Waking up in the bottom bunk of a building that faced the chic Barceloneta district was an awkward juxtaposition. Realising that just meters from my lumpy pillow were an array of quaint terrace BNB’s and luxury hotels and yet my reality couldn’t have been further away.
Not to say I didn’t realise what I was getting myself into having intentionally booking the 10 person dorm, but it certainly wasn’t as glamorous as I’d had my facebook friends believe.
The bunk opposite me was an exhausted heap of metal; bruised by suitcases and scarred from flag-clad backpacks that had been shoved this way and that to escape the narrow walkway.
The couple lying together on the top bunk did their absolute worst effort to keep their canoodling to a minimum and the guy lying on the bunk below looked at me with nonchalant despair as if to suggest he was fine with the lack of sleep, but was actually downright PO’d. At least he can brag to his next group of friends how cheap it was for a ‘live sex show and bunk’ combo deal.
This wasn’t my first experience feeling like I was probably no longer a backpacker and certainly wouldn’t be the last. A week later in Bali I found myself trying desperately to get involved, to do shots and jump off things and sleep in basic huts… but something didn’t feel right.
Two years later walking around the pool of a hostel in Santa Marta, Colombia assured me that I was indeed alone and didn’t fit in, in the slightest. It’s not that everyone was so young; it was that they were so relaxed at being there. I had been travelling for a month already, so why was I so uncomfortable?
It wasn’t until I returned home from travelling through the north west of South America that it finally hit me. I don’t feel comfortable because I was too busy feeling dirty, annoyed and exhausted.
If you’ve served your years as a backpacker (mine was a nine year sentence!) there comes a time when enough is enough. You’ve been working hard for your money and you deserve the break you’ve been telling everyone about.
It didn’t hit me all at once of course, it came gradually, but after the last few trips abroad I realised a common thread of things that made me realise that I’m no longer a backpacker:
- In no way am I interested in partying every night. I am perfectly happy going to bed at 9pm on any given night, even Saturday’s.
- Filthy communal kitchens are not okay. Please clean that pot laden with 2 minute noodle residue yourself, K thanks bye!
- Yes, I have pre-booked my next few days of activities and I don’t care about your ‘non-plan’ cool guy.
- I value a hot shower far higher than what is normally tolerated.
- Having the same conversations with travellers who are touring the world on $1 a day. Sorry! I’m not inspired. I spent twenty dollars on this Pisco Sour and it is worth every sip.
- I have a glorious three weeks in this country/city/beach town and no, I don’t intend to see everything possible in it!
- Wearing thongs in the shower should only be a necessity if you’re room’s outdoor shower isn’t directly connected to your room. Literally no other reason.
It’s no surprise these realisations lead me to a different style of travel. Slowing down and travelling at my own pace brought with it a new wave of ‘flash-packer’ mentality. The type of person who isn’t obnoxious, but carefully thought out.
The type who will pay for a day tour and tip the guide, who will use uber or opt to fly domestic as opposed to an overnight bus, the type who will pay for an AirBnb and stay put for a week because the idea of fitting in three cities in seven days sounds horrendous.
My next trip to Sri Lanka will be much more in tune with my new fondness for flash packing. I’ve already hired a guide (3 months out) to learn more about Ceylon tea, I actually googled “boutique BNB’s in Sri Lanka” and I’m planning on spending at least a day to simply ‘get over the long flight’ Who am I? I love this new me!
It should be stated, despite what I’ll have you believe, it’s not goodbye to the hostel world, I have no doubt I will stay in one again…but it will most likely be on the top floor, in a private room, furthest from the bar and adjoining dorm room.
And if you see me there, come and join me! We can share a bottle of the nice wine together. It’s extremely comforting to know there are others out there just like me. So fess up, don’t be shy, you might be a flash packer too!
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Hey! In case you missed it, I recently wrote an article about how to maximise your annual leave in 2019 for Mamamia. If you’re needing to test out your flash-packer skills, best to lock in the leave now 😉