When I was in my 20s, I loved Lonely Planet guides. Just seeing them in a bookstore, all lined up and shiny, made my heart skip a beat. Just last year, during a bookstore excursion in which I allowed myself any book I wanted, I chose Lonely Planet’s Europe Phrasebook book. While in the loo, I’ve learned how to say “I’m sorry” in 14 languages.
So, it should come as no surprise that when the Lonely Planet newsletter reaches my inbox, no work gets done until I have read it thoroughly and planned at least four new trips. After all, Cal and the cat are tired of my saying “I’m sorry” in 14 languages – time to get out there and try them on some unsuspecting local! But increasingly, I have felt older than McCain and less travel savvy than Palin while reading them – and it occurs to me that I just might not be in the Lonely Planet demographic anymore.
(I’d like to bookmark here this interactive map page, however, because it’s awesome. I could rollover/click on it all day long.)
The thing is, though, I have never really fit in with the Lonely Planet crowd, however much my budget tells me otherwise. Maybe it’s because I spent over two years as a child living in nice hotels; maybe I’m just a princess brat. Or, it could be that despite my jet-setting ways, I’m just not all that adventurous.
I just don’t understand the backpacking/hostel culture. It holds absolutely no appeal for me, nor has it ever – even when friends returned every semester with incredible tales of their travels. I’d like to talk about some of my reasons here, and see if my readers can figure out my admittedly strange aversion to what is a popular and fun way to travel for millions of people of all ages, nationalities and travel budgets.
- I want to experience a place from my own perspective, and have the time to think about what I’ve seen and done every day, let it swirl around in my brain and see what I come up with. I want my opinions to be my own. The thought of heading back to a hostel at night and hearing a bunch of stories about everyone else’s day, or having to talk about my own so soon after I’ve experienced it, makes me cringe.
- I love traveling alone. I’m not a travel-people person. I don’t get lonely, and I don’t like interacting with tourists or travelers. I don’t find any sense of kinship with strangers simply because we all happen to be doing the same thing at the same time. OMG, we both have elbows! Best friends forever.
- I don’t like the false-friendship vibe I have gotten from the backpackers I’ve met. There is an underlying current of mean-streak competitiveness that really turns me off. I don’t like when I’ve seen backpackers take subtle digs at each other to prove they’ve had a more adventurous, more authentic or more original time than anyone else who has ever backpacked before.
- Shoestring travel budgets do nothing for me. Sure, I love a deal as much as the next person; but I truly feel that seeing less while being able to do more is better than seeing a lot but doing little. I want to experience a place fully, which I don’t think I’d be able to do if I’m constantly planning ahead financially two months and agonizing over a restaurant meal vs. another peanut butter sandwich because of train ticket prices. If I had, say, $500, I’d rather blow it on one fabulous weekend than one week of scrimping.
So, what’s the verdict? Am I a wacko? Am I a snob? Am I missing something?