You will meet the strangest people travelling with your life in your backpack. And that’s a good thing, because it will surely teach you tolerance. If you haven’t met one of these types of people, chances are that’s because you are one of them:
The Selfie Stick-Wielding Instagram-Hero
Cahill once said, “a journey is measured by friends, not by miles.” The Instagram-Hero once said, “a journey is measured by followers, not friends.” The Instagram-Hero distills their experience through Mayfair or Juno filters. This person will constantly talk about things like “wanderlust” and “living authentic.” They subconsciously view travelling as a method of self-branding. They will force you to wake up at 5 am for a photoshoot inside an aluminum canoe then yell at you from behind the camera that your pose isn’t candid enough. They will post that same photo with the caption “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” They will stop the car every time the sun peeks above the tree line or every time they see a wave crash and recede from a cliff. Their favourite words are likely either “wilderness” or “tiny house.” The only thing sad about this person’s apparently worldly perspective is they can only tell by their like count if they are having fun or not. #vanlife.
The trust fund kid
It’s ignorant not to acknowledge that the ability to travel is closely linked with prosperity. Well, that’s exactly what this person refuses to acknowledge. The trust fund kid is usually found in the vintage cafes of Stockholm or Berlin or Europe’s trendiest corners, ordering the grande latte, with two shots of espresso, 11 pumps of vanilla syrup and decadent sprinkles of mocha and matcha powder. This person will profess his spiritual metamorphosis spending summers travelling. They will talk about gap years like a religious sacrament. They will tell you that “travel is the best education.” You will remember the summer enduring your creepy or angry or condescending boss to pay for your own education. They will tell you that you should all go to La Marmite because they have just the best mixed platter of foie gras, smoked salmon, lobster and caviar. You will say that deprives you of three weeks in a hostel. They will say you are depriving yourself of experience. One time, they will write an Instagram caption that goes something like, “Never live vicariously, it’s dangerous to perception.” You will hold back the urge to comment “You are living vicariously through your parents’ credit card.”
The person that’s confidently homeless
In the city or suburbs, a person with the oniony tang of BO is an object of repulsion. But on the road, lack of hygiene is really just a sign of wisdom. You can measure richness of experience by thickness of skin-grime. When travelling you’re likely to meet people who are so confidently homeless that they will do just about anything under the banner of “it’s part of the adventure, man.” Like the guy who would dumpster dive for expired steak and describe filleting off the green edges with his pocket knife as if it were about to earn him his third Michelin Star. This guy will sit cross-legged behind a soggy coffee cup and tell you that he is busking, not panhandling, because he’s also playing off-beat-bongos that he had picked up three days before. When he showers, it’s by sneaking in the backdoor of the YMCA. When he eats takeout, it’s by scouring a McDonald’s parking lot for receipts and yelling at the manager that he missed a crucial part of the order or that they included an ingredient he was allergic to. During mornings, he’ll walk into hotels in his pyjamas and pretend he’s guest to get the sponge-y bagels and cottage cheese at the continental breakfast. He’ll tell you that the eye-darting paranoia subsides with “experience.” But remember, he’s not homeless, he’s just a 21st-century explorer who doesn’t subscribe to the illuminatis’ systematic oppression.
The Gemstone-Healing Hippie
photo: Sascha Drechsler
Travelling is undeniably a spiritual experience. But this person takes the spiritual aspect more than a little too seriously. When travelling there is a high chance that “the law of attraction” will bring a gemstone-healing hippie your way. This person will likely have some sort of spotty history in fruit picking or tree planting. They will carry with them an assortment of gemstones vital to balancing the chakras. They will tell you how ancient Egyptians and Mayans knew the true power of sacred geometry. They will talk passionately (and endlessly, if you let them) about how Reiki Healing can cure cancer if the government wasn’t so obsessed with population control. Their favourite words: “vibrations,” “earth medicines” and “collective consciousness.” They will have a reservation for drinking tap water because of its fluoride but will profess the psychic health benefits of swallowing obscene amounts of LSD and mushrooms. Whatever you do, don’t question their New Age philosophy. It will just be used as evidence that your third eye isn’t open.
Middle-aged guy trying to relive his youth
Photo: Adam Hirschhorn
Kids these days don’t know how to party like they did back in his day. But that’s okay. He’s willing to take you under his wing and show you how to do a backyard barbecue. This beer-buying, campfire stoking, youth-parasite does not mean to scare or offend—though they often do—they just want to hang out with the “boys” and get a little crazy.
I mean, you will come back to his house for a backyard barbecue right? He’s got beer after all, and maybe even, you know… a little pot. But he won’t introduce the pot until he has a read on you. He won’t want to scare off his young, new compadres before he has a chance to live “ONLY THE MOST EPIC NIGHT, EVER.” This guy is the keeper of innumerable stories of teenage recklessness and purveyor of dirty jokes that settle in your mind in an awkward funk. You will muster the will to awkwardly laugh anyway.
He works words like “epic” and “rad” into his spiel to prove that he’s “down with the kids.” The problem with this middle-aged guy is that you can’t help but wonder why, or what, being “down with the kids” is supposed to accomplish. He assures you he doesn’t mean any harm. (Strange since you never told him you felt threatened). But most of the time, despite the unintentional red-flags raised by this awkward smack-talking, still-hip-lingo-using and desire to adopt you into his world of booze-filled backyard barbecues, this man does not mean any harm. Call him Dougie or Big Bob or Michael (but you should probably call him Mikey). He’s just a little sad and a lot nostalgic. The hay-days of his sepia-coloured glory days reverberate across his mind, and he can’t help but wonder—where did all the years go? But as far as he’s concerned, age is just a number, man, and he just likes to have a good time. Care to join?
The Australian with alcoholic tendencies
Photo: Ian T. McFarland
It is not a generalization to say that, generally, Australians could drink even the most belligerently alcoholic North American frat boy under the table on any given afternoon. Maybe it’s the fact that marijuana is scarce and alcohol plentiful at the globe’s southern tip. Or maybe they just like to keep their minds lubricated to keep their brain from drying out in the sun. One thing, however, is certain: No matter where you travel, they will be the unparalleled Kings or Queens of the hostel. A recent poll from Yale found that four out of five dudes drinking barside at your overpriced hostel bar will greet you with an exuberant, “Pull up a chair, mate!” At this point, you have two choices—you can join their merry-band of disciples on a mission of unflinching alcoholism or walk away, safely preserving your shitty-hostel dinner in your stomach and saving the floor from a layer of puke-paint.
“Don’t worry about the world ending today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia!” They might say, offering you a double-shot of “bear-fucker” before knocking back a pint of Foster’s in a single toss of the head. “Don’t worry about the world ending today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia!” They will remind you, when you start to wonder how the fuck you ended up in the bathroom of an all-night ocean-front rave with a straw in one hand and a cocaine-covered phone-screen in your other. “Don’t worry about the world ending today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia!” You will hear reverberating through your swollen head before snapping out of your unconscious state and painting the hostel floor with last night’s “nomadic-nachos.” Think long and hard before accepting the seemingly innocent offer to “pull up a chair, mate!”