The generation of 20-somethings has found the life of travel and with this discovery, one could say, formed a travel generation. This has been achieved as the world has become increasingly smaller and abundantly accessible with today’s wide and comprehensive systems of communication and transportation. Travel is an incredible experience: the opportunity to compare the ‘rules’ and lifestyle of your own culture versus the surrounding new ones; an intense test of one’s strengths and weaknesses and a further test of resourcefulness; a teaching segment that can open your eyes up to a world that can be changed forever through your own eyes.
The travel referred to is not the two week vacation, staying in a five star hotel and relaxing with every desire attended to by helpers (but please don’t get me wrong, this type of travel is fantastic!). It is not an extended golf trip, or a trip to Tahiti to lounge in the sun. But it is the one where the traveler could be eating a bowl of noodles and sipping a long neck beer in a stall on the side of the street. It is the travel where the central markets are visited in the mornings, the plazas might be frequented in the days, and perhaps the local dive bar is touched upon in the nighttime. The travel consisting of getting lost on the public transportation in a city and meeting the helpful locals that lead you to find your way around town, or even take you around town themselves! This travel is more about contact with the people of the respective culture and being exposed to the accompanying differences. When ‘backpacking’ one finds themselves many times in cheaper parts of town – the part of town without ‘The Four Seasons’ but rather with an unimposing hostel close to the action in the streets exposing the daily lives and flair of a location.
The backpacker learns over his budgeted traveling that life can be extravagantly rich while possibly living on less than 5 dollars a day. Travel memories are not highlighted by elegant meals, tranquil poolside experiences, or hotel rooms with private bathrooms, cable television, and HOT water (wow, how at times one would kill for that though!), but through a heartfelt conversation with a local on a crowded seven hour bus ride; with a walk down the streets of a village where the people have virtually nothing but their fullness of life and with this showing their brilliant smiles all day; passing time with a culture who says ‘good luck to you’ as a normal goodbye or ‘enjoy your meal’ in restaurants to strangers and friends alike; driving in an old station wagon with five strangers (who later become friends) and camping out along the road or vacant beach when the sun sets because that is the only light source available; finding a favorite plaza to soak in the life of the town with the young and old conversing around and with you; being delighted to have sheets provided on the bed of a hostel; wondering why you have so many clothes back home when you have been fine with one pair of jeans, a jacket, a few shirts and socks and two pair of shoes for the past eight months.
Travel is a teacher, revealing uncountable lessons in life. Lessons of knowing when and who to trust by being a finer-tuned judge of character. Lessons of relaxing when the immediate environment tells you to do the contrary (i.e. realizing your backpack has just been stolen and you have close to nothing on your person). Lessons of accepting different time-orientations as you wait 20 minutes before the waiter even approaches your table. Lessons of personal comfort zones as they are stretched, shortened and contorted perhaps when, for example, upon ending a friendly conversation with a person of the same sex a kiss is landed on your cheek as the custom denotes. Experiences such as these ultimately result in questioning your culture, testing your personal beliefs and values, and help to show that one way is not necessarily better than another – just plainly different.
The world is getting smaller day by day (though nowadays saying second by second is applying more) and the need for international contact and cooperativeness has obviously been dramatically increasing with our present times. It is clear that the leaders of our respective nations have not fully understood our differing cultures in this world and how to interact among them. I truly wish there had been more backpackers of these older generations.