Its a funny thing. Tripping down to Cape Town and booking into the Carnival Court backpackers (a fantastic little place if you are ever in the area and have need of a backpackers) and noticed a possible trend here. In Bangkok, those who have been will know about Khaosan Road – that noisy, messy, party filled wonderland of food and clubs and backpackers, spilling hippies and adventurers onto the road until the wee hours of the morning. Equally, in Vietnam, it was Pham Ngu Lao – the backpacker ghetto where all of the wealth of the world’s travellers condense into a humid, vietnamese mess of bars and buying and weird and wonderful guest houses crammed thick on the roadside.
In Cape Town, the backpackers I have checked into is on Long Street, and in so many ways, it is the same all over again. Admittedly, it is less chaotic and packed than Khaosan, and organic coffee shops have replaced the Pad Thai stands, but the principle feeling of the place remains the same. Even though the Cape Town experience is different in many respects (I am from this country, and I am travelling alone this time), I am overcome with how familiar the overall environment is here. The people wandering around with their beads and headbands, exotic tattoos and a spirit for seeing and exploring as much as they possibly can, could have come directly from Bangkok, Vietnam, Laos or any of the other places I have had the fortune to bed down with my backpack in the past. I am starting to feel that this world, and the characters in it, may in fact be part of some larger, universal traveller universe, common to most backpacking destinations in the world.
I have also realised now that part of the reason I like to travel so much is not just because of the chance to see new sights, experiences and people (they are attractive in their own right though). It is because backpacking, specifically, affords me the opportunity to reconnect and be a small part of that world of travellers again. People whose sole existence for a short period of time is all about new experiences, new places, learning and discovering. Yes, it is hippie, yes it can be a little bit exhausting and the real world cannot be deferred forever, but dammit – it is exciting.