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  1. Backpackers around the world - listen to each other

    posted by Colm Hanratty | 3 Comments

    Backpackers around the world - listen to each other

    Nov162010

    People love to talk about their travels. It's that simple. Ask a colleague or friend for travel advice in the middle of a mundane Tuesday afternoon and they'll burst into life. And backpackers more than any other type of traveller love to pass on tips and stories and advice that they've picked up around the world.

    Over the last 12 months I've travelled quite a lot making city guide videos, podcasts and more for the site. Along the way I've stayed in quite a few hostels, and there's one thing I noticed in each one - a serious amount of backpackers are prone to talking about their travels without listening to others about theirs.

    Ok, picture the scene...you're in the common room in a hostel in, let's say, Prague. Beside you are two guys talking about their travels - John, a 23 year old guy from Melbourne, and Andy, a 26 year old guy from London. You're ear wigging the conversation which goes as follows:

    John: "So where were you before here?" (note here that it is John instigating the conversation, asking Andy about his travels)
    Andy: "Just came from Vienna."
    John: "Ah, Vienna, cool city. Not as good as Berlin though."
    Andy: "Really?"

    And so John continues to talk about his travels, even though he was the one who asked the question in the first place. At some stage during the conversation then Andy will do his utmost to get the ball back in his court, relating any knowledge he has of any of the places John mentions back to him.

    This is the perfect example of a backpacker not being genuinely interested in somebody else's travels. Instead they're asking somebody else about where they've been solely because they want to talk about their own adventures.

    I've heard this conversation countless times in hostels around the world. It maddens me as, essentially, it's a 'battle of the travels' – who's been to the most places and who has the most tips. But the thing is, if backpackers continue to do this nobody will pick up any tips.

    So budget travellers, a word of advice from somebody who thrives on tips from people he meets on the road - next time you get into a conversation with a fellow backpacker in a hostel's kitchen or common room, do yourself a favour...listen! You might pick up a great tip, you might not. But you won’t know unless you hear what they have to say.

  2. 3 Comments so far.

    flyingscot4 said on 13/09/2011 at 2:45pm

    Personally, I prefer hearing about other peoples' experiences. I have never learned anything when I was talking. I'm old enough not to need the approval of others. If I have it, great; if I don't, tough. I have a cell phone, but it is usually "off" because I don't really want to be that available. Also, being a good listener has kept me out of some difficult situations. I have been "hosteling" for 50 years and I love the comments by people of all ages. Generally I search out travelers from the country I'm in at the time and get a great deal of information about the country and what makes "home" special to them. If I am learning from them, I stay in the conversation and if not, I tactfully remove myself from one conversation and look for another. For example, I learned this year about how many, many people in East Europe are very cynical about their government, and believe that the corruption will always be there. I look at Prague and Budapest as road-maps of the future for East Europe, and I am very optimistic. I'm just sorry that I will probably not live long enough to see how it all comes out.

    Yvonne said on 02/09/2011 at 1:13am

    i have a similar grumble about the budget travellers I eventually avoided in Vietnam hostel district. It seemed that they all had a complaint about their room but boasted how little they paid for it and how many beers they could now buy with the savings !!! I guess if you want to drink your way around the globe that's fine but dom't blame someone else for your choice of cheapest beds. Because someone will listen to the complaint and not the compliments.

    Katja said on 01/09/2011 at 7:17pm

    Thanks for having written this. I have noticed it as well and I think it is an effect of the competitive system the world subtly works according to. I have little hope that it's a curable phenomenon but sometimes I guess we should just nod and say: "Yeah, you are indeed the better traveller", because as some of us don't need the praise, some others do - so why not support their pride by telling them that, of course, what they are doing is definitely cool and far better than sitting at home watching TV. Maybe it's not good to turn travelling into a competition, but the same has happened to fashion, music, electronic gadgets, and sometimes even work experience. It's deeply routed in our thinking that we believe we must prove that we are special. Listening has long become a tool of being listened to. It would be interesting to think about ways to avoid such behaviour. As long as we haven't come up with something I would, however, always opt for putting aside our own need of approval and instead acknowledging other travellers' travels. I guess that would be moral, wouldn't it?

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