Without a doubt, one of the best parts of travelling is the people you meet. Every backpacker will agree with me here. Now obviously one of the fantastic things about this journey is the diversity of people you become friends with and travel with along the way; an eclectic mix of people you might not necessarily be friends with back home. Yes, the people themselves are all different and weird and wonderful, but I’ve found they do fit quite easily into certain types…
1. The Travel Snob
Let’s get the negative one out the way first, because overall the people you meet are bloody amazing but oh my lord this one’s a pain in the arse. He or she knows literally everything, has been to all the places you say you’re headed to and puts you down for enjoying a bucket or two on a Thai island or visiting something remotely touristy (spoiler alert darling, we’re all tourists here). Most often heard saying ‘Uh, can’t believe you went to *insert ‘touristy’ location here*… faaaaar too commercial for me, I’m really looking for a more authentic experience’…* eye-roll*. Sure, authentic travel experiences are great and the feeling of really getting off the beaten track is unbelievable, and they probably do deserve praise for taking the path less travelled and truly seeing the world… But here’s the thing: that’s not everyone’s thing, or not their thing all the time. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to hit up a backpacker-fuelled paradise island for a week of debauchery, there’s a reason things are labelled tourist attractions; because they’re fun, popular and people have a great time! Obviously you’re going to go to the tourism hot-spots, more fool the travel snob for snubbing things like Macchu Picchu because it’s been ‘ruined by tourism’. Truly remarkable sights like that will obviously draw a crowd, but that’s because they are genuinely beautiful/amazing/fun things to do and see. Of course it’d be better without the crowds, but until I’m as famous as Beyonce and can organise that in a heartbeat before flying in by helicopter, I’m happy to be a tourist and soak it all up amongst other like minded people.
2. The BFF
I told you most of the people you meet are amazing, and this one’s the best. You might meet on the bus or in the hostel or even a few caipirinhas down on copacabana. Either way, you click, it’s magical, sparks fly. Like love at first sight but even better: instant besties. You laugh together for hours, have the same taste in clothes/music/food/travel destinations and feel like you’ve known her/him forever. If you’re really lucky she’s headed in your direction for at least the next few stops and you can continue the friendship through some hilarious sleeper buses and dodgy hostels in the coming weeks but it’s heartbreaking if you meet this legend only to find they’re travelling the opposite way to you. If you’re reading this in anticipation of your first big trip, I must warn you now that this will happen, and it’s probably the worst bit about travelling. You absolutely will meet people that you click with more than you thought possible, and you will have to say goodbye… be it after a day, a week or even months. It sucks, it’s so shitty, it’s exhausting. It’s not all doom and gloom though; Facebook is a wonderful thing for staying connected with your travel pals and with any luck you’ll both end up in paradise again together one day and until then you can just tag each other in memes every day to keep the dream alive.
3. The Dreamboat
Similar to the BFF, but with a lot more spice, and a whole lot more drooling and gushing from you. It always happens and it happens the same way every time for everyone; you meet a total smoking hot babe, you travel around together for a couple of days and, due to the intensity of backpacking and being cooped up with your travel buddies, sparks fly, eyelashes flutter and heartbeats quicken. Oh snap, you’re totally smitten with this absolutely dreamy boy. In the interest of getting the negatives out the way quick, scenario 1 is he’s not so smitten back. At the the time it will feel like your whole world is crashing in on you and your heart can never mend (travelling tends to bring out our dramatic sides) but really you’ll move on (literally and figuratively) and in a few days you’ll be missing your afforementioned BFF a lot more than some tattooed boy you had one too many cervezas with. Scenario 2, of course, is that Mr Perfect is kinda into you too and here’s how it will go; you’ll have a whirlwind holiday romance for a few weeks, it will be so much fun, he’ll then head in a different direction, you’ll pine for him. Ultimately though, the end of scenario 1 still applies and you’ll be over him soon enough. Of course, some holiday romances stand the test of time which is amazing but all I mean is, if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry… You’re in paradise, go explore, meet new people, your next dreamboat is just around the corner (who said you only had to meet one?!).
