By Andrew Tipp
We’re all different. That much is true. But if you’ve spent any time on the backpacker trail, you’ll start to notice certain ‘types’ of traveller in hostels. And if you’ve spent a lot of time backpacking, you might have sorted hostel-ites into your own bespoke categories. I know I have. And here they are.
1. The gap year newbie
I love rookie gappers. They’ve just started out, and they’re so full of enthusiasm they look like they might literally explode with excitement. Sometimes their raw exuberance can annoy the hell out of you. But that’s only because you’ve become a jaded traveller whose mind has been blown so often it’s resistant to the awesomeness of new stuff. Newbie gappers can actually be reinvigorating; feed off their energy!
2. The romantic bunker
To paraphrase Daft Punk, everyone likes being up all night to get lucky. But the romantic bunker shares the love by bringing it into the dorm. Sometimes they hang a towel up to give themselves some privacy, but just hearing the sounds almost make it worse. It’s awkward, for sure. Especially if you’re on the top bunk and can feel the good vibrations. Open plea to all romantic bunkers: get a room! A private room.
3. The backpacker who totally brought way too much stuff
Some travellers turn up at hostels loaded down with everything except the proverbial kitchen sink. Overpacking is definitely a thing, and it’s pretty common. I know I’ve done it. Twice. Why? Well, it can be reassuring to travel with everything you could ever want. But this is usually a mistake. Be sure to check out a good packing list guide before you head off.
4. The guy who basically lives in the hostel
Every so often there’ll be a traveller who rocks up at hostel and never leaves. I met a guy like this once. He’d been at the hostel so long the staff were taking bets on when he was actually going to go. I think they’d stopped charging him months ago. He’d basically spent the whole time becoming the world’s greatest pool player. Seriously, the guy was unbeatable.
5. The martial arts instructor who trained Dolph Lundgren
I met this guy in Chile. He was an Asian-American martial arts instructor from Hollywood. He’d worked with some big names, like Dolph ‘Death from Above’ Lundgren. Not during Lundgren’s 80s career peak, obviously. I’m not sure which martial arts this guy knew. Maybe all of them. I tried to defeat him using the The Crane from Karate Kid. It didn’t work.
6. The traveller who’s always been somewhere better
These are the competitive and self-styled travel pros. The one-upping champions. They’ve always been somewhere that trumps you. Been to a hostel in the clouds? They’ve stayed at one on the moon. They make you feel like you aren’t travelling properly if you don’t visit temples 500 miles from the nearest tourist or aren’t getting invited into a local family’s home for authentic food every night. And if you do find something traditional and amazing, forget it – it’s not as good as it was 10 years ago.
7. The Gap Yah cliché
WTF? Am I really including a horrendous stereotype from a video that went viral three years ago?! I am indeed. Why? Because these people really do exist; idiotic, disrespectful and selfish, most travellers have met an Orlando Charmon. True story: I once interviewed Matt Lacey, who created the character. I was hoping to lay into him for promoting this negative image of gappers, but he was actually pretty cool and likeable.
8. The fatigued end-of-journey backpacker
The fatigued backpacker has seen and done so much they’re almost literally weighed down by the sheer immensity of it all. They simply haven’t got the energy or motivation to see one more thing. They’re so used to seeing awesome stuff they’ve become physically weary from it. They may have also smoked a lot of weed, which admittedly doesn’t help.
9. The hippy vegan eco travel warrior type traveller
These guys can go either way. They might be friendly, interesting and share their alternative lifestyle views in a way that causes you to genuinely rethink the way you live. Or they might be an annoyingly smug and superior right-on bore prone to childishly naive rants against corporations, establishments and systems. Or they might just sit on the floor in long socks, a red dress and sing folk songs with a guitar. Approach with caution, but an open mind.
10. The passport stamp collector
These guys are also known as ‘country crammers’ or ‘destination tickers’. Fair enough, most of us love backpacking as much for the experience of travelling as the places we encounter. The journey is as important as the destination, and all that. But these types take it to the extreme, trying to fit in a new country every other day. If that’s the experience they want, then good luck to them. But you haven’t ‘done’ a country just because the you’ve been to the airport or spent a day in the capital.
11. The hardcore volunteer
Volunteering abroad can be an awesome experience. The travellers I find really inspiring are the hardcore gappers who choose the hardest placements; the ones that venture deep into a jungle to work off the grid. Sometimes these guys can be I’m-saving-the-world types, but usually they’re cool. You can find out more about overseas projects at Original Volunteers.
12. The travel biography bores
Talking to these guys always starts out as a simple, innocent request for recommendations. What follows is their life story: everywhere they’ve been and everything they’ve done. Suddenly you realise, ‘Hey, this guy isn’t trying to recommend cool stuff to see, they’ve just reliving their own adventure and subconsciously reaffirming how amazing their trip has been.’ Some people don’t seem to realise you might want to, you know, discover a place for yourself.
13. The older dude who’s still roughing it
I have total respect for these guys, because I don’t know if I’ll be slumming it in 12-bed dorms in 20 or 30 years. These guys are usually 50-plus and have the money to stay in more comfortable hotels, but instead they’ve shunned the easy life to live on the backpacking front line; they’ve opted for the travelling trenches.
14. The backpacker who looks like a bear but isn’t a bear
Seriously, how hairy is this guy? He was lovely, though. Obviously, he gave great bear hugs.
15. The know-it-all travel writer
We all know the type: the kind of traveller who’s done a bit of backpacking and now thinks they’re an ‘expert’. They’ve got contrarian opinions about all the places you should visit, and when they get home they spend their time writing inane travel blog posts that wind people up. You should probably steer clear of douchebags like this…
Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He spent his gap year volunteering in South Africa with Gap Activity Projects, and he’s worked as a travel editor for advice and community site gapyear.com. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering around the world, and his favourite countries are Bolivia and Sri Lanka. InterRailing Europe, Central America and the Malay Archipelago are currently top of his to-do list.