Tuesday, October 17

Backpackers. I have spent two weeks absorbed in their culture and I am still conflicted about them and their frugal-travel lifestyle. On one hand, I get it: you want to see the world and this is generally impossible to do without proper budgeting. But on the other hand, you’re a drifter, living out of a teeny bag for months on end, never engaged in any one thing for more than a few weeks.

And since when are hiking boots the everyday shoe? You can get a lot of mileage out of some nice flats or sleek runners, you know.

Anyway. I think I am just too obsessed with being tuned in to ever be a backpacker. Decipher that as you will: I’m superficial; I constantly need to know what’s in and upcoming. I’m a media junkie; I thrive on the weekend Style sections and CBC Radio and online news memes. I need substance; I like my long-term friends and hate chatty “so where have you been?” hostel small talk.

Those conversations are all the same: It's either simple stolen-from-guidebooks visions of cities or over-romanticized and superfluous descriptions. Let’s make generalizations about a society based on our few days there! Let’s talk about the Americanized bars and name drop half-a-dozen youth hostels I don’t care about! Yes, some stories are fun, but usually I am more interested in how these kids can manage to be on the road for half a year or more than to hear about their walking tour of Warsaw.

Backpackers scoffed at Terra and I for spending €25 a night on our private hostel rooms, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I like sleeping in while on holiday and going to bed late—not being influenced by the habits of a half-dozen dorm mates. We were also told that we “didn’t look like backpackers” when heading out to the bar one night. Um, correct: because we are not!

(Too bad they didn’t see our suitcases! Mine gained 15 pounds of mementos over the two week holiday. And as much as I hated lugging it up and down staircases—why our Prague hostel had to be on the third floor I do not know—it only took a glance at other traveler’s soggy backpacks to reconfirm love for my sleek roller bag.)

Yes, short city-hopping travels are fun. Terra and I called the holiday our sampler tour; our flashy introduction to Bohemian Europe. But it made me decide that if I was going to spend months and months in other places I would need to settle on only a few. Build a little niche in a city. Have urban geogrpahy become second nature and learn the language and fall in love with the culture. I always thought I was a transient person, but on this holiday I concluded that I’m really much more of a nester.