Backpacking destinations


in Politics, Travel

Over at Slate, there is a discussion up about a recent New York Times article on twenty-somethings.

Several times, the panelists mention ‘trips to Asia’ as an example of what young people might do, as an alternative to working or getting married and having kids. It’s interesting that Asia now occupies that role, rather than Europe. Europe used to be an exotic destination, and going there was both a test of independence and an opportunity to broaden one’s perspective. Now, Europe has much less claim to being exotic – communication back and forth is trivially easy, border arrangements are simpler than ever, and practically everyone (or at least everyone under 30 or so) can speak some English.

The extent to which Europe has ceased to be exotic because it has become more like North America, compared with the extent to which it is less exotic because people now have a more cosmopolitan knowledge about the world, is an interesting question. Another is: if growth in places like China, South Korea, and Vietnam continues at present, will Asia eventually become as non-threatening and comprehensible as Europe seems to be now?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrian August 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

I grew up in the bustling metropolis of Napanee, Ontario. I would dare say that, for me, even after living in Ottawa for eight years, there remains much exoticism in Europe.

For me, though, that is beyond the point from the main article. What I took from it was brain maturation. If I’d known at 22 that my brain was still developing (I just learned about maturation continuing until the mid-20s (and perhaps beyond) last year, perhaps I would’ve made different decisions in my early 20’s in order to absorb these lessons (though three months in Ghana at 24 probably helped me learn more than 24 years in Canada). Instead, I waited until financial independence in my early 30s to do this type of exploration.

Back to exoticism – it’s really still in the eye of the beholder. For me, the exotic part of Europe is the ease of mobility and accessibility (exception – drug and liquor stores in Sweden ;) ) that we don’t have here. That freedom from car ownership is invaluable to me. However, there is definitely something to be said about the trips to Thailand and India that I’ve done in the past three years – they are very much different from here, and from Europe, and provide something that is enticing in different ways. And for the record, the wealthy parts of South Africa felt much more like North America than Europe did.

Which brings up another question – will trekking through Africa become for the next generation what trekking through Asia is for us and what trekking through Europe was for the generation that preceded us? Or will they even be able to afford to get on planes? What will the potential upcoming resource constraints do to the next generation?

Milan August 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful and informative comment.

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