Backpacking, a golden era?
I recently read a blog post written by a friend, Charlie Clarke, reminiscing about a backpacking trip 25 years on. South America was, at the time, quite the risky place but Charlie and his gang laughed in the face of fear. Much of Charlie's piece reminded me entirely of my travels at about the same time.
For me, my experiences hitchhiking through Chile led directly to my setting up Pura Aventura. Many of the adventures, people and pickles I still draw on today. The most important and influential of these experiences were the most challenging at the time - either physically dangerous or emotionally tough.
If I had been able to pick up a phone and hear a familiar voice, I would have done. If I could have had the instant gratification of email, or Facebook, I would have grabbed at it. But they didn't exist, so I had to make do and in doing so, proved to myself that I was strong and resilient and resourceful.
So how do travels today compare? I'm not talking about the mad explorer types who disappear off the grid to get their kicks. I'm talking about people like me. Middle class kids taking a 'gap-yah'. Do they ever get to put themselves in situations which require them to test their mettle in the same way? If they don't, how will they find out how amazing they can be?
Was mine a golden era of budget travel? Did the risks we took then make us better people now or were we just really selfish? Did we trample the world leaving nowhere new for this generation of backpackers to 'discover'? Does it actually matter if backpackers nowadays are never out of touch?
It's quite possible that the 'kids' out there travelling today are every bit as adept at disappearing as we were and that I'm tending towards huge assumptions about their lives.
What do you think?