Friday, May 17, 2013

back·pack /bækˌpæk/ [bak-pak]

Today as I was making my way across town to interview for a nanny job (yes, the job hunt has begun!) I was approached by a middle-aged Australian man, apparently sensing that I was from out of town. He asked me if I needed help with directions or wanted the name of a good hostel here in Melbourne. I told him thanks but I knew where I was heading and didn't need any hostel recommendations because I'm moving into a house (true story, but more on that later).

He then said something I found very strange:

"Oh, so you're not a backpacker then."

I was a bit taken aback by his comment but told him that I do in fact travel with a backpack. He responded with "ahh, but that doesn't make you a backpacker."

I guess it was a combination of the fact that I've swapped my SE Asia look for something more respectable looking (I doubt anyone would hire me wearing multi-colored baggy trousers and flip flops) and I'm moving into a (very old and run down) house, but for whatever reason this man did not seem to think I fit into the backpacker category. It made me wonder: if it's not someone who travels with a backpack, what is a backpacker? 

So I asked him. His response?

"Somebody who stays in hostels, constantly moves about, does things on the cheap and hangs out with other backpackers."

Hm. This confused me, because

I stay in hostels



I move about (27 countries in 23 years to be exact)




I (generally) do things on the cheap

$1 noodle bowl, Vietnam

and I certainly hang out with other backpackers.

Out for a bday dinner in Vietnam

Shotgunning beers in Thailand

It's not that I was offended by this man and I'm not trying to prove to him (or anyone for that matter) that I'm a backpacker, although I consider myself one. But according to his definition, don't I qualify? And if I don't, what defines a backpacker?


Romich said...

Unfortunately (or fortunately) the most commonly accepted definition has nothing to do with travel :)

I think this is the key-
Typically they are driven by a sense of adventure, and as such are always trying to find somewhere beautiful, completely off the beaten track....backpackers typically consider travel a separate, more serious engagement, all about broadening the mind, experiencing other cultures and trying to satisfy what is often a deep-seated and more often than not insatiable wanderlust.

Wondering and Wandering said...

Romich - Love your definition! I agree, a sense of adventure is key. Thanks for reading!