By Emily Freis,
Everyone knows that one friend who claims they just LOVE traveling; but you and I both know that the all-inclusive, resort-style vacation they are referring to is a far cry from the down and dirty experience of traveling. While traveling is an amazing adventure in and of itself, backpacking seems to add another level of extremity. Not only do you get to experience the food, the locals, and the secret hotspots first hand, but you also get to bask in the glory of only showering when you can physically feel the dirt flaking off of your skin. Believe it or not, being filthy is exhilarating. Backpackers are notorious for being young, wild, and free, but in my opinion, backpackers are so much more. They are ultimately their own breed of humans. They are daring, wild, grungy, usually friendly, and often fall into one of the following eight categories.
The Party Animal
The Party Animal is the person who is traveling solely to get wasted every night. “Oh, marijuana is legal in Uruguay? I guess I’ll have to try it…There is an underground cocaine bar in La Paz, Bolivia? Well, I’m only here once, right?” These people are crazy. Let me tell you. They are always up for a good time, but they rarely get the sleep they need in order to spend the following day exploring. A small piece of advice: Team up with the Party Animal a few times during your travels, but don’t let them rope you into the full on party scene. Don’t lose sight of what traveling is all about–the culture of a new place and stuffing your face with amazing food. However, if you consider yourself ‘The Party Animal”, a world renowned party hostel is the Wild Rover Hostel in La Paz, Bolivia. (Make sure to make a reservation, because there is rarely room for walk-ins.)
The Dirty Hippie
One word for you. Dreads. The dirty hippy always, and I mean always, has dreads. They are smelly, and groovy, and you wish you could embrace the dirty life as much as they do. They are a great time to chill with, but whatever you do don’t talk politics. If you are looking for a chill and dreamy place to backpack, check out Bethel Court Hostel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The Old Lurk
The Old Lurk is essentially a man who is far too old to be staying in hostels. You almost feel bad for him because you wonder how, after all this time he still hasn’t found a travel buddy, but at the same time you make a point of isolating yourself from him at all costs. You ask yourself why he is backpacking instead of staying in luxurious hotels (like you plan on doing by the time you are his age). There really is no answer to any of your questions. Either befriend him and get some wholesome dad advice, or try to avoid being his bunk-mate in your co-ed room.
The Guy Who Always Travels with a Guitar
Everyone loves to listen to a good acoustic tune or two, but it always seems to be the amateur player who totes his guitar around everywhere. If the guitar guy asks you to listen to his music, be polite and give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get to listen to some bomb music. If not, quickly come up with a good excuse to leave. Then check out of your hostel and find a new place to crash ASAP. On the other hand, if you are interested in traveling and learning guitar, hostels such as El Mocambo in Salento, Colombia offer guitar lessons as well as a variety of other amenities.
BEWARE. It always seems like a good idea at the time to befriend The Clinger, but five days into your trip you are going to realize that you just can’t shake them! The only thing worse than breaking up with someone whom you’ve just met, is coincidentally meeting up with them at your next three destinations. The best way to handle this awkward situation is to just be honest, and tell them that you need you space. Best of Luck…
The Coolest Group of Friends You Have Ever Seen, Who Makes You Jealous That You Don’t Have a Kick-A** Posse
Ughhh….Jealous. These backpackers look like the absolute coolest group of friends you could ever ask for. (Too bad all of your BFFs couldn’t take afford the time and money to travel the world with you.) Unfortunately, their group is already full and you can’t hang out with them. You can definitely try to join their clique, but chances are you will get rejected. Don’t fret my friend. You are just as cool as them! You are independent, courageous, responsible enough to take care of yourself in a strange new place, and without a doubt will make friends with dozens of other solo travelers.
The Gap Year Student
For all of you gap year students out there-on behalf of everyone, let me just tell you how much we hate you. Well, we don’t actually hate you. We are jealous of you. You are awesome. You are young. You are brave. You have the coolest parents in the world for supporting your decision of taking a gap year to travel the world before starting school. And we want to be you. Please let us tag along on your travels…Sincerely, all backpackers.
The Girl/Guy Who Just Went through a Breakup
Impulse trips are always a good idea…right? What better way to say F-You to an ex than to go on a crazy, independent adventure without them. That’ll show them. Beware of the breakup traveler however, for they are a bag of emotions just waiting to explode. First come the sad stories, then the anger, then the ‘pretend I’m actually having fun on this trip and not fully regretting spending my entire life’s savings on seven months of traveling.’ Please Note: The breakup traveler can often morph into ‘The Clinger’. If you decide that backpacking is the best way for you to get over your ex, America del Sur Hostel in El Calafate, Argentina is a great place to rediscover yourself and also connect to nature.