When I started to explore more of Australia and the world, I would often think about where I fit in as a traveller.
Everywhere I go I see specific genres of people such as backpackers, honeymooners, retirees, powder hounds, family vacationers and eco-tourists – some more dedicated in their travel styles than others.
In my opinion, the diversity of human interests is freaking incredible. Awesome. But what is less than awesome is the frequency of
hipster-like travellers I come across that justify and act as though their style is more superior than others, which somewhat invalidates the experiences of others.
And if you aren’t following their genre in the right manner, look out.
My friend for example, a country boy from rural New South Wales, recently went on his first overseas trip to Bangkok with a few of his mates. I laughed (and cringed) through his stories about all of the partying he did, and was surprised to learn that he loved the experience so much that only three weeks later he was back over there again – and didn’t set a foot outside of the popular party strip for the entire fortnight.
I’ve only been to Bangkok on a stopover but I know someone that has travelled extensively throughout the country. A couple of years ago in senior school he went on a student-led leadership program known as World Challenge, taking him and nine others on an expedition throughout Laos and Thailand. This leadership program included a mix of jungle and mountain treks, project work focusing on community development, cultural activities and sightseeing adventures. Lets call him my ‘non-party’ friend for context below.
It was really interesting to sit back and watch the conversation unfold between the two. The party friend started grilling my non-party friend about what clubs he went to in Bangkok, which of course was zero. As my non-party friend explained that he had spent the majority of his time travelling to different places on the program, my party friends response was ‘Oh, so you’ve been to Thailand, but you haven’t really seen Thailand’.
The club scene appears to be his reality of what Thailand should be, and I doubt it will change. He has his travel style a party goer, and until he gets to a different stage in his life (maybe) he will strongly believe that his style is how to truly see the country for what it is.
And that’s okay.
The only thing that sucks in this equation is that he unintentionally invalidated the experience of my non-party friend, concluding that even if he wanted to see the ‘real’ Thailand it would be pointless because he was in a relationship (wait whut) saying “You still probably wouldn’t be able to really see the place if you went again, it’s a bit different because you have a missus.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I love my party friend. I am proud of him for breaking out of the small country town trap long enough to go overseas. But it got me thinking about how someone can visit a country and truly experience it. And I don’t think that you can. I realise that the true experience of a place is going to be different for everyone, including the people who actually live there.
For example, until I moved to Sydney in 2012 I was pretty much a small town girl. My reality of Australia is rural farming villages so tiny that they never quite make it on the map, and of larger towns predominately full of country folk and academics. And hippies.
Sometimes I feel like I fit in with other travellers. During one particular trip to NZ I backpacked, freedom camped and stayed in a 5 star hotel. I partied, went for cute little outings and then went on an adventure tour. I ate the worst food, the best food and everything in-between.
I go to NZ every year and I don’t think I will ever be able to lay claim about fully knowing the place. I can’t see through everyone else’s eyes and I respect that. I’ll just know some places that are good to go, what the snow fields are like and good places to eat.
And honestly, that’s good enough for me.