Disclaimer: This is a rant. Not everything in this article is to be taken seriously. If you feel offended by some statements, I might actually be referring to people like you.
After so many months of travelling, staying in more than 50 different accommodations and meeting hundreds of people, I have finally realised something: I hate backpackers. This might seem like a weird thing to say, as I myself am travelling with my big backpack after all. In order to understand what I mean, you will need to redefine your definition of a backpacker. I am not referring to anyone travelling with a backpack per se; the people I am talking about are the guys and gals that call themselves backpackers, stay in backpacker hostels only and continuously talk about backpacking. Big difference here. It’s more like a sizable part of individual travellers, comparable to the entertaining minority that the internet dubs “hipsters”.
If you haven’t really understood what I mean just yet, perhaps you will soon.
#1: They always lead the same conversation
People that haven’t made contact with many backpackers before might imagine their conversations to be entertaining, inspirational, interesting and full of life. Stories from the most beautiful places in the world told by people that have experienced something. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The better part of conversations does not go any further than “How long are you travelling for?” or “What countries have you been to already?”. The purpose of these questions is simple: Competition. Did he see more places than me? Is he travelling for a longer time? Is he a cooler guy than me?
If the chat actually goes beyond this, it often becomes less of a conversation and more of a series of monologues whose sole purpose is to receive the most acknowledgement from fellow travellers. I guess most people would call that bragging. I suspect that the better part of these people are travelling solely for the purpose of showing off later.
#2: They are too cool to be true
While the term backpacking for me creates an image of freedom and inspiration, of meeting people from all over the world and learning from each other, the reality often looks different. Many backpackers here in south east Asia are closer to the crowd you would expect on party islands such as Mallorca or Ibiza. People that come all the way only to drink and party instead of showing interest in the local culture.
These people also look and behave the same as people on such party islands. Neon-colored shirts (preferably featuring the logo of a cool backpackers hostel or full moon party), sunglasses 24/7 and baseball caps are only a few signs that make it easy to spot them on the street. Not that that would be too hard, they will always be the loudest people in the street anyway.
#3: They are rude and disrespectful
I am certainly not a sensitive guy when it comes to sounds or other annoyances at night time. Sleeping in a dorm requires a certain amount of tolerance. Even though choosing a hostel is always a dangerous decision (you never know what you’re gonna get). I have always been into staying in hostels. Many of my most outstanding travel memories would not have been possible without a hostel. The certain mix of people that come together in a dorm can lead to wonderful experiences.
However, tolerance has its limits. If people are out drinking the half night, that’s their decision. But if they, upon return, turn all lights on, start talking at a normal volume and slam their locker doors, that’s a different story. Why would you even sleep in a dorm if you are not able to show the least amount of respect and sensitivity towards other human beings that are trying to sleep? Choose a private room. Again, its usually the European backpackers that act like this and more than once I have contemplated murder after such a night.
#4: They are always drunk
Perhaps that’s less a backpacker than a whole generation issue, but these guys and gals seem to be drinking at all times. When I get up in the morning to enjoy my complementary breakfast, the backpacker fraction is already (or rather still) up and drinking at the bar. Of course, that is none of my business as long as they leave me alone with that. But if beer is spilled on the dorm floor, people vomit all over the room or somebody comes into the room and acts like an asshole at 4am, that’s a different story. What the hell is wrong with these guys?
#5: They always stay among backpackers – who needs locals, anyway?
So you fly 9,000km (or twice that if you come from the U.S.) to a place, only to sit in the hostel bar and drink with people from your own country? If you get hungry, you enjoy some authentic local food such as burgers and fries at the hostel restaurant (they have an English menu) and at night you watch your favourite soccer team play on satellite TV. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not like there would be any interesting people or culture out there, anyway. And most of these locals don’t even speak perfect English, right? Plus, you need to support a local business such as the western-run hostel you are staying in. And if they sell you beer at three times the usual price that’s fine with you as well.
In the end, you can go back home and talk about all these nice people you have met. Europeans, Americans and even some Australians. Locals? Oh yeah, this one guy that drove me to the train station was really nice, he gave me a $ 0.25 discount.