Last week I did something remarkable; I booked an 8-day winter break package holiday. Five star hotels, the whole the works – and I can’t wait. The offer fluttered out of The Spectator in one of those blank suspicious envelopes that you curiously tear open only to be instantly assaulted by some poverty porn – this time cheap holiday porn. It was an incredible offer – on account of the migrant crisis and low season – I booked it within minutes. I’m hoping I might bump into the great Taki or Jeremy Clarke – oh, the fun we’d have; or, at the very least, a coach load full of grumpy middle aged conservatives.
The fact that I’d spent most of my twenties travelling the planet and teaching English (the less said about that the better) offers no consolation – if I’m honest, I’d rather not talk about it. At the risk of sounding grumpy, nowadays everyone’s strapped an 80 quid polystyrene bag to their back and sauntered off into the sunset. You know, learning, understanding, meeting people and just learning really – staring out of train window at the vibrant colours, thinking, wonderful people – it’s the people, the people really, learning, free, saying bad things about America, and that awfully pompous turn of phrase ‘finding myself’.
Why, I ask, one has to spend a bucket load of cash flying out to the third world to ‘find yourself’ has always been a mystery to me. What on earth is wrong East London? It bares a remarkable resemblance to the third world, as do certain areas of Birmingham, Bradford and Blackburn etc. (the three B’s). It’ll cost you a hell of a lot less and you’ll never meet a single white person – which is the point, right? So, my generation has, rather than expanded their minds travailing the earth, merely backpacked themselves into a rather narrow-minded Weltanschaunng.
Yes, of course they’re all lemmings – exporting the sort of left wing cultural Marxism so prevalent in our ‘free speech society’ – it tells you everything, for instance, that the mighty BBC bought the Lonely Planet travel guides. (They’ll tell you, by the way, how much they hate travel guides – but I always found it remarkable how quickly fellow backpackers, make friends and follow each other – why carry a travel guide when you have a whole pack of lemmings to guide you instead – so comfortable in your security).
The truth is I never really wanted to travel – it’s exceptionally boring, for the above reasons. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it actually narrows the mind. You’ll learn a lot more staying at home, reading and watching television. Again, why would anyone want to wander around a cluster of temples, which they know nothing about and had no interest in before they came? “Remarkable,” nodding and agreeing, “what is it again?” “No idea.” Tick. Next. I prefer it when people admit, ‘I’m here for the pussy and the drugs’, like the perverts do in Thailand – at least they’re honest.
When I was a kid, holidays consisted of packing your digestive biscuits and cereal variety pack (couldn’t do without those); rushing out as early as possible to get a sun lounger (before the Germans); laying on the beach all day (getting horribly sun burnt); concluded by early evening walks (hands in pockets, maybe giving a rose to an old widow); and finally a seafood dinner (sometimes followed by food poisoning).
Now, nothing is packaged, yet everything is. Two days here, three days there, we must visit this temple, do this excursion, eat here, and have this experience. One of my biggest regrets was being duped by a Mexican into waking up at dawn in Cambodia to watch the sunrise over Siem Reap. I naively thought we’d be the only ones – it turned out there was over 400 Europeans there desperate for the experience – to say they’d done it. And, yes, I felt like an idiot. As I said: lemmings.
My first encounter with the backpacking world was around 7 years ago; I was fleeing a, let’s say, shitty domestic situation, and I’d spend whole afternoons trawling the Internet for the cheapest country I could find; that country turned out to be Egypt. I booked my Flight to Sharm El Sheikh with the intention of catching a bus to Cairo, and left.
The plan was to stay in a hostel for at least 3 months – and at 80 pence a night, why not? Once I arrived I immediately regretted not flying direct to Cairo. Sharm el Sheikh, I later realised is a tourist resort, and is absolutely awful as a point of exit. I nevertheless evaded the Thompson holiday planners, located a taxi, got ripped off – an Arab speciality – and spent the next 4 hours loitering around the bus station waiting for the bus to take me across the Sinai.