Hike, bike, bus, taxi, train, move, stop, crash, mingle, talk, see, do, learn. This is the lifestyle of a world backpacker.
Backpacking is a unique culture all its own. The party backpacker and the culture backpacker are different animals indeed, but by no means are they mutually exclusive. Regardless of your purpose for backpacking, good conversations and a sharing of perspectives is to be had whether it’s over a homemade Vietnamese meal or over a table of beers next to the pool at the hostel.
Typically, your standards for hygiene, sleep, and behavior drop significantly. It’s part of the culture. If this is the sixth time I’ve worn this shirt without washing, it’s ok, I’ll scrub it the next time I shower. If I’m exhausted but a new group of makeshift friends want to check out Bangkok’s nightlife, then I grab a coffee, suck in my second wind, and hit the town. If a fellow backpacker stumbles in drunk at 4 in the morning and wakes up the entire hostel, I’m inclined to forgive them because hey, they could show me the best bars on the block tomorrow.
99% of backpackers I’ve met have a similar mentality. Everyone from Brazil to Australia shares the mindset I like to call, “chill.” “Chill” means social, gregarious, accepting, open to new ideas and experiences. It means being someone who will have no problem being your bud if only for an afternoon.
I’ve scoured the temples of Wat Pho with Canadians in search of the reclining Buddha. I’ve climbed the crumbling towers of Angkor Wat with Australians. I’ve stood on the rock precipice overlooking the jungles of Bokor National Park with Swedes and Austrians. I’ve tasted the finest cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City with Irish and English alike. Brazilians, Norwegians, Germans, Russians, and Chinese have shared laughs with us over cultural stereotypes and government conflicts. The common denominator between everyone is their willingness to learn about not only the culture, but each other.
Be open and you’ll always have a friend to go sight seeing with you. Be friendly and you’ll always have a group to share drinks with. Be patient and you’ll learn not only about the culture you’re visiting but also about the culture that’s visiting you.