Stereotypes you’ll inevitably encounter while travelling
By Cranky Camper
Let’s face it, we all think of ourselves as inherently idiosyncratic individuals. And of course one of the joys of travelling is meeting people that intrinsically deviate from our own seemingly conventional lifestyles.
However, after meeting an abundance of these superficially quirky, and characteristically unconventional individuals, one can’t help but begin to notice some trends amongst these self-styled outliers.
Here’s a list of some of the stereotypes you will meet on the road and tips to deal with them.
The too-cool-for-school guy
We all know the type. Been there, done that. The quintessential one-upper. He never ceases to find a way to regale you with tales of off-the-beaten-track locales. Places where no one other than him/her have apparently been (move over Captain Kirk). No matter what you’re talking about he will find a way to relate it to that time he single-handedly saved a baby chimp from a forest fire in an unchartered region in Borneo. But, you know (well-practiced shoulder shrug, feigning modesty). No biggie.
One gets the sneaking suspicion these guys aren’t as interested in really experiencing the places they are visiting so much as they are in crafting their own legends. Travel tales regarding exotic locales, cultures and peoples seem to revolve almost entirely around themselves. My advice: take everything with a pinch of salt. Don’t feel intimated that you’re not doing all of these seemingly amazing things, or that your adventures feel bland by comparison. In the end, travel should be a journey of personal discovery. If you’re only after bragging rights you’re probably missing the point.
The guy you wish you were
A very typical down-to-earth guy. You’ll be having a very ordinary conversation about curtains, and in a totally non-descript fashion he will mention offhand how his blinds were chosen to match the Persian-style carpet he was given as a gift by the mujahedeen after the fall of Kabul when he was trapped in a cave with them for three months, before quickly moving on to his wife’s tastes in ethnic decorations. You wonder if the color scheme would be a good inspiration and wait… WHAT?!
As your brain begins to process this recent transcript, he has already moved on to which main course looks better – the chicken or the fish. Only when pressed will this guy reveal that at the age of 20 he had undertaken a solo walking trip along the ancient silk road with no money and long before TV-adventurers popularized such excursions. He says it with what seems casual indifference. You are struck by awe and inspiration, and other feelings too. Here is a guy who has accomplished amazing feats, and moreover exercises genuine modesty. Bastard. You are more than a little bit jealous and begin to wonder how you can ever be this awesome. UGH. My advice – Soak up whatever you can from this guy. Knowledge, humility and courage are traits we should all seek to emulate.
The outdated hippie guy
Well-worn sandals, long shaggy hair, baggy clothes and a constant smell of hash about his person, this out-of-time hippie is determined to relive the glory days of tie-dyed t-shirts, bell bottom blues, and Woodstock-style grooves. Possessing by far the greatest soundtrack in his travels, the hippie makes his pilgrimage along the alternative destinations and classic hippie stops, spreading peace and love throughout the land. Always intermingling with the locals, they have great stories to tell of that time they got high in Kashmir, or that time they got high in Karachi, or that time they got high in Goa, and ‘oh mantheWEEDin Goa’.
These guys are amongst the best folk to hitchhike with, possessing not a bad bone in their body. Their glossy red eyes contain no malice and they are genuinely happy to meet you. Just sit back, enjoy the rocking tunes, and be transported to that long forgotten time of chilling vibes and peaceful rhetoric, with a guy who looks suspiciously like Jesus if you look at him sideways.
The would-be Guru
Possessing many overlapping characteristics of the aforementioned characters, the would-be guru can come in a variety of forms. They may be a self-styled spiritualist dispensing fortune-cookie stock phrase wisdom gleaned at their most recent ashram excursion, and looking expectantly at you for that sign that they have just blown your mind. This brand of guru are often ‘super-alternative’ types, closely related to the western hipster. Do they imagine when people meet them, they say to themselves ‘oh wow, ethnic knock-off silver jewellery, dreadlocks, and hastily-written Sanskrit tattoos (oh, it means “courage”), gives you such character!!’? They don’t. Nuff said.
Alternatively, they may be the far more common self-appointed bastion of knowledge that seem to permeate hostels worldwide, and who just can’t wait to give you lengthy lists of do’s and don’ts, where you should and shouldn’t go, and the helpful condescension of ‘oh, well that’s where all the tourists go’. ‘Actually, I just asked where the bathroom was mate.
Of course, when they went anywhere, it was off-season, or before it was discovered by tourists, so of course it’s not as cool now as it was for them. But if you must insist on going there, you should stay here, do this, go there. They will magically have always been there when it was the greatest time to go. With luck like that, these guys should buy a lottery ticket.
The obnoxious roommate
Hostel dorms force a group of strangers into close quarters, where they must stay together, socialize and bond. This requires social cohesion, and facilitates the quick and easy friendships that typify travelling. It also requires a certain understanding of social etiquette. It can therefore come as quite a shock when a clattering, bumbling Neanderthal, who presumably has just arrived from the stone-age, arrives in blind-drunk at 4am, turning on all the lights, and laughing at just how wasted he is, before collapsing into bed (maybe yours) and snoring with such an intensity that I’m pretty sure it just registered on the Richter scale.
The next morning they hog the kitchen or bathroom, and commence another round of loud drinking in the common room. It’s ok – who needs sleep anyway?
The lessons learnt
Many more stereotypes exist. The guy on a booze-cruise, the international stereotypes that you weren’t sure were actually real or accurate, until you witness them embodied. In summary, always try to find your own path and don’t be intimated by people intent on making you feel like a ‘tourist’ (apparently a dirty word) instead of some conceptually pure ‘traveller’. Don’t take yourself so seriously, and don’t cloak yourself in these stereotypes to hide a lack of actual genuine character.
Right, wee rant over. I’m away to the nearest Irish bar for a pint of Guinness. Maybe have a potato stew for dinner. God I can’t wait for a drink.