I was sat in a bar with a friend drinking chilled Leo beer and munching on fiery lime-chilli peanuts when they arrived. The fug of Axe deodorant mixed with sour body odour announced their presence before their loud, obnoxious voices cut through what had been a peaceful afternoon of drinking.
‘Oh my god! This place is so cute! Let’s take a selfie.’
I looked at my friend, his eyes closed slowly and he let out a sigh and shook his head.
Backpackers are invariably some annoyingly attractive young person who is either about to go to uni or has just left uni and decided that if a world of adventure awaits then so can paying back the crippling debt of student loans.
Savings accrued, tickets booked and back firmly packed they set off into the dying light to unknown tropical lands.
Many expats scoff at these innocent youngsters and most Thai people think that backpackers are the poor dregs of western society. The word ‘trustafarian’ has no direct translation.
And it would be easy to mock their lack of individuality, uniform Singha vest tops and fisherman’s pants, cornrows, drunken antics, STD infection rates, naivety, poor levels of personal hygiene, lack of awareness of social norms of the country they are in, amount they pay in taxis, statements explaining how ‘transformational’ going to Wat Po was, etc. etc. etc.
However, the reason that many expats point the finger and laugh at backpackers is not just because of the ease backpackers make themselves the butt of jokes (although to be honest that is quite a large part of it) but because there is something about their existence that is inherently envious.
They live in the spirit of discovery.
You see when I tell people back home that I live in Bangkok (and we get past all the ‘you a lady boy, chortle, chortle’ nonsense) people often comment ‘wow, what an adventure’.
This always makes me stop and pause for thought. Is it an adventure anymore? I’m married, have a child and work in a normal job. I have bills to pay and cats to feed. Isn’t that just being an adult regardless of where I am in the world? Surely ‘adventure’ conjures up images of pith helmets and tweed jackets neither of which I wear because it’s too hot and small children point and laugh.
I could happily say: ‘Not really, it’s just a grind if I’m honest. Same as anywhere. It’s just hotter, poorer and smells a bit funny.’
But I don’t because people tend to stop talking to you if you do that. Also, I don’t really believe it.
What I do believe is that adventure occurs in every aspect of human existence. Every grasped opportunity, every wrong turn taken, every new flavour of Twiglets tried. All adventures regardless of size, shape or Marmiteyness.
Adventure doesn’t have to take the shape of a plane or a tropical beach, it doesn’t have to be a mountain climbed or a desert crossed or even a place lived. The best adventures are the ones we experience everyday.
So when people ask me how my adventure is going I say ‘fine, how’s yours?’
And sometimes I get a response.
What was/is your biggest adventure? Tell me in the comments below.