I’m no angel. Hell, I don’t even come close. I’ve done my fair share of partying all over the world. But, today I saw the new Matador book that was released “101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die” and it made me think about the stereotypes of backpackers and travelers.
I’ve written for Matador. I have friends who have been editors there. I love the site and most of the articles, but the idea behind this book struck a chord with me.
“101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die is the only travel guide that could possibly help adventure seekers and world-trekking party-goers take their experience to a whole new high (or low). So, raise a glass, hop a flight, and join 101 Places’ professional party-crashers as they breach security, ride ill-recommended ferries, and hike miles into the wilderness all in search of the best parties in the world.”
Encouraging breaching security? Putting lives in jeopardy? Hiking into the wilderness to a party (which makes me think of all of the environmental damage something like that does)?
What kind of message is being sent to travelers? What kind of message is being sent to locals who often welcome visitors with open arms?
As I have grown and traveled, I have seen a lot of things. Beautiful things. Gorgeous places. And then, there is the dirty, sleazy side of travel.
Drunken fights. Sloppy hookups. Pissed pants. Vomit-covered shirts. ODs. Obnoxious, arrogant behavior that is disrespectful to the places being visited.
Living in Chiang Mai, I am witness to grotesque displays of partying. Partying that would humiliate the people guilty … if they could remember it. I’ve seen bottle breaks, abuse, falling-over-drunk people who think nothing of it. Let me say this: it gives the entire lot of backpackers a horrific stereotype. It furthers the idea that we are only interested in getting wasted. That we all are irresponsible. And, that really bothers me.
During my long-term travels, I cannot count how many times I was ashamed to be associated with other people who had no idea what was considerate, no idea what was appropriate. People who were all-out dicks.
I have not read the book, so I cannot comment on its innards, and I am sure the writing is spectacular, but the title alone suggests to me that the sole idea of traveling to far off places isn’t to see but to be so drunk, so drugged, that the days are spent laying in bed with an all-mighty hangover.
Like I stated, I’m no angel. I’ve done St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. I’ve explored the nightlife in Budapest. I’ve hung in the coffee shops in Amsterdam. But, my goal in visiting these places wasn’t to get crunked, it was because I wanted to experience the cities. Sure, some of that comes with a party … but not all of it. I don’t encourage people to go and explore the world with the goal of partying their asses off.
Yes, I encourage living. Yes, I encourage experiencing. But, I don’t cheer people on to drop that tab of acid at a Full Moon Party or drink the “exotic” cocktails on Koh Phi Phi (where, coincidentally, two girls were getting f*cked up and later died because of it). I don’t condone being so intoxicated you wake up on a street somewhere, stripped of your belongings, because, hey, if you are that hammered, there is always a chance of that.
Don’t get me wrong — I am not slamming Matador — but it makes me wonder: does a book like this perpetuate the idea that backpackers are irresponsible travelers? Partiers who take in a city based on shots and nightlife instead of visiting a place for all of the other things it has to offer? Does it do more harm than good to suggest that the way to see a place is through beer goggles?