Guest Post by Matt Cardoza
When on the road, there is no better place to stay than a backpacker hostel. Hostels are the most economic, plentiful, and exciting option available. There are thousands of them and they’re everywhere. Why would you pay so much for a place where most of your time is spent asleep? Hostels also provide a ridiculous amount of information. There is almost always a list of tourist sites, tour services, and local places to eat which are then all organized with maps.
By far the best parts about hostels are the people you meet. They are primary sources of information for everything you need, don’t need, should skip, watch out for, and absolutely do! These people come from a diverse number of countries and the run the age spectrum from wide-eyed eighteen year-olds to grizzled veterans who’ve seen it all. Many have interesting stories to tell. Unfortunately many of them begin to blend together after a while as if cut from the same cloth.
Here’s a list of some of those dubious figures from the backpacker world.
The “I suck at riding a motorbike” backpacker.
This person rode a motorbike and failed. They spend time around the hostel tending to their wounds and bandages and readily tell any passerby about how they crashed. You will listen too because you don’t want to end of like them. I first met this guy in a Nha Trang hostel. This tall Danish guy was doing riding from southern Vietnam to northern Vietnam when he forced off the road by a big truck when a bus came flying around a blind curve. It was a sucky situation, but no matter there he was. Meeting this person is inevitable in Southeast Asia so do what you can to avoid it being you!
The “I’m just here for the 50 cent beers” backpacker.
The partier, the drunk, the pub crawl fanatic. This backpacker is the one we all loathe when it comes time to sleep, but unfortunately owe often can find a sliver of this person in the mirror. This person has convinced themselves that 50 cent beer is a deal that is never worth passing up. They spend most of their trip looking for the next backpacker bar to drink in and get obscenely drunk. At the very least, find some higher quality beer!
The “I’m curious what McDonald’s in Thailand tastes like” backpacker.
No matter the international renowned cuisine literally at your doorstep, some travelers just won’t step out of their comfort zone. Instead they look for home within the golden arches. I met a Canadian in Bangkok who had been eating McDonald’s on the regular for the previous three days. When I heard this, I was incredulous. Man, you are in Thailand!!! I immediately took him to the most random street food stall in the immediate vicinity. Don’t be this person. Do a bit of research so you don’t get super sick and then get out there and eat everything!
The English teacher on vacation…me.
There’s a bunch of us out there. In my opinion we’re not quite expats, but we’re definitely not backpackers because of our relative fixed location. Nevertheless we do like to travel and so we end up in hostels and repeatedly answer the “Where are you coming from?” question with some kind of “I live in [insert country].” I think I’m interesting, but when you meet a bunch of teachers over and over you may begin to develop other opinions.
The local in disguise.
It doesn’t happen as often, but sometimes a local of the country you’re visiting will be backpacking throughout their home country. This person looks like the backpacker, with the gear, the backpack, and similar stories to tell as others, but then suddenly out comes perfect, mesmerizing fluency in the local language. This person is obviously a hive of information and their value quickly skyrockets. Plus, it’s just cool. Many backpackers get so caught up in hostel life and meeting other foreign backpackers that they don’t take the time to befriend any locals. The person presents a great opportunity to do otherwise.
The “I packed my house with me” backpacker.
Yes, they’re probably a newbie or maybe just a hoarder in the making. They’ve brought everything with them from home. Thousands of miles away from the homeland? Better bring a thousand things. Their bag is so big it doesn’t fit in the lockers. They have every piece of technology on the planet and so how they managed to successfully carry it across twelve different border crossings. They might as well be carrying two bags: one with all their stuff and the other a tangled ball of stress.
The “Southeast Asia is dangerous” backpacker.
It’s not really. Hundreds of thousands of people have been traveling all over the subcontinent for decades without many problems. Even today it is one of the safest places for solo travelers to go. This person thinks otherwise. Every alley is supposedly fraught with crime and…I don’t know. Southeast Asia is not dangerous for the traveler. It’s probably safer than your home country. Be sensible, don’t drink too much, but otherwise try to enjoy your trip.
The Brits love to travel. I met more British backpackers than I did any other nationality while staying in hostels. They are so diverse. From their many different regional accents to their self-deprecating style of humor, the British always keep things interesting. They’re a fun bunch and you’re bound to meet many of them in your travels.
The “Hold on, I’m vegetarian” backpacker.
Vegetarians exist, I know. They travel too. Nothing wrong with that, except they’re missing out on ALL the amazing regional food! If you haven’t guessed yet food is one of the biggest reasons I travel. When I meet vegetarians on the road I just feel bad because they missing out on so much. Anyway this traveler obviously must find restaurants that cater to their specific needs which tends to kill some of the spontaneity of backpacking. Southeast Asia has tremendous vegetarian options though so luckily this person isn’t going to go hungry- but they’re still missing out!
The old dude.
This backpacker is older than his companions. He or she is traveling with a different frame of mind and usually different objectives. They are very easy to identify (obviously) and either are very social or a social recluse. Their perspective can be a lot different than the other backpackers and so I think they make great conversation partners. Don’t pass over the old guy when it’s time for those 50 cent beers.