I came to a startling but satisfying epiphany on my Cross-Canada trip.
I’m not a backpacker.
I don’t like solo travel.
You’re all gasping in horror, stepping back from the computer and aiming a rifle at it. “YOU WERE MY INSPIRATION! I BELIEVED IN YOU! FIERY GINGER DEVIL!”
Or I suspect many of you are sighing in relief, thinking, “Thank God I’m not the only one who’s a backpacking failure.”
When I arrived at Leigh McAdam’s house in Vancouver, I unloaded my 30-tonne suitcase, my Goodlife Fitness bag, my gigantosaurus purse, and my laptop backpack. I met Simon and Erin of Never Ending Voyage there, a lovely British couple who have been travelling the world for over a year.
They were each carrying a tiny backpack no bigger than my laptop one. Leigh was beside herself with laughter, she just couldn’t stop snapping photos. We all laughed, a lot, and I still remain completely unapologetic.
Here’s the thing. I don’t consider myself freakishly materialistic; I don’t need a car, or a house, or a million dollars. But I like to dress up. I have wild, unmanageable curly red hair and I need hair products to tame it. I hate seeing photographs of me wearing the same thing, over and over again. I can be vain. So fucking what? Wanna fight about it?
I admit there were times when I was rolling that goddamned suitcase off the seabus and around downtown Vancouver while sweating from everywhere including my knees when I wanted to drop it all and scream at pedestrians. I certainly carried a lot of unnecessary items, and I’ve learned a lot for future trips. But I was never ill-prepared, and I blame my insane over-packing habit on my nature to be completely flexible. I brought clothing for hikes, dance bars, rafting excursions, fancy meals at a swanky restaurant, business attire, beachwear, wrestling with midgets. I like doing it ALL.
But let me clarify: I do love backpacking. I love the culture. I love meeting new people. I love hostels, despite my inability to sleep in them. With any luck, I’ll be setting off on another backpacking trip sometime soon. But goddammit, I also love a new set of clothes to carry me through the day, and long-term backpacking just isn’t for me.
I’m also an extraordinarily shitty solo traveller. In many ways, I am ashamed of this fact. But I lack common sense to a certain degree where I figure my life is at risk if I travel solo all the time. I crashed at a friend’s house in Vancouver one night after a party, and it took me THREE FREAKING HOURS to get back to Burnaby…a trip that would normally take 20 minutes. I wandered around grasping my bottle of orange vitamin water, shuffling through streets in a hungover daze and trying to find my way using my iPhone’s GPS. AND I STILL COULDN’T DO IT.
And there are moments when I just need to share an experience with someone. Not a man, just anyone. I love my alone time, and I get extraordinarily cranky without it, but have you ever freaked out over the most stunning sunset you’ve ever seen, wishing someone else was there to prove that it happened? People are my life. It’s what I do.
Okay, I don’t do people. That came out wrong.
And I will travel long-term, solo, if I were given the opportunity. I wouldn’t let it hold me back. If someone said, “Wanna come work in Greece for awhile?” I’d have my flight booked in an hour. I guess if we were all solo-backpackers, the travel blogging scene would be a little boring, eh? I’m not sure what my niche is, in that case.
Midget wrestler, probably.