We are well on ‘the gringo trail’, tons of backpackers everywhere! This has lead to both some fun and depression. So fun first; the good part of there being a lot of backpackers is there are a lot of people around our age or close to our age to hang out with and catch up on meaningful stuff, like Michigan getting a new coach, split peas being the new cheapest meal, or the value of ice cream fixing life’s problems. You know important things. This sort of stupid banter and talking is needed, and getting a taste of home with sports talk is needed. When we lived in the UK, American sports was my connection back home. It gives me some grounding to the ‘real world’, so when people what to chat about lighthearted non-important things like that it is a relief because while travel is great, talking about how travel is great can become weary after a while. So we met new people and were quite enjoying the hostel life again.
There is one part of backpacker/hostel culture which is definitely true, and we enjoyed a little over the holidays, which is partying. On new year’s we went out to a hostel party and had some fun dancing and showing the young backpacker kids how it is done on the dance floor. Also I might mention that we were in the wine region, a bottle of wine was the same price and size as a bottle of beer. So we decided not to discuss with our sommelier, and just said, ‘wine please!’ This lead to a great night of dancing, pool going, you get the idea.
We wake up the next morning, head a little sore, lips a little purple. We sort of blob around for the day, when we added up all the drinks we actually didn’t have that many. This is also where we get to some of the depressing part which is, we are getting old(er). We have not had that much to drink on our travels, so when we have it – we notice it. We notice that in the morning we feel anxiety or depression. The depression mainly coming from feeling like we are wasting time if we are not 100%. If a day is wasted with lying we feel it was a wasted day, where as many of our fellow backpackers have no problem sleeping for a day. This leads to us realizing that we are not quite in backpacker/hostel culture of the younger crowd, we are a little past it now. We still sleep in the dorms, but we are becoming happier with finding a cheap guesthouse. While we like meeting other backpackers we have become annoyed at the huge flocks of them, even though we are part of them, because we want to steer clear of the crowd. Also in our little conversations we found that sometimes the hostel culture has a negative effect on what is ‘an experience’. We hope ‘an experience’ is something that randomly or luckily happens to us, but, with the new bigger crowds there is a strong pull for local businesses to provide ‘an experience’.
Nowadays, it is incredible what hostels offer you, no longer is it just a bed, but you have options for bungee jumping, volcano hiking, kayaking, sky diving, wine tours, bike tours, limo tours, etc. The problem is that while they are cheaper than you might think they still add up, each one could be $20-$80 US. If we are doing these things everyday than we would have broken the bank already! We are starting to feel that we are not properly experiencing travels if we don’t do one of these extreme activities. Whatever happened to just travelling to see the place? (Old curmudgeonly griping I know).
We also know that it is the time of year here. Our bus today was literally 80% backpackers, but nearly all of them are Argentinian. It is currently summer break and it seems to be tradition that all 20 somethings in Buenos Aries region slowly make their way from there to northern Argentina then up to Bolivia & Peru before coming back for school to start. The average Argentinean backpacker is usually a guitar toting-mate drinking-guacho weaing-95 liter backpack-dragging a huge tent, pad, and sleeping bag-singing on the bus-and working on their dreads. Cut your hair! Get a job! Cook dinner before 10pm! But in reality we like their spirit. It’s pretty cool that it is almost like a travelling festival. Everyone seems to be an artist or musician and so at night there are free concerts at the hostel or people drawing on the street. It seems like a much better experience to explore your one’s country and culture, going for hikes, creating art, and yes drinking a lot of wine at night with your friends, than the culture of going to the club non-stop.
So, we are slowly adjusting and starting to love the towns even when they are overrun with people. Our hangovers have subsided and we love our travels again. Last night the kiddos stayed up late singing songs in the courtyard, with actually a really good guitarist, which lulled us to sleep. Tonight we walked down the cobblestoned streets to a tiny hole in the wall restaurant where we had the same thing as all the other backpackers in the place (5 peso empanadas), and loved it. The place laughed when I couldn’t remember the Spanish word for ‘bill’. This reminds me, my Spanish is horrible. I have to work on that. But the result is I am realizing that experiences can still be had even if everyone else is experiencing them, that they do not need to be original, and when I stopped worrying about original experiences the more they happened.
We talked on the bus and over dinner; that we are doing what travel is to us which is experiencing new places, meeting new people, reading and writing, eating new food, and not really caring what is the right way or wrong way to travel because there is no right or wrong way to travel.
(Wrote this after midnight, whooohooo, still got the youngin spirit!)