Ahhh Europe…the land of churches, crazy nights and virgin backpacking experiences. It’s the quintessential study abroad/post-college summer romp; a whirlwind tour resulting in countless “When I was in Europe…” stories and fond, but sometimes hazy, memories. Seeing the coliseum in Rome, partying till the break of dawn in Barcelona, standing in awe of the Swiss Alps: I’m not going to lie, it was all pretty freaking awesome.
There is no doubt that Europe is an amazing continent. But sometimes people get lost in the allure of Europe and forget that the world is a big place with a lot of other amazing countries. In our 20′s, we’ll get several periods of transition, whether it be finishing school or starting a new job. Those opportunities come few and far between in our lifetimes. A lot of people use that time to backpack around Europe.
I say don’t do it. Use that time and go somewhere else. Here are five reasons why:
For those of you heading off for your backpacking adventures this summer, I want you to listen to this song:
Slow ride, take it easy. Slow ride, take it easy.
Hear that? Take it eaaaaaaasyyyyyyy.
Our everyday lives are hectic and fast-paced. Much too often, people think this is the way to go backpacking. A perfect example is the classic post-college Europe trip: an ambitious plan that attempts to cover 10 countries in 2 weeks while seeing every single church, castle and museum along the way. These are the type of trips where people spend more time on a bus than on their feet while the countries, cities and sights in front of them end up becoming a blurred mess.
Knowing how to haggle when backpacking abroad is a very important skill to have. Unfortunately, living in America has left us ill prepared. I’m willing to bet that the majority of people living in the US don’t know to haggle. It’s no fault of our own because we live in a society where the prices are always set. Think about it, you don’t go into Starbucks and ask the cashier for a discount on your coffee, nor do you go to Safeway and haggle down the price of lettuce.
About the only times that haggling does occur in the States are when we buy big-ticket items (cars, houses, TVs, mattresses, jewelry, etc.) or when we deal with second-hand sales. But even then people might be hesitant or shy about it just because we never do it/don’t know how.
But if you’re thinking of backpacking, you need to learn the art of haggling. Places like Southeast Asia, South America, China, India (or really any place outside of the States and Western Europe) often view us as walking ATMs. It’s unfortunate but it’s something we have to deal with. As such, backpackers are often subjected to ridiculously over-inflated prices and let’s face it, no one likes getting ripped off. It sucks, it bruises your ego and you feel like an idiot when you realize how much you overpaid.
Several hundred miles to the east of Bangkok lies the city of Phnom Penh. It is a bustling urban sprawl of 2 million people and serves as the capital of Cambodia. Signs of economic prosperity can be seen in the nightclubs, where the nouveau riche preside with bodyguards in tow, and in the city’s streets, where ever increasing numbers of new imported cars appear. Yet Phnom Penh, like the rest of Cambodia, still carries the deep scars from the atrocities inflicted upon the country more than 30 years ago.
From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, would carry out an episode of genocide that would set Cambodia back by decades and forever change its place in history.