I am a firm believer that life’s best (and worse) experiences come from when we step out of our comfort zones.
That has always been true for me, and many of those good and bad experiences have come when travelling. I recently worked out that over the past 10 years, 4 have been spent backpacking, so there have been quite a few of both sets of experiences over the years.
The title of this blog is “Sex, Drugs and Booze, the dark side of backpacking” many of those good and bad experiences travelling has involved 1 or more of these things. However, they are in no way the reason I travel. If I was about to set off on a trip and was informed I would be T-totalling all 3, I would still go with the same excitement as before.
While travelling it is almost impossible to not encounter 1st or 2nd hand sex drugs and booze. Some countries even go so far as to advertise themselves as the destination for all 3. Now I don’t have a problem with sex providing it’s between 2 consenting adults and that booze is drunk in moderation. When it comes to drugs, personally I’ve always found alcohol more fulfilling and social that anything else I’ve tried, which is most things (sorry mum) so to an extent I don’t have a problem with social drug use, in moderation and depending on the drug.
Now the point of this article is to look at the growing backpacker culture of getting as wasted as possible and sleeping with anything with a pulse. I’ll share some of my experiences and opinions and leave you all to decide your own.
I’ve been travelling around Asia for the last 6 months, I must say I’ve never come across more drug use anywhere else in my life. Certain areas seem to have their own hard-core drugs, while weed is a universal anywhere you go.
The beaches of Goa are flooded with various psychotropic drugs like Acid and MDMA. I’ve personally avoided these like the plague following stories my father told me about his brother who developed a taste for these, as well as work done at school around the Leah Betts tragedy. The notoriously dodgy beach’s of Goa are perhaps not the best place to be having your first trip! Sadly Goa has been in the news a lot recently highlighting that it isn’t the safest place.
Indonesia and the Philippines surprised me, despite both countries having incredibly strict drug laws (death penalty for dealers and smugglers) I was offered everything from Opium to Viagra.
While travelling in strange and exotic countries I have never understood peoples need to take drugs. Firstly they are unfamiliar with the surroundings or laws surrounding Drug use, but more importantly, they have no idea what the hell they are taking. I’ve met people who have been sold talc as cocaine and herbs as weed, while this is some of the funnier outcomes, imagine if it was rat poison or something worse??
Sex and booze will often go hand in hand while travelling but I’ll try to discuss them both separately.
The age of most backpackers is 18-24 and at 28 I realise I’m in the minority. I realise my drinking interests are maybe not the same as an 18 year old. I like to drink, I like to play drinking games and I like to socialise. I’m not one for raves or clubs. In fairness I never was so I’m perhaps biased here.
While backpacking there is a big drinking culture. Party hostels and party boats etc flood the market offering young people the chance to get as fucked up as possible in the cheapest possible way. Some of these are structured and safe, others not so much.
I recently stayed at the best “party” hostel I’ve ever been at. They organised events, put on drink offers (selling real recognised and safe brands) and at 10 pm they organised for anyone wanting to go out to go out. Leaving the non-drinkers in peace and quiet. It meant there was a place for people to party and a place for people to drink. Perfect.
The nature of backpacking means some people are on long trips, others short. If you’re a party animal on a 2 week trip then, of course, your going to want to drink and be loud every night, however, if someone’s away for 6months, you tend to pick and choose your drinking nights. There truly is nothing worse that wanting a nice quiet night and sharing a room with loud inconsiderate rude drunks.
A case in point here, I was staying in a hostel and had a flight the next morning at 6 am, so an early night it was. At 4 am 2 loud brits walked in and started talking loudly, another girl who was travelling in the morning asked them to keep it down. 1 apologised, 1 went on a rant. “if you wanted to sleep you shouldn’t have stayed in a hostel”
When I got up for my flight the next morning, I packed my bag loudly next to his head. When he awoke and told me to move, I told him “if you wanted to sleep you shouldn’t stay in a hostel” Not only drunks can be assholes!
I’ve also seen people get so smashed they don’t know their own name and then wander off into the night. When they get back to the hostel the next morning with no phone, wallet and a black eye I have little sympathy. No, they weren’t asking for it to happen, however when they put themselves in such a vulnerable position in a dangerous place it’s not surprise they get mugged.
I’ve been on the receiving end of something similar before, drunk walking home and pickpocketed. I didn’t blame the pickpockets, I blamed myself for being a drunken idiot and having a wallet in back pocket.
It boils down to respect, no matter how drunk I get, when I get into my room I’m as quiet as a mouse (or at least try to be) I use my phone as a light and go to bed without a word. Others turn on the main light and sit, swaying on the bed dissecting the night with their friend. Respect.
Finally, we come to sex. Now over my 4 years away I’ve had more than a few liaisons with people. These often tended to be short sharp backpacking flings. An intense few days where a strong bond is formed between 2 people who like each other but realise time is limited as they are going separate ways in a few days. The partings of these relationships are sad but inevitable. Other times they have been longer lasting and some have blossomed into full-blown real relationships. Facebook official and everything!
Following advice from another traveller, I started to use tinder as a way of meeting local people, not for anything sexual but to get to know the culture and city you are in.
When I got to Jakarta I found tinder was how sex tourists find company. I was a little bit shocked. Sex tourism is scarily prevalent, with many people being very open about going away for this reason. I’m torn on this. If the lady’s/guys are consenting and doing it of their free will then great. However all too often that isn’t the case, girls and guys are trafficked and forced into the work and sex tourists keep this happening.
There is also a side of sex tourism that allows people with more perverse fantasy’s the chance to act on urges. Children, animals, violence etc. The frightening thing is, it’s not even very well hidden.
The other side of backpacking and sex has to do with booze. It is not uncommon to meet people in hostels who’s aim for travelling seems to be to get laid as much as possible. Again not a massive issue if people are consenting. Not my thing but crack on.
The issue arises with the tactics some people use while travelling to get laid.
Some travellers seem to think sexual assault is just a law at home. They go around grabbing loads of women and hoping one likes it. The numbers game. If I ask 100 people for a shag 1 may so yes. No thought to the 99 who are pissed off and offended.
I’ve seen guys grabbing boobs on introduction and the girl smiling and giggling while clearly very uncomfortable with the situation. The guys that are grabbing are invariably the larger than life, charismatic attention seekers. The “jocks” or “cool” guys, and I’ve seen girls go on along with it rather than speaking out and seeming “uncool”
The link here again is booze, I’ve seen sober backpackers prowling for the drunkest most vulnerable girl to take home for some fun, at home that’s called rape, however when backpacking it seems to be accepted as a bit of fun.
The misogyny of some backpackers is incredible. Talking loudly about slamming 3 sluts last night, or finger blasting someone on a motorbike. Loudly bragging around the pool, while people look on in amazement at what a dick they are.
It comes back down to respect. Have sex, respect the person you had sex with.
I just get the feeling that when travelling some people seem to leave their maturity, self-respect and respect for others at departures in Heathrow.
Perhaps I’m just getting a bit too old for elements of backpacking, however, I think I’m just lamenting the loss of chivalry in backpacking. The accepted idea that nice guys finish last.