Backpacking travel is a very unique and amazing experience. It’s something that distinctively changes your perception on the world, the need to explore and most significantly the way you interact with people as a whole.
For me travel presents a great opportunity to meet a whole heap of new faces, faces whose backgrounds, viewpoints and nationalities I wouldn’t otherwise encounter – and it’s this breakdown of social boundaries which intrigue me the most, as people outside this backpacker bubble could never really grasp it!
Level playing field
In my opinion backpacking resets the social scale. The fact that everyone is in the same boat, doing the same things means to a large degree their ‘normal lives’ dont really impact their travelling.
People may have stupid amounts of money at home, but you can rest assured that if they’re staying in the same hostel as you they’re just as keen to save as much dollar as you are, despite what backups they may have at home or how many credit cards daddy has leant them!
Backpacking is a mentality which makes every penny count!
This really opens up the opportunity to meet some amazing people from all walks of life. Take for instance my trip to Thailand – me and my Byron buddy Nic are pretty laid back guys, he surfs, travels and also jumps around ski seasons as an instructor. I work in travel, take pictures and teach surfing.
Yet we found ourselves in a bar chatting with Audrey and Anna, who’d we’d known and travelled with for a few days, and discovered that their actual lives were a world away from our own.
Audrey is a Chelsea girl who’s just enrolled in the Royal Agricultural University. Her dads an auctioneer and her mum runs a private medical practice.
Anna also runs in the same kind of circles – her dads a lawyer, and her mum runs a stud farm for polo horses. Her brother is one of the worlds top polo players.
Their lives couldn’t be any more removed from ours!
I’m also happy to admit that I’d never in a million years meet, let alone chat and party with, anyone from this kind of social background if I hadn’t travelled. I simply don’t mingle like that. I must say that if I’d know their background prior to meeting them I’d have entered the conversation with a whole heap of judgement and prejudices.
The reason I didn’t is because we’d already travelled together. And even when I first met them both we were in the road.
Travel bonds you together through shared experienced, and that where the basis of any travel friendship lies.
No matter how different you are without a bag on your back you’ll always relate through your passion to explore the world.
To a large degree these shared experiences make you even closer than your usual friendship circles. Much like Uni friends are tight nit travel friendships are something you can’t really break into unless you’ve done the same yourself.
A Product of Limited Time
I put the fact these travel bonds are so strong down to the way you open yourself up to new people and experiences on the road.
Everything in the backpacking bubble is insecure and fluid. 9 times out of 10 the people you meet have completely different plans and the time limits you can interact over are fleeting.
This leads you to have very intense relationships over a short period of time in an attempt to establish and converse your personality, as well as place yourself within a new group of people.
Your personal traits become almost exaggerated as a reaction to this.
These intense bursts of friendship also mean your social boundaries are broken down and you fully expose your identity to other people – I’ve found myself having conversations with people I’ve only just met about all manner of subjects – everything from peoples parents being divorced, issues with ex relationships and life choices through to politics and the economy.
It’s a bizarre situation to reflect on but I’m certainly more open and honest with my travel buddies than my usual circle of friends – there’s certain things I’d never think to talk with them about!
This openness allows you to quickly bond with people and helps establish common interests, viewpoints and ultimately who you’ll end up travelling with for a bit.
It’s the whole process of building friendship concentrated into one drunken evening!
And these too become very intense very quickly.
At home you may go on a few dates, in the backpacker world you’re already living with the person and in each others faces 247.
A week backpacking with someone you hook up with is probably the equivalent of twice that in a ‘normal’ relationship.
Again alot of this comes down to shared experiences and the fact both your lives are moving at a fast pace in an unpredictable environment. Free from the constraints of 9 to 5 jobs it can become easy to seemingly fall in love every couple of weeks before parting ways!
But then again travel romances can solidify a relationship and they can exist outside the backpacking world. Myself included.
The flip side of this coin is that I’ve seen numerous couples who have lasted for years in their home lives suddenly find themselves incompatible in a travel environment and it ultimately destroy them. The same goes for close friends too – travel really does intensify emotions within a personal bond.
Backpacking is an incredible experience and if you open yourself up to it the places you see and the people you meet will stay with you forever.
But it’s also incredibly consuming and intense and when I’m not on the road I find it incredibly difficult to fill the void and find the same kind of open and accepting people I love meeting.
….but that keeps me going back for more!