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thought-provoking backpacker article

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: November 26th, 2010
Last edited by Felix the Hat on November 26th, 2010, edited 1 time in total.

Fluffy_bunny

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  • Added on: November 26th, 2010
Well written article.
For tips and storied on Central Asia, the Middle East and Central America, check out my blog
http://joestrippin.blogspot.com

zoomcharlieb

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  • Added on: November 28th, 2010
Felix, that is a very thought provoking article. it is evident from reading most of these posts on this and similar sites, that most of us don't understand the paucity of the experience we are going through, even when we think we are mingling with the natives and i'm not raising my flag to say i'm an exception. i try but now that i think of it, I'm pretty much a failure at it, even on long treks, I'm not chasing down the mules when they get away in the middle of the night, nor am I cooking the meals or living like the real natives do in their stone or adobe homes, with their threadbare bedroll, vermin infested hovel of a place to live... with the cui running around in the middle of the night.

but, I'm going to work on it a little harder next time, now that i recognize my failiings

The other part of the article on the badges of passage, and the correct look, interesting as that is, we all have an image of some sort we are trying to portray, some just need to be noticed and adulated more than others.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: November 29th, 2010
I wouldn't go that far. The typical backpacker experience is certainly valid. The article goes more to deflating the precious, self-serving notion that backpackers aren't tourists. Banana pancakes aren't any more authentically Thai than bananas Foster, after all. From my travels in Latin America, the foreigners most likely to speak Spanish or Portuguese are business travelers, not backpack or suitcase tourists. Backpacking is much more fun though.

2wanderers

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  • Added on: November 29th, 2010
I've been trying to get my thoughts together on this article. It was certainly well written, a good read, and I think offers a pretty good basis for self-reflection.

I haven't read any of the books involved, so I'm not sure how well they depict life on the road. That said, the analysis within the article did hit home and sound very familiar. My main criticism is that while it talks a bit about gaining "cred" and other status markers within the traveling community, I think it glosses over a bit about how that status is gained. Since status largely comes from having good stories, the process of gaining status requires going out and getting some stories.

So it's been my experience - and this may or may not be typical - that traveling involves trips through less traveled areas where you gain experience, have an adventure, and encounter interesting people. Then winding up in a more popular destination where you stop and talk about it. It is true that most interactions with local people are about the exchange of money - intercultural communication is challenging for both parties, doubly so without a common language, so for most people there needs to be some incentive...this is the same reason business travelers spend more time with local people. However, the more you get to places where foreigners are a novelty, people are more interested in making the effort just for personal interest.

This seriously boosts your travel cred.

So that was the main thing I thought was missing in the article. It looked how backpackers behave in backpacker haunts, like KSR and other highly popular parts of SEA. So it does miss that other dimension of independent travel that happens only in unpopular locales.

Still, I think it's spot on that backpackers get all high and mighty about "experiencing the culture" and whatnot, when at best, we sniff around the edges. Might be a good read to boost self-awareness for the most snobby amongst us.

seraphim

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  • Added on: November 29th, 2010
Perhaps I don't have enough backpacking experience, or not in the right places (the closest to a "hub" I have been is Ulaan Bataar, I guess), or perhaps I am such a snob that I don't see it, but I totally don't recognise the scene described in the article. I also didn't read any of the books, but I did see the Beach, and hated it mainly because I totally did not understand the main character's motivation - why would anyone want to live on a remote beach with nothing to do and a bunch of annoying people?

Of course people will brag about their experience to other backpackers, just like stamp collectors might brag about their collection to other collectors, or amateur painters about the paintings they've sold or praise they got. But for the most part, unless they are told with an "I am much cooler than you for the things I've seen and done" attitude, I enjoy hearing these stories from others.

I nearly always have more contact with locals than other foreigners when I travel. There's just more of them, and they're everywhere, and in many cases you need their help. Sure, contact can be shallow, especially when you have no common language, but it's not like I made life-long friends with people I met in a hostel either, though of course I've gone to a restaurant or a pub or even travelled with them for a few days. But I am engaged to someone that I met while travelling in his home country, so you could definitely say that my contact with locals has gone a little bit deeper than my contact with the "backpacker scene" ;)

So, for those who've been to SEA or India, do you find these books offer an accurate description? Or is it just an exageration of a small part of the scene, as I suspect?
Karlien
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Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: November 29th, 2010
I've read most of the novels mentioned. "Karma Cola" is the most wickedly funny of the bunch.



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