Am I An Anti-Social Backpacker?

Lots of people have told me that traveling is so much better with someone else because you can share your memories with them. Huh? I don’t get it.

If a hostel has a bar, is in Lonely Planet, or has the word “party” anywhere in its advertisements, I will avoid it like the plague. Why? Because I am an introverted traveler.

Wellington, New Zealand mountain beach
on the edge of the world

Everyone’s style of traveling differs. As a long-term traveler, I think I have different interests and goals than many, as this is not my vacation but my lifestyle. In my mind, lots of backpackers morph into the same person. It seems that they’re traveling to get a tour of the world’s bars and a few sites, buy lots of souvenirs, and only meet other travelers. In fact, so many backpackers seem to be about nothing at all. I get tired of having the same conversations over and over. I find small talk to be tiring, irritating, and not worth the breath.

I also think that traveling has made me more inflexible in some ways. I am attracted to some people like a moth to a flame, and I am able to form deep connections quickly with such people. On the other hand, I fail to think it’s worth the energy to engage in conversation or simple pleasantries with someone who I obviously don’t have a connection with. Maybe some people think I’m unfriendly, stuck up, or a bitch. I don’t care. I know who I am, and the people who know me know who I am, and that’s enough for me.

One of my favorite things about being on the road is that I don’t have to have those boring, day-to-day conversations that come with stability and permanence. How was your day? How was work? What did you do today? What time did you go to bed last night? I believe it is an aspect of my social rebelliousness, reflected most eloquently in this quote by Isabelle Eberhardt:

To have a home, a family, a property or a public function… to be a useful cog in the social machine, all these things seem necessary, even indispensable, to the vast majority of men, including intellectuals, and including even those who think of themselves as wholly liberated.  And yet such things are only a different form of the slavery that comes of contact with others, especially regulated and continued contact.

The truth is, I would rather be alone then spend time with people I couldn’t bond with. Right now, I’m staying in a brand-new hostel in Bogotá, Colombia. I chose to stay here because it just opened this month, and I figured that most other backpackers would be staying in other, more well-known hostels. Last night, I was sharing an 8-bed dorm room with one older guy from Denmark. Perfect. I stayed in the room all night, because I had gotten zero sleep on the crazy night bus from Medellin, and I just wanted to sleep and watch movies on my computer. Tonight, however, just as I was getting ready to settle in for another solitary evening, a group of 4 girls came into the room. MISERY! Ahh, que pena!

Having said that, I do enjoy meeting local people, and it’s always one of my missions while traveling. For me, the people are the country, and if I don’t know the people, I don’t know the country. Am I always able to achieve my ideal? No. However, the times that I do comprise my favorite travel memories. And that’s not to say that I never hang out with other backpackers, because sometimes I do. Every once in a while, I meet a like-minded person or people with whom I can have real, deep, meaningful conversations with, and I feel lucky to have come across them. But the rest? No thanks, I’ll stay alone. Am I an anti-social backpacker? A little bit. But I’m okay with that.

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