4. The Guide
This one’s a goody. Extra points if you meet at the beginning of your trip when you have no fucking clue what you’re doing or where to go. The Guide is a fellow backpacker who has been and done everything and is super keen to pass on their wisdom. Works for you. They know the best places to eat, the tips for avoiding the crowds, the cheapest taxi driver and the best bars. Follow their lead, soak up the information and enjoy not having to plan anything whilst you’re in their company. I met a boy in Laos who was the epitome of The Guide; he was a schoolteacher back home so it was only natural so took a group of us under his wing and planned some awesome activities for us, even getting us out of our bunks at 7am after a heavy (and I mean heavy) night to head to the waterfalls before the crowds. So worth it. Afterwards he showed us an amazing buffet-style place to eat that night that turned out to be some of the best food of our trip.
5. The Storyteller
Similar to the Guide, the Storyteller has been everywhere and boy are they gonna tell you about it. I don’t mean in an annoying ‘here-we-go-again’ way (looking at you, Travel Snob), they’ve just built up a repertoire of hilariously ridiculous stories from everywhere they’ve been. They were probably the kid in school that was always in trouble without meaning to be and that’s followed them on their travels. That time they got arrested on ipanema beach for sharing a joint with a hooker (‘I swear I didn’t know at the time’), that time they took a wrong turn on that hike and ended up living in the rainforest for 3 nights, that time they had to leg it from the police naked after some illegal skinny dipping. Their troublemaking nature also means they’ve taken some pretty awesome risks which also lead to great stories. They’ve stayed with local families and eaten better food you can imagine, they’ve bought that beat up old van and lived in it rent free along the coast, they’ve met amazing people and their stories hold you captivated, spurring on your travel bug even more. Here’s to you, Storytellers, long may you find yourselves in ridiculous situations so we can enjoy them too!
6. The Lifelong Backpacker
This guy has been travelling forever, has been everywhere, and is always planning on going home ‘whenever my money runs out’ which it doesn’t show any signs of doing. They’re smart with travel (read my previous post on how you can be too) and manage to keep on backpacking on and on. They’ve worked and travelled in countless countries and have made friends all over the world to stay with for free. They’ve done it all, and have even more on their list. They’re the best people to chat with and bounce ideas off and, like the Storyteller, will inspire you to extend your trip or even conveniently miss your flight home.
7. The ‘Been-There-Done-That-Got-The-T-Shirt’
Decked head to toe in backpacker paraphernalia and jingling from the weight of a hundred beads and bangles, you will 100% meet this one on your travels. I must start this off by saying there’s definitely a spectrum here and we all do it to an extent. We all buy the Bintang tee, we all wear the baggy Thailand pants or the llama jumper…who doesn’t come home with grotty ‘friendship’ bracelets on their wrist?! You can’t help but immerse yourself in the bizarre backpacker chic catwalk of colour that surrounds you on your travels. Plus, everything in your bag stinks of damp anyway so you don’t really have much choice but to buy that $2 Singha vest. There are just some that go that little bit further, you spot their tie-dye a mile off and their outfit is like a 3D map of where they’ve been; tubing in Laos: check, bar crawl in Koh Tao: check, survived death road in Bolivia: check… I could go on. Bonus points for fake Nikes from the KL market or a braid in their hair…
8. The Shadow
Most key backpacker destinations – South East Asia, East Coast Australia, South America – have pretty well-established paths that most people stick to. Because of this, you end up meeting someone in Sydney only for them to pop up in Cairns. It will happen fairly regularly and sometimes spans multiple continents; that chick you met skydiving in New Zealand? You’ll bump into her again on a beach party in Bali. Weird. Some people pop up more than others; your Shadow. They’re everywhere, on the same hikes, on the same bus, in the same hostel. You literally can’t go one day without seeing them. You might not ever properly meet them, only exchange awkward smiles in each location. Note: if you don’t ever meet them properly, you will make up a nickname for them. Make sure you don’t forget that’s not their real name if and when you actually do become friends.
So there we go, come back to me at the end of your trip and I bet you’ll have met every one. Here’s hoping you meet more BFFs than Travel Snobs, and of course a few Dreamboats along the way.