Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Style of Backpacking



I have tried to avoid the whole “tourist vs. traveler vs. authentic backpacker vs. party backpacker” steel cage battle royale that seems to be constantly raging and mutating in the travel blog world as long as I could. How ever you like to travel is up to you, period. While I personally love the way I do it, I know it isn't the only way out there. I do on the other hand sometimes find myself wondering when I read someone's blog how they travel offline, and if we would mesh well traveling together. So, if you were ever curious as to how I roll, this post is for you.

Generally speaking, I travel independently. I would probably never do a "group" tour or anything like that and have had my share of chuckles and eye-rolls when a large group with a leader holding a flag walks by me. On the other hand though, if I only have a day or two in a city, I can be convinced to take a "hop-on hop-off" tour bus for a couple hours (I haven't tried one to this point though). I actually thoroughly enjoy the organized walking tours offered in so many cities for the exercise and the mingling with other travelers, taking most of what the tour guide says with a grain of salt of course.

I prefer to always stay in hostels, but plan on really using Couchsurfing and possibly camping more in the future. I am usually drawn to the highest rated  names on Hostelworld or Hostelbookers, and do enjoy ones with a social scene but the cleanliness score will usually be the one that weighs the most heavily. I thoroughly enjoy hanging out with other backpackers and swapping travel stories, and will never apologize for this. It doesn't matter where they are from, even God forbid, a Western country like me. One of the only two people I stay in touch to this day from all of my previous trips is a British guy named Stu I met in a hostel in Austria. A friend is a friend, right? Discriminating upon someone based upon where they are from sure seems like the close-minded thing to do, doesn't it? This isn't to say that I am fearful of the locals or something, in fact nothing can be further from the truth as you will see. 

Still Boys to This Day
When it comes to food and drink, this is where I do get a little all "off the beaten pathy" snob on you. I downright refuse to eat anywhere that is a tourist trap. Pictures of food on the menu? See ya! Turistica Menu and barker out front? Forget about it! I enjoy finding local restaurants and bars, even if it takes me all day searching. I will gladly eat alone or be the only tourist in the place and get stared at. I love talking to the staff and swapping stories. Most of this is due to the fact that the food is just going to taste better at local spots, and obviously the food and drink is going to be more affordable. Big thanks to my travel partners Chris, Ryan, & Bryan for putting up with me on these quests, but in the end I think it worked out for all involved. Some highlights of this mantra from my trips include being the only tourists at Il Timonire in Rome, finding jugs of white wine for two euros at a local market near Vatican City, and spending afternoons as the only tourist at the "beer shack" at the Eggenberg Brewery in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.

No English on the Menu at this Cafe in Amsterdam
As far as activities and sights, I honestly try to stick to things that are truly of interest to me now. I don't plan on stopping traveling ever, so as far as I am concerned many of the hardcore cultural sights can wait until I am older and can spend days just soaking them in and contemplating. As for now? Well, my focus is on dining, imbibing, sports, entertainment, and natural sights. I dream of having my breath taken away by the views in Ireland and then enjoying a pint in a local pub, not so much kissing the Blarney Stone. I dream of spending afternoons at Parisian art house movie theaters, not trolling the museums for hours upon hours. I dream of wearing orange with the crowd packed behind the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to root on The Netherlands in Euro 2012, not being mesmerized inside its grand doors. I dream of drinking under the late night sun in Stockholm on Mid Summer's Eve, not watching the changing of the guard at the palace. Now, just cause it's my main focus, doesn't mean you can't mix and match. One of the best examples of this was in Fussen, Germany where I spent the day hiking to the Neuschwanstein castle among all the other tourists, but spent the night at the local hockey rink with rowdy fans cheering on the local team called the Leopards.

I'm not saying it's better, it's just where I am right "there" and right now.

How do you travel? Has your travel style evolved? Any tips for me? Let me know!