Backpacking and alcohol.
To me, the two always seem to go hand in hand, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
I’ve traveled through most of my twenties and have found that usually more than anything, tourism companies use alcohol and parties to lure in my age group. But not everyone wants to drink during their trip or at all. Those who are non-drinkers all together or even just for a night might feel left out at a hostel, quite often actually.
I’m going to be completely honest about myself.
I do drink every now and then, but I think when it comes to alcohol in my life, I’m extremely moderate and healthy. After spending time in England, I’ve found that a lot of people would consider me a non-drinker, though I don’t see myself that way.
I was your average freshman in college. I partied every single night, but was over it by sophomore year. I took advantage of the London drink culture when I studied abroad in the city at 20 years old and I’d say I was a pretty average drinker when I backpacked Europe that same year.
As I’ve grown older though, I’ve slowed down my drinking dramatically. It was no big choice either, just the way I developed I guess. I’m 26 years old now and I never drink for the sake of it. I don’t drink when I’m bored. I rarely am bored anyway. I absolutely hate shots and most alcohol for that matter. People who try and force me to chug things or take shots of alcohol, especially tequila, actually piss me off in that moment.
Why does it matter to you if I take a shot? And I promise you I will vomit immediately after. It’s happened a few times.
These days, on average, I’ll drink one night every two weeks, but more on special holidays or when visiting certain locations. Sometimes I’ll drink during the day if it’s really sunny and I’m with people in a park or at a beer garden. I don’t see the point in drinking things I don’t like the taste of. I like getting chatty over a bottle of wine with friends and I’ve faced the facts that when I do drink one glass of wine, 99% of the time I’m finishing the bottle. I love wine, the culture around it and trying different varieties.
This is how I am mainly because I just don’t get the urge to drink often. I also don’t have an off button during the times when I do drink, so there’s no such things as a calm night for me when it comes to drinking. Further, I for one don’t really like the idea of spending the entire following day in bed and running to the toilet every hour too often. I’ll do it for a good night every once in a while, but not often.
I, especially don’t like drinking when I’m traveling, because to me it’s money that I’d rather be spending on activities or even just another day on the road. Plus, while I can give up a day of being hungover in normal life, I refuse to do that in a destination I’ve never been to before and may never visit again.
I feel very much okay with myself on this subject and I have no problem telling people no these days.
That wasn’t always the case though.
In Europe, my first backpacking experience, a night out wasn’t so much a problem for me, because I was 20 and bounced back pretty quick the following day. However, I can remember one instance when it stopped me from doing something spectacular.
Obviously, we don’t have volcanoes in NJ, so you can image how excited I was when I booked a day trip to see Mt. Etna while staying in Taormina, Italy. Booked for my last day in the city, that would be my only chance to see Mt. Etna. However, I made a few friends in Taormina and spent the night prior partying with them as it was my last night. Long story short, I drank too much, overslept, I still haven’t seen Mt. Etna in person and maybe I never will. It was a good night, but I never spoke to those people again and I would have preferred the following day.
I can’t remember if I laid off the booze after that, but I do know that drinking became a serious dilemma for me on my next backpacking trip three years later.
Home to Ayers Rock, one of the world’s oldest rain forests, koalas and kangaroos, yet for some reason most of the brochures and hostels on the east coast of the country plan more around boozing and parties than the country’s beauty.
Australia is a drinking nation and traveling the east coast is so much about boozing. I was doing ‘the best backpacker job in the world’ then, which was actually a nightmare at times for me, because I felt like I had to go out every night and visit every bar to fully describe my experience.
This was not good for me at all at that time of my life.
I’d say I was over heavy drinking before even arriving in Australia, but to add to it, at the start of my visit in to the country I spent a few weeks on a yoga retreat that really made me look at life and how I wanted to live mine differently.
One of the things I noticed most about yoga during my first retreat was that it’s a completely sober lifestyle. This made me realize I wasn’t the yogi I thought I was and never would be, but I took that experience and incorporated it into my life, deciding to only drink rarely from that point on.
A lot of other travelers didn’t understand that. So in Australia I often felt peer pressured, unhappy and isolated. I did end up drinking more than I wanted to and most nights I don’t regret because I had a great time, but at the same time I hated that I was being pushed to do something I didn’t really want to do on MY travels.
Which brings me to my point.
Your travels are your travels, nobody else’s. I don’t judge people who go on trips only to drink and I don’t think people who have a few nights out on their holiday are bad in anyway. That’s their decision and if they’re having fun and are happy, that’s all that matters, but I think the people who choose to not be involved in that scene deserve the same understanding and respect.
I’ve found that some people can be quite petty and judgmental about non-drinkers on the backpacker trail.
It’s not fair at all.
Making the choice to travel is such an incredible thing. It requires a lot of balls and often a lot of saving. Not everyone is on the same budget or has the same amount of time, so how they choose to spend the time they worked hard for, is completely up to them. Know that about everyone you meet in hostels, on tours or in exotic locations and treat them as you would want to be treated.
I’m not going to lecture you on the risks of alcohol. While some of us may be naive to them, I think we are all well aware of them. Though I will say that those risks are heightened while traveling, because drinking is more accepted on holiday, alcohol is more readily available and, to be blunt, there is a lot of hate in this world and tourists, especially the drunk ones, are often more vulnerable to it.
You don’t have to drink while backpacking and you’re actually better off not doing it. The people who make you feel like you do, should be nothing but ashamed. There are a lot of people who choose not to drink while traveling, so never feel alone or like you have to compromise your morals or standards to feel apart of the group.
Have you ever felt peer-pressured to drink while backpacking?