The Confessions of a Backpacker …a senior backpacker

Yesterday are memories. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.

Taken from a saying discovered in a Cambodian market. Great gap year principle. Completely unplanned. Free wheeling from day to day.  Or at best week to week. Picking up advice from other travellers and planning as you go. Such is the reason I ventured to Cambodia. What was tomorrow’s mystery, is today’s gift visiting.

But also reflecting on the yesterday memories from the time in Spain and Latin America. What’s interesting are the parallels with south East Asia. In Latin America every town proudly parades their town square and Iglesia (Catholic church) as the main tourist feature. Here it’s the temples. But no matter the religious or cultural differences, whether Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu, there’s one common trend. That is how younger generations are edging away from fully adhering to their long held traditional customs. The change in pre marriage relationships is one widespread example, as one young buhdist guy explained the conflict with his family to me.

But it’s unquestionable how these, as much now tourist attractions, were what shaped our history through to our current time.

Siem Reap in Cambodia is one example. “Grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome” is how one historian described Angkor Wot. The biggest temple in the world. Confession one. I never knew that. That was an unknown mystery. Today a gift to have visited it. And impressive it is. The grandeur and sheer scale of it.

Next confession coming up….

They certainly didn’t sit around idly back then in the 12th century I reasoned as I wandered and climbed around the site, along with thousands of Chinese tourists! The huge amount of resources that would have been required to construct it I pondered as I marvelled at the construction, the building techniques and the more recent attempts to keep parts of it propped up. But there’s something I clearly missed. As Collete an English lady I was talking with later explained to me. She not only saw what I saw, but she felt it as well. The spiritual energy. So much so she was moved to tears at times. That’s one gift I never knew existed, let alone received.

One of the most liberating aspects of the gap year is the flexibility. Not having to drag along the ball and chain. No, I’m not talking about the missus! That I do miss. No, a suitcase. Just a backpack. Only two of everything. No more. Yet small enough to get away as carry on luggage. The only compromise is the extended days of wear…. until it fails the sniff test. Which brings me to my next confession.

Things are fantastically cheap here. A lovely resort style room for just over twenty bucks. A cocktail at a dollar fifty. Same for a packet of fags if that’s your thing. And best of all a beer for as low as fifty cents. And when the sniff test fails, laundry washed dried and folded for just a dollar a kilo. It just so happened the local laundry doubles as a hairdresser. For two dollars a cut. Smart operator this laundromat lady. Only intended to drop in the washing. Next I knew I was all draped up having a haircut. And what she offered next just made sense. If the clothes were to finally get a decent wash, then I reasoned a bit extra for a hair wash and scrub made so much sense.

Now I call this the Bali syndrome. Everything is so cheap. Until you go home with everything, it wasn’t such a cheap trip after all. Which is what I later figured I had fallen into the trap here. So we’ve now got clean clothes, a hair cut and gleaming hair. Obviously theres just one thing missing. A face massage. Clearly neither here or there. But it’s only when well into this latest offering, the focus shifted. That’s when the face mask was applied. Oh no…. Ok so yes, I have to admit. I had a facial!

One last confession before you go… Say you were travelling on a bus enroute to cross through the border into another country. There’s a cost of the visa entry. If you were to suddenly realise you lost, or was pickpocketed, and you either had to lose your passport, phone or wallet, which would you choose? …..well thankfully for me it was my wallet. Now don’t get me wrong, suddenly being penniless with no credit card, stuck on a bus in the middle of unfamiliar Asian countryside with a bus full of non English speaking locals is a daunting feeling. With the alternative of being left stranded at the border, it suddenly shifted from a cruisy day to the day’s challenge. Thankfully I was chatting online to recent travelling friends Angela and Rick in Canada. They gave me the clue. It’s what helped get me through this little challenge.

A number of people have asked if I’m going to write a book on the adventures of a …senior… gap year. I think this tip and a whole lot of other needs to be included.

But for now I definitely need one or two of those beers.


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2 comments On The Confessions of a Backpacker …a senior backpacker

  • Great insight to how you have found your experiences.

  • Another interesting story Chris. We did discuss on the phone the book deal. So please don’t sign any papers until you return home. It’s interesting to note that in Singapore, not too far away, the food and beer have gone in the opposite direction. For example, a small piece of steak, a glass of and one beer for two hundred Australian dollars. The only good thing is you cannot afford to get drunk.

    Hope you will have a great time with the family in Thailand. Catch up soon at the front bar of the Windsor for some interesting catch-up stories,
    Love Ang and Les.

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