Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Disappointment and inspiration

So here I am, living in a backpacker hostel, wondering where all the travellers have gone. Maybe I was away too long but it seems that standard western backpacking has completely changed. It's all been taken over by big business and in my opinion, traded in it's traveller/adventurer soul for a vacation soul. I know these changes haven't been sudden and the system is also the same in Europe, but I'd been lucky enough to avoid it for the last couple years and wish I could avoid it still.
What am I talking about exactly? I'm talking about the death of freedom and spontaneity. I'm talking about hostel chains that organize everything for you, who give discounts for booking ahead of time online and are in possession of everything you need to the point where going outside is simply optional and not necessary. I'm talking about a hostel full of "backpackers" in which that word now means young people of 18-23 with rolling cases of 25+kg rather than backpacks and even the guys are carrying hairspray and 4+ pairs of shoes.
This is not travel. This is not adventure leading to personal growth. This is just people trying to get away from home without really leaving it. Everyone with their ipod, laptops, cellphones and other comforts following along a well-oiled tourism machine. This stop for the skydive, that stop for the surfing lessons, here for the parties, there for the outback adventure, and don't forget the zoo before you go. It's perfectly set up for people that have money and want a good time without much thinking involved, and the Australians (or in Europe too since it's pretty much the same) just get to rake in easy tourist dollars. No, let me rephrase. Almost all tourism everywhere is like this. But it just seems so much worse here where people actually believe they are doing something unique and special and different from home.
Is this a problem? No, if that's what people want I'm not gonna stop them. What I do have a problem with is if you guys start thinking that is my scene. I am not one of these people. I have found my biggest culture shock now. It's that I do not fit into this crowd to which you think I belong. This is not me on an ego trip after having been to so many more places and for so long. After many conversations with people here I've come to the conclusion that for most of them, the psychological, mental and motivational gaps between us is just as large as the people at home reading this that have never travelled anywhere or not thought much about it beyond their short holidays. These people want to go back home to the "real" world and also think I'm crazy.
But that's not what I want, not what I need. I needed the challenges. I love the freedom of just showing up somewhere and then choosing where I'm going to stay, which bus I'm going to take and what I'll go see. I love the spontaneity of sitting with the rest of the family and saying "let's just completely reroute the whole trip because we can, and see what happens". It's the unknown, the hitchhiking, the bush camping, the days you get completely stuck and question why you haven't gone home yet. It's the sunrises you never expected to see and the people you should never have met in the normal course of events. What is life without the taking of chances? No, I'm sure that for me Australia will not and can not be a fulfilling destination. There are things I'd like to see, for sure, but I strongly suspect that if I were to follow along with the rest of the crowd out here I will just severely disappoint myself.
Every once in a while I meet someone with a little more ambition or with a different purpose in their travels. You can pick them out very quickly and so I seem to be trying to hunt them down to talk to. I suppose that's why I've always preferred the far out and difficult places to travel, you meet like-minded people doing the same thing. Here they tend to be just getting started and so I try to encourage them and pass down a little wisdom or advice. Next month it will be the 10 year anniversary of my first time backpacking abroad alone and I can only look back with amazement at how much I dreamed back then that actually came true. They've easily been the most rewarding and challenging years of my life (wow, do I talk like an ancient guy now or what?) and I wonder how I got so lucky. I still remember the travel masters that I looked up to and sought advice from and it feels good to have the tables turned and be able to inspire others as well. Most of the time I still feel alone and misunderstood but the strong, instant connections with these occasional others is undeniable. So perhaps that is my new goal, my social purpose while I'm here. To inspire/corrupt the minds of others, to give back what had been given to me all those years ago and hopefully somewhere along the line I'll find my own encouragement reflected back upon myself to keep living the dream....
Ammon

3 Comments:

At 10:02 PM , Blogger giting said...

Inspiring post!

 
At 2:07 PM , Blogger The Bear said...

Hey Ammon,
You are part of a very rarified group of travellers, and adventure seekers who are impassioned about the trip ore than saying they were there. Your blog put me to mind of listening to Robin Barley, who was a very accomplished rock climber, hiker, world traveller ect. I met him in the twilight of his career in anesthesia, and spoke to him often about travel. He felt the same way you do about the bulk of travellers out there. His solution was to avoid the beaten path all together, and so he sought out the untravelled paths, and revelled in the experiences and challenges they provided. Like you he was best able to communicate with others of kindred spirit. The trick is to talk to all of them, you don't know whose life your conversation may change. Yours is the path less trodden, enjoy the solitude and meditate on the wonders, see the creatos hand in the organization of it all, ad sorrow for the devastation his children mindlessly and for want of money cause.

Love and Big Bear Hugs
Your written traveling buddy.
Theb Bear

 
At 11:09 AM , Blogger The Bear said...

Hey Ammon, time for the next chapter!!!!

 

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