So it’s open season on backpackers – you’ve got your guidebooks and cheap banana pancakes as bait, so where do you find those gregarious yet aloof creatures?
1. Thailand and Laos
It’s just so easy to be a backpacker in Thailand. Everything is cheap, everything is available. You want drink beer, you want banana pancake, you want Thai massage, you want see tribe hill people, you want rent beach chalet, you want DVD, you want bungee jump, you want lady boy?
Backpackers love coming to Australia because everyone speaks English. The culture is easy to understand and varies so little that you can get on a plane for 6 hours to the other side of the continent and almost nothing changes.
Whilst the nature and beaches are awesome, the backpacker industry leeches travelers for all they’re worth and you may have to slave away fruit picking just to cover your beers.
3. Amsterdam, Holland
Yes, you really can walk into a café in Amsterdam and smoke marijuana. For many that’s reason enough to jump on a plane and get stoned abroad and the locals have to put up with all the out of it travelers stumbling around having overdone things a little.
It doesn’t help that this cute little city is in the shape of a horse shoe and so you can end up walking in circles all day.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague and the Czech Republic are important stops on the Eurorail trail, where European and American backpackers in pairs and trios dare to venture behind the old Iron Curtain. The beer is cheap, the architecture is impressive and the most dangerous feature are the English stag parties come to enjoy the cheap strip clubs.
There are so many backpackers and tourists in summer though that many locals literally have to move out.
The Nicaraguans fought in the 80’s for the right to govern themselves and though they eventually lost out to the American-backed forces of the old regime, they little understood that the eventual invasion would be by foreign investors and backpackers.
Now that Costa Rica is becoming pricey and over developed, the backpackers are taking over Nicaragua, demanding cheap hostel beds and jazz bars.
It’s not so bad, really, just you know that large scale development will be on their tail. At least the impoverished Nicaraguans get a chance to make a buck in the meanwhile.
Morocco is a favourite of hashish connoisseurs who come from all over Europe to get stoned in the Rif Mountains. Of course, a gentle dope stupor is about the only way you can realistically deal with the Moroccan hustlers who relentlessly hound you into going on a tour or buying a carpet.
India is one of the most challenging places to travel in the world but it’s also one of the cheapest which appeals to the ever budget-conscious backpacker.
Bright young faces arrive with all kinds of notions of exploring the culture and getting to know the locals – 6 months and a few hundred chillums later they’ll be lucky if they even resemble the photo in their passport. If they haven’t thrown it in the river already to take up a new life as a stoned pilgrim.
Greece is a very seasonal affair and the entire nation heaves a sigh of relief every winter as they get a break from all the culture vultures and sun worshippers that indundate the country every summer.
There are hundreds of islands to choose from though and even in places like Crete there are nudist beaches where liberal backpackers can go and live for a few weeks. There’s also plenty of casual bar work and in resorts but then you have to deal with lobster-faced English and Germans asking about karaoke night.
Nepal is altogether a lot easier to digest than India as the Nepalese are a good deal more standoffish and it’s easier for backpackers to fly in and wander around looking at temples without being hassled. Whole parts of Kathmandu are given over to travelers who want to come and shop in the third world.
Not to mention the amazing treks in the Himalayas where you can be sure of a comfy guesthouse at the end of a day’s walk and if you get lost you have only to follow the trails of Snickers’ wrappers left by the last white faces.
Now that Mexico has become a little more expensive for backpackers, Guatemala is a popular alternative and many take the noble step of actually learning the language in the many Spanish schools in the north of the country and Antigua.
After that they’re free to hang out by lakes, jungles and Mayan ruins, discussing Mayan astrology and whether they’re Red Earth Firefoxes or White Intergalactic Masturbators..