I met a girl in Sagres who had recently spent a few weeks in the epicentre of the Israli-Palestinian conflict. She only wore hemp clothing, made her own deodorant and spoke with a disjointed accent, even though she was just 3 months out of Melbourne. For the most part, she was fascinating to speak to.
One afternoon, we were swapping travel stories and upcoming plans over drinks. I told her that I was meeting a friend in Croatia to do a Contiki sailing trip. Her eyes rolled so far into the back of her head that I thought she was having an aneurism. She then spent the next 15 minutes berating me about how “this is not real travel” and “commercial tourism is the death of culture”.
This is a sentiment I’ve heard before. I’ve tolerated rants condescending from ‘real backpackers’ about how “millennials and their coach tours are ruining culture” and how “You can get black out drunk at home, why pay so much money to do it over here?”
But there is no right or wrong way to travel, despite what the bearded, pony-tailed, backpacking purists tell you.
I decided I was never going to be the kind of person who judged people by their process of exploration. I was barely 18 when I embarked on my first solo trip. The idea of spending 5 weeks alone, traversing a foreign continent with no grasp of the native languages was equally thrilling and terrifying.
Introverted tendencies aside, travelling solo as a female has a whole milieu of other challenges. Sometimes, jumping on one of those godforsaken coach tours is the safest, most efficient way to see the countries on your bucket list.
Not everyone wants to hitchhike through the Middle East with a harmonica and one pair of shoes. Some people want to drink German beer around a table with hundreds of strangers. Some people want to hike mountains. Some people want to throw themselves around in a mosh pit at a Belgian music festival. Some people just want to drink cocktails on a non-descript beach.
And that’s okay.