February 1, 2017

Day 1202-Backpacker etiquette

I consider myself fortunate that I have travelled a great deal and met some really amazing people. I’ve met most of these people through the hostels I’ve stayed at be it in Myanmar or Chile or Australia.  Now, for the most part, backpackers, I’ve found are very kind, considerate and trustworthy. There is this unwritten and unspoken bond which ties us altogether.  Whilst, we don’t know each other and we all come from a range of different countries, we share common ground as we are all travellers.  I realised however, that despite being travellers, not all people are respectful or understanding of others.

I found myself travelling through the north island, in New Zealand, meeting some great people but not always. I feel some backpackers lack what I like to call social etiquette.  For example, in one hostel, in Taupo, I was in a six bed mixed dorm and of course I was the only female.  I’ve shared with guys before and generally it isn’t a issue. On one of the nights, some of the guys in my dorm went out and came back pretty late. Not a problem for me as I was already asleep. I was however, awake thanks to the guy blinding me with his flash light.  He was maybe drunk and so may not have realised but I was wide awake thanks to him. Genius. Now, sure, many of us use our flash light, when we come back in and the main light is switched off but I question how many of us try to blind the other person.

The other thing I’ve found when sharing a dorm room with guys is that there is bound to be at least one guy who snores.  Of course I don’t always know who it will be but I can guarantee more often than not at least one will snore. When I book a female dorm (which, for some reason, is more expensive than a standard dorm room and begs the question why?) I find no one snores. Sure, some women may snore but I have yet to share a room with one that does. Now, if I manage to fall asleep before the guy who snores then no problem, I can sleep through the snoring but if I don’t manage to fall asleep or I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m done for. Ear plugs, I hear someone suggest, well no, they also don’t do the trick. I’ve slept with music on and found myself all tangled up with the wires.

What do I find most annoying when sharing a room with other backpackers? For me, it is when one of them has to wake up at some ungodly hour to catch a bus or a flight or tour and they wake everyone else up. I’ve had one or more people wake up at 5am or 6am and it was just so noisy. It was as though they were moving around like a elephant but trying not to make any noise! I don’t understand how hard it is to be quiet and pack. I’ve left early in the morning and packed my bags outside for instance because I didn’t want to wake up the other five people in the dorm room. I find it disrespectful and just plain rude. Opening and closing of the locker, then of the suitcase and of course the door. It made me question how many of them had previously stayed in a hostel and shared a room.

More recently, I stayed a lovely hostel in Paihia and I met some great people. On my final night, I found myself sharing the four bed dorm with three German guys. I didn’t think anything of it and was asleep before midnight. Little did I know that one of the guys was sick and so two hours later he was running for the toilet. His two concerned friends stayed in the room and whispered to each other in German. By three in the morning my patience was wearing thin and I asked them to stop whispering. I mean Jesus Christ, their friend was outside, puking his guts out and both of them stayed in the room to have a good old natter. I couldn’t understand. The two guys eventually packed it in and the other guy made it back to the room but not for long. At around half four it was all go again. I wanted to pull my hair out or punch a wall. Never have I shared a dorm room with others and had so little sleep. Sure voluntarily staying awake or going out is different but this, this was uncalled for and come what the morning I was livid. I had nothing against the guy who was sick but his two friends, who whispered away for most of the morning, they were inconsiderate and annoying.

I struggle in hostels where there is too much free wifi. I realise that it may sound daft but it is true. Hostels which I’ve stayed in so far in New Zealand that offer unlimited wifi, I’ve little to no chance of striking up a conversation with another backpacker. Parts of the hostel which are for socialising like the kitchen or lounge, I’ve found, many backpackers to be glued to their phone. I’ve had more random, one of conversations in the bathroom as a result. I think it is a great pity that we have become or more let ourselves become so anti social to the point that we fail to enjoy the moment.  Whilst I love my own company, I value and enjoy the company of others. I appreciate that we need to contact our family and friends back home but with so much unlimited wifi, some backpackers turn into anti-social potatoes. I’ve heard too many complain about how slow the wifi is or how poor the wifi is which annoys me. I feel the western world needs a digital detox and to start by literally putting down any smartphones or devices.

Finally, I struggle with backpackers who make sweeping statements as though what they are saying is fact. I’ve had some talk about a certain culture say Chinese and then  pass judgement on behaviour they have witnessed. Even if they have met 100 Chinese backpackers, this does not constitute all Chinese people. For example, all Indian people do not go searching for a bargain. I know some who do but it is not all Indian people. I’ve yet to understand how one’s first hand experience or encounter translates into fact or gospel. I had this some discussion when I was in Australia and I counselled and supported Aboriginal women. Now, of course, we are all entitled to our own opinions and views however, we also need to be respectful of others and their views. One backpacker took it upon himself to categorise and judge all aboriginal people based on the day to day encounters he had experienced whilst working in a sports store. He must have met a fraction of the total aboriginal population which, does not give any indication of how aboriginal people live elsewhere. On the whole, backpackers I’ve met are open minded and understanding but such discussions made me think otherwise for some backpackers.

I feel while there are amazing backpackers who travel and explore the world and whom I will be fortunate to meet, there are also backpackers who are less considerate. I’ve come to realise, after three and a half years of travel that not all backpackers are social, friendly, trust worthy, open minded or understanding.  Some are selfish, self-centred, narrow minded and inconsiderate. I don’t let these unpleasant experiences put me off and they certainly won’t stop me from staying in a hostel. I am just more aware and understand that it is not a given I will meet great people each time. That said, when I do, I truly value and appreciate it.