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Saturday, November 20, 2010

News Flash: We are Not Backpackers!

I know I know, you're all shocked. You thought we were backpackers and it turns out that we're just regular yuppies who quit our jobs to not really backpack around the world.

Part of my trouble on this trip was definitely trying to figure out what exactly we were supposed to *do*. Yann kept telling me that we were supposed to be "traveling the world," "learning about other cultures," and other vague and nondescript sorts of things. Does that mean that we're supposed to sightsee all day, every day? I hope not, because that gets really exhausting. But since we don't have jobs and we aren't freelance writers, how are we supposed to fill our time?

We're sort of a weird genre of traveler, too. Most people we meet are either much younger or much older. We meet a lot of twenty-two-year-old Australians taking a year off and moving from grubby hostel to grubby hostel. We also meet a lot of retirees who are "so inspired" by us. But we don't really have much in common with either. And to be honest, I always sort of figured we'd morph into the former category.

It just never really worked out. We have not stayed in one single hostel. We almost did in Cape Town, but in the end, it was kind of expensive. And for an extra $30/night, we could have our own apartment with its own kitchen, not have to share a bathroom, not be kept up all night with partying twenty-two-year-olds.... We figured the lower cost of cooking our own food alone justified the cost.

Maybe that was part of it, too. We weren't on our year off trying to stretch our graduation money as far as it would go. We'd budgeted for this trip and when it came down to financial decisions, we were usually willing to spend just a little bit more money in order to be more comfortable. And if we ran out of money, we'd just cut the trip short. Sleeping in a twin bed in a dorm room with five other people and sharing a bathroom just seemed so far out of the realm of possibilities for us.

I found it really frustrating that we never could seem to get into the whole "backpackers" thing. And what did they *do* all day? We always felt like we needed to justify our existence--have something to blog about and let everyone back home know that we didn't take a year off to do nothing.

Yann finally explained it to me in a way that made sense. Basically, they just sort of "hung out". I looked at him blankly. He said, "don't you remember college? How you lived in a dorm and shared a bathroom with a whole floor of people and whenever you weren't in class, you just hung out, doing nothing?"

Right! I do remember that. I definitely did a *lot* of nothing! And I started looking around. There was one guy from Cranbrook, AB who sat in the restaurant where we had breakfast all day long--chain-smoking and waiting for people to show up so he could chitchat. There were people who sat on the beach for ten-hour stretches playing their guitars, braiding each others hair, and chilling with the stray dogs.

Okay, well I didn't feel that bad anymore. I'm glad I've moved on from being able to waste such unbelievable amounts of time. And even if we are able to relax far more than when we were at home and needed to feel productive at all times (even if we were productively socializing), we didn't need to relax *that* much. We're 32 and 34, not 22! And once you have had a real job and paid your own bills, it's kind of hard to go back to just "hanging out".

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