I met Sam in the hostel bar in Vienna, Austria. At this point he’d been travelling for 4 years with no end in sight, he hasn’t shaved in about 12 months, cut his hair in over 2 years and frequently uses the words: ‘Let it be man..’ even in moments of conversation where they literally make absolutely no sense at all. For example, it was my turn to buy a round and when I asked him if he wanted another beer, his reply was simply, ’let it be man, i’m powerful right now…’ before he looked away and turned his attention back to the TV. I’m actually never 100% sure at any given time exactly what the hell he’s on about.. which is kind of what makes him interesting.. Sam’s what I call a ‘Homeless Wanderer’ and he falls slap-bang into the second category below.
Tourists come in all shapes and sizes from the more interesting people like Sam, all the way through to the stereotypical Hawaiian shirt wearing vacationer, complete with 2.1 overweight kids and the SLR camera he can’t use (yes these people do exist). Still, spend any serious amount of time abroad and you do end up rubbing shoulders with all sorts of people, some you may like and others.. not so much… either way; many of the tourists you’ll encounter will at least be memorable.. and isn’t that kind of the point?
Tourist Observations: The Most Common Stereotypes
The Party Animals
Not everybody goes overseas to experience new cultures, try new things and to see the world. Many tourists seem to travel the world in order to spend their time either drunk or so hungover that the very idea of culture becomes only a slightly better option than dying. I spent about a week in Venice recently and due to the extortionate prices of hotels on the island I spent my rack-time in a ‘youth orientated’ camp site on the mainland. Don’t get me wrong I love a drink as much as the next Australian but the fact that about half the people at the campsite wouldn’t end up seeing Venice even once, blew my mind… meet the party animals, party animals meet normal sane people. Fun or annoying depending on your outlook, these cats spend more time in the hostel bar (or under it) than in their beds, often fun in small doses Party Animals rule the night, lament the days and generally are just out to have good time..
The Homeless Wanderers
You know the guys i’m talking about.. like Sam, they always have beards, seldom wear shirts and only occasionally stoop to wearing shoes, they love fisherman’s pants, wearing Crocs and hang out quite a lot on beaches in Thailand… Let’s think of them as the hippies of the travel world. Often very nice people if you give their ragged demeanor a chance; they seem to travel the world long term with basically no money, moving from place to place at a whim, dirty pack complete with bedroll swinging from their backs and a constant sense of adventure firmly top of mind. Not the cleanest of buddies yet in my experience their stories more than make up for the occasional waft of ‘wet dog’..
The Classic Vacationers
The classic image of the fat tourist with the Hawaiian shirt, ice cream and camera he can’t use comes to mind (albeit that fashion does come and go). Often painfully ignoring the subtleties of the culture he’s tried so hard to surround himself with he wanders from tourist site to tourist site, taking photo’s, buying overpriced souvenirs and generally having the time of his life. These fascinating creatures often travel in groups, benefiting from a herd mentality not unlike large pack animals… Ok so this is a complete stereotype and I think i’m perhaps being overly critical since normally our favorite stereotypical middle aged tourist isn’t quite this bad but versions of these people do exist and they really, really seem to love Paris.
Somewhere between pulling the bong hand symbol and yelling ‘Right on, ladies!’ at the nearest group of attractive women these people travel the world for a taste of the extreme. Be it mountaineering in Alaska, bungee jumping in New Zealand or white water rafting on the Zambezi these fellows are there to experience the most thrilling journey possible. Favorite hair styles include Mohawks, Afros or the bohemian long haired ‘Jesus look’, now also common among hipsters in New York, your everyday thrill-seeker will wander the earth in search of excitement in any shape, form or colour. These guys seem to get on really well with the ‘Party Animals’ and are either really irritating or really fun to hang out with, depending on your ability to put up with someone in your group constantly giving you hi-fives..
The Heart Broken Hobo’s
Ask a random selection of 10 people who’ve just dropped everything back home to travel the world and at least 50% of them seem to have just left a long term relationship… Long term travel seems to go hand in hand (or not.. anymore), with the ending of a relationship becoming the beginning of a new adventure. Well fair enough, I can’t really fault the logic behind the motivation and I’ve met some great ‘heart broken hobo’s’ (as they’re sometimes affectionately referred to) in my time. Your average heart broken hobo is also great fun to party with but in the downtime of the inevitable post party hangover the echos of the recent past understandably tend to polarize their moods somewhat. Still more often than not, these guys are awesome to spend time with and are just looking for a good time..
The Tour Bus Bandwagon
Herds of wild tourists haunt the vicinity of major land marks all round the globe, characterised by their pack mentality, handy neck secured translators and eager tour guide leading the charge, usually holding an umbrella… I really can’t criticize them too much though as we’ve all been there at some point right? Occasionally a tour bus is the best way to see an area yet I can’t but help feel a little annoyed (and occasionally scarred) when I turn down a small alleyway only to be more or less physically assaulted by a stampeding horde of umbrella led pensioners, rampaging slowly but steadily towards their luxury tour bus… Or maybe i’m just jealous that I had to take 3 local buses, a homeless man and 2 trains to get here and they listened to Elvis and played bingo all the way instead…