This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands
This summer, droves of young privileged Westerners will strap on their backpacks and head out into the big brave world. Some will be celebrating graduation, some trying to forget about disastrous finals exams, while others will simply seek to fill the existential void with trance parties and crotch-destroying venereal diseases.
After having spent a year scraping that cash together, it's finally time to swan off into the sunset with the shirt on your back, a copy of On the Road, and a slightly presumptuous number of condoms. No matter which continent you've chosen to Lonely Planet your way through, you're destined to repeatedly bump into hundreds of young voyagers with the exact same itinerary as you. Sure, it's nice to see a familiar face, but you have to be very selective when it comes to which of these free-spirits you decide to attach yourself to. Oftentimes, that friendly Portuguese crust-punk who gave you lice will turn out to be nothing more than a leech who's only goal is to spend the last of your cash on a vintage fire-poi kit. Don't assume you're safe because you've brought along your friend from home, either—as your parents' marriage can attest to, anyone can test your patience if you spend enough time with them.
These warnings aside, you're going to need some partners in crime while you traipse about the globe, even if only to help you avoid dejectedly masturbating alone in your hostel bunk every night. If you're going to be hanging around with a bunch of strangers all summer, it's vital that you learn to separate the wheat from the dickheads. To assist you in judging a book by its cover, we've compiled a list of some of the backpackers you're likely to meet on your travels.
If you've ever visited Sydney, you'll know that it's almost impossible to differentiate the locals from Americans or Europeans. They're smart, stylish, and thoroughly modern. Yet, for some baffling reason, as soon as Aussies board a plane, out come the neon sunglasses, shark tooth necklaces, and nipple piercings.
Perhaps they're attempting to slowly make these things part of their cultural heritage, so that, in a few centuries, neon sunglasses will be for Australians what clogs are for the Dutch, or the beret is for the French. I suppose you have to start somewhere if you want to create a national identity that goes beyond kangaroos or hats with corks hanging out of them, but still, is this really the way to go? Australia: just because these stereotypes exist doesn't mean that you have to live up to them.
Don't get me wrong, it's admirable that you've decided to single-handedly end social injustice by spending two weeks shoveling feces at a Nepalese monkey sanctuary. I'll be the first to admit that the world would be a considerably better place if there were more left-wing, bleeding heart humanities students.
Sadly, despite the good intentions, scrubbing oil residue off of turtles will only end up being a piss in an ocean of global hunger, financial injustice, police brutality, institutional racism, slave labor, and global warming. Which is completely fine, but maybe cool it a bit with the bragging?
The backpacking douchebro often comes across as a nice guy at first. He's cheerful, friendly, and most importantly, has plenty of jazz-cigarettes that he doesn't mind sharing with you—something that miraculously manages to render his sun-protection fedora tolerable.
Unfortunately, his decision to end every other sentence with 'dhuuuude' will soon get on your nerves. As will his inability to talk about anything other than how shitty the local "herb" is or how good he is at the didgeridoo.
Grumpy French Backpackers
Let's face it, hostel life can be ghastly: that grueling sensation of someone else's toenail clippings tickling your feet in the shower, the smell of your towel after stuffing it into your bag while wet. Having blown your entire budget on the "full diving package," your breakfast will also be reduced to a tedious slice of the world's driest bread and just enough Nescafé crumbs to brew a cup of sour brown water.
Sure, these things are nothing short of atrocities, but they don't give you a license to be eternally grumpy. Unless you are French. In that case, apparently, it's completely acceptable to spend every waking moment moping about as if you fell into a septic tank on your wedding day.
The Happy-Go-Lucky Optimist
Polar to the French backpacker, the Optimist has a permanent grin slapped across his face. This person is so eager to see everything the city has to offer that his stride is essentially an enthusiastic skip. He treats every bakery visit as if it's the discovery of a long-lost temple and greets every local as if they're his best friend.
The Optimist won't hesitate to ask whether or not you've climbed the nearest mountain, visited the underground museum, gone on the butterfly excursion, or had yourself fitted for a tailor-made penis gourd. If you try to explain that you've only been in town for three days, he will tell you he's been there for two. If you're hungry, the Optimist will recommend a local dish that he claims to be his favorite. The food may very well be delicious, but the Optimist's toe-curling joy has already left a bitter taste in your mouth.
The Lonely Old Traveler
After multiple failed marriages and a couple of botched entrepreneurial endeavors, the Lonely Old Traveler (LOT) realized his life needed something more meaningful than a weekly solo dinner at TGIFriday's. The LOT spends six months a year working up enough cash to fund these explorations and spends equally as much time yapping about them, too.
The Lonely Old Traveler is capable of regaling you with weeklong tales of eskimos he's met and that one moose he single-handedly shot, skinned and ate. He's the kind of person who will plonk his red wine nose down next to you as soon as you've mustered the courage to talk to that hot Canadian from your dorm. Seconds before you've reached your wit's end, he'll disappear off on his travels. Which is really a shame, because, for some inexplicable reason, you'll miss him.
You've finally found your paradise. As you look up at the pristine blue sky through the softly swaying leaves of a palm tree, you hear a rhythm. Or is it a beat? No, wait, a chant? Suddenly you recognize it. "Let's go fuckin' mental! Let's go fuckin' mental!" The lads have arrived, seemingly pre-sunburnt, all sweating flesh and intimidatingly small pastel shorts.
You try to avoid eye contact and pretend you don't speak English, determined to integrate with the local culture and people. It's no use, though. They've got recent iPlayer downloads and inexplicably they've bagged a 24-pack of Carlsberg. The weird cocktails in coconut shells were nice at first, but you suspect they gave you the shits and you'd kill for anything in a can. One of them has even got Sky Sports on his phone, laughing in the face of international roaming charges.
Give in. Go over to them. Let their barely coherent banter wash over you. You might as well join them for fish bowls later. It's not like there's much to do in paradise anyway.