picture credit: Flickr/niallkennedy
I stumbled upon a list of the most popular travel sites in the world and ended up reading this post from Nomadic Matt, rated as number one: apparently, he is not “nomadic” anymore, as he has settled down in New York City. Crawling back to the other links embedded in the post, I gained a better understanding of Matt’s end as a perennial backpacker: he doesn’t feel like doing it anymore by himself. He feels alone. He says that “Africa made it clear that it’s time to move on to a new chapter of my life. I couldn’t hold onto the past any longer. What I want from my life now doesn’t involve any more late nights on the backpacker trail.”
Well… I have to be honest and I may lose some friends here: I have never been a big fan of Matt. For sure, he may teach to many how to manage a web travel business and life on the road, but I remember having read an interview a few years ago, where he claimed he did not want to visit China and he preferred Thailand, and this somehow stuck with me. I had been living in China for one year at the time, and I kind of felt that statement as truly out of step with MY world. Like, me and Matt were walking completely opposite directions, and not because of my love/hate relationship with China, but for the way we both look at the world. Thus I didn’t bother about following Matt’s ongoing travels up to earlier today, when I randomly bumped into his confession. But for sure, I can support his ultimate decision to leave the backpacker trail behind, in search for something more enlightening.
I had a quick glance through his blog, and I realized that he may still be in his 20s. This may explain quite a few of his choices. Personally, I have never enjoyed any “late nights on the backpacker trail” even when at 15 I went alone to Switzerland to march for world peace. I would get extremely irritated if I found some doped out person blabbering gibberish around me, and I would scream if I realized that people were having sex in the dorm we were sharing: I applied the same philosophy around the punk scenes and squats I dwelled all around the Western – and currently, the Asian – world. And believe me: they may stink more than a hostel’s unwashed toilet, and make the “backpacker life” look like a sorority girl’s weekend – one of the good girls, mind you!!.
Anyhow, I progressively abandoned the hostel scene after a few months on the road as I felt it was extremely pre-packaged and dull to me. I was trying to varying effects to connect with the locals and the lunatics I found along my way, as much as I could. Couchsurfing was helpful. Knocking on doors was random and fun, at times just stupid. But it gave me a way out of the backpacker world, and one way into my own. And do not tell me this is biased and I am bragging: I did spend of course some time along the trail, otherwise I could not choose for myself where I want to stand. I occasionally bump into it again, but I am not very excited. And I am far from drawing lines or chasing stereotypes here: good folks are everywhere… even at the hostels, eheheh…
But when I found a partner in Malaysia, everything changed: things that looked alien, different, incomprehensible to me before, started to open up and make sense. I do not feel any sort of attraction for hostels and backpackers at all anymore. I honestly do not even bother with the taxonomy, in the first place, anymore. The local made me rethink my relations with my own similar people. It really just seemed alien to me, to be interested in never-ending parties: I like to go a bit deeper, make sense of what’s going on behind me, above me, beyond me… If this is the reason why Matt has stopped traveling, well… I guess it’s for his best. I am confident he will find a renewed push to make his travels more rewarding, like everyone else who, after a long sting on the road, is experiencing his same kind of blues. What do you think??
MARCO FERRARESE explored 50 countries and lives in Penang, Malaysia since 2009. He is currently a PhD candidate at Monash University’s Sunway Campus, Kuala Lumpur, researching the anthropology of punk rock and heavy metal in Southeast Asia. Besides his academic endeavors, he blogs about overland Asian travel and extreme music in Asia at www.monkeyrockworld.com