spite of her conservative dress, she may have a tattoo about the place or engage in some uncharacteristic drug/sexual experimentation while at the place. She is human, after all, she confesses.

female-backpacker-type-b2A reader of this blog, Maya, describes Female Backpacker Type B as follows: “what scares me much more (than alpha females) are those chicks… sort of intellectual, specky, vegetarian, tea drinking, not using the f-word, wearing tie-dye stuff and organic hemp bags, etc. i’m sure they are all really nice girls… i consider myself a feminist (yeah, being feminist doesn’t actually mean one has to become a total dude) but somehow they always make me think they should just buy some really slutty underwear instead of the terry pratchett books!!!!!!”

Agreed. But I have no idea who Terry Pratchett is.

Speaking of books, she ALWAYS reads the book about the place en route to the place (or while at the place). She has a voracious appetite for sightseeing; she goes to bed early and gets up early, so to beat the line-ups at the Louvre, the Vatican City, Venice, the Egyptian pyramids and Angkor Wat. She is planning a hiking trip to Macchu Picchu with her girlfriends but worries that if she waits too long, they will all be settled down, having babies and averse to adventure. Perhaps she’ll simply do it on her own (after teaching English overseas or working for an NGO).

Like the aptly named Natalie Keener, Anna Kendrick’s character in Up in the Air, Female Backpacker Type B is lost in a dichotomous idealism: a hurried checklist of things she intends to see and do before reaching her goal of having a successful career, settling down with the perfect mate (with a lengthy checklist of necessary traits), having babies and somehow remaining as ambitious and adventurous as ever. Good luck with all of that.

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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

stolentp

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25. Crazy Israeli Guys

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Every country has good and bad citizens. One can only hope that the citizens traveling the world and representing one’s nationality are good ones, people who build a solid reputation for their country. Unfortunately for Israel, a disproportionate number of young, male Israeli backpackers are crazy and thus contribute to a poor international image for their countrymen.

israeli

Just as with my post about Aussie Guys, I initially called this one “Crazy Israelis,” only to change it because it’s really only the males that annoy me. Most female Israelis I’ve met on the backpacking circuit are nice, not to mention, attractive. Their being attractive might be why their male counterparts are prone to peacocking and giving non-Israeli backpackers the stinkeye whenever all three parties meet.

I’m accustomed to foreign guys being protective of their women. That’s normal. This post is not about that alone. I’ve met Israeli guys that display a sociopathic disregard for public decency, a desire to make other travelers feel uncomfortable or even afraid, and an enjoyment of mocking other people and cultures.

I think a lot of their wild behavior is a result of conscription. “The backpacking trip (is) a common custom, nearly normative, among Israeli youth in the period soon after the military service,” wrote Chaim Noy and Erik Cohen, in their book,  Israeli Backpackers and Their Society: A View from Afar.

The direct transition from soldier to traveler implies that many such backpackers may still be shellshocked. Noy and Cohen note that the “massive participation in backpacking expresses the demobilized soldiers’ need to ‘relax’ and ‘unwind’ following the intense years spent in the army.” I would concur, if interpretations of relaxing and unwinding include: being a cocky prick, acting recklessly or even dangerously (see photo below), reacting aggressively to the mildest opposition, yelling and rambunctious diplays while drinking, and general insanity.

israeli2

Darya Maoz, who teaches a class at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University called Sociological and Anthropological Aspects of Tourism and Backpacking, described stereotypes of Israeli backpackers in  Outside magazine (Aug. 2005):  “They tend to be rude, to curse the locals, to ruin things if they are not satisfied… they don’t respect local people, they party all night, they take a lot of drugs, and if people say something, some Israelis call them Nazis.”

Crazy Israeli guys are guilty of many of the same offenses as the typical Aussie guy, colored with whatever inclinations a few months of patrolling the West Bank can bring.

It’s a funny comparison when considering a letter written in 2006 on www.ynetnews.com by Nicola Lipman, a Jewish-Australian backpacker:  A message to my ugly brother. Lipman acknowledges the negative stereotypes perpetuated by Israeli travelers: “I realzied it was the loud, obnoxious type (and not the friendly, funny and interesting type) who were immediately identifiable as Israeli and giving the whole country a bad name.”

And that’s coming from an Australian.

Also in 2006, freelance writer Jeff Koyen wrote a column for www.jewcy.com, entitled The Israeli Asshole, in defense of obnoxious Israeli travelers. In the column, Koyen presents arguments as to why Israeli travelers are generally perceived of as douchebags and why it’s OK for them to continue being douchebags.

“Raised in their own land, speaking their own language, Israelis have freed themselves from the anxious self-monitoring still experienced by the Jews of the Diaspora,” he wrote. “The Jews of Israel have learned to stop apologizing. Early Zionists would have taken great pleasure in knowing this day would arrive. Perhaps we should take some pleasure in it, too.”

Uh, sure. We should all take pleasure in things we consider reprehensible, like child pornography and female circumcision. After all, the perpetrators have learned to be unrepentant about their cause. Good for them! Let’s celebrate their offenses as justifiable acts of self-preservation. Koyen has clearly lost his mind as well.

Atop Koyen’s column is a photo of a sign, from Bella Bella Guesthouse in the Khao San Road district of Bangkok, saying that it does not accept Israelis because of problems it has had with them in the past. Coincidentally, I took a picture of the same type of sign when I stayed at Bella Bella in 2007, but this one had a damning newspaper article attached to it:

israeli31

Few bad reviews can compare with a simple refusal of service. It’s pretty crazy, really.

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