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Posts Tagged ‘untrustworthy backpackers’

25. Crazy Israeli Guys

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Every country has good and bad citizens. One can only hope that the citizens traveling the world and representing one’s nationality are good ones, people who build a solid reputation for their country. Unfortunately for Israel, a disproportionate number of young, male Israeli backpackers are crazy and thus contribute to a poor international image for their countrymen.

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Just as with my post about Aussie Guys, I initially called this one “Crazy Israelis,” only to change it because it’s really only the males that annoy me. Most female Israelis I’ve met on the backpacking circuit are nice, not to mention, attractive. Their being attractive might be why their male counterparts are prone to peacocking and giving non-Israeli backpackers the stinkeye whenever all three parties meet.

I’m accustomed to foreign guys being protective of their women. That’s normal. This post is not about that alone. I’ve met Israeli guys that display a sociopathic disregard for public decency, a desire to make other travelers feel uncomfortable or even afraid, and an enjoyment of mocking other people and cultures.

I think a lot of their wild behavior is a result of conscription. “The backpacking trip (is) a common custom, nearly normative, among Israeli youth in the period soon after the military service,” wrote Chaim Noy and Erik Cohen, in their book,  Israeli Backpackers and Their Society: A View from Afar.

The direct transition from soldier to traveler implies that many such backpackers may still be shellshocked. Noy and Cohen note that the “massive participation in backpacking expresses the demobilized soldiers’ need to ‘relax’ and ‘unwind’ following the intense years spent in the army.” I would concur, if interpretations of relaxing and unwinding include: being a cocky prick, acting recklessly or even dangerously (see photo below), reacting aggressively to the mildest opposition, yelling and rambunctious diplays while drinking, and general insanity.

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Darya Maoz, who teaches a class at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University called Sociological and Anthropological Aspects of Tourism and Backpacking, described stereotypes of Israeli backpackers in  Outside magazine (Aug. 2005):  “They tend to be rude, to curse the locals, to ruin things if they are not satisfied… they don’t respect local people, they party all night, they take a lot of drugs, and if people say something, some Israelis call them Nazis.”

Crazy Israeli guys are guilty of many of the same offenses as the typical Aussie guy, colored with whatever inclinations a few months of patrolling the West Bank can bring.

It’s a funny comparison when considering a letter written in 2006 on www.ynetnews.com by Nicola Lipman, a Jewish-Australian backpacker:  A message to my ugly brother. Lipman acknowledges the negative stereotypes perpetuated by Israeli travelers: “I realzied it was the loud, obnoxious type (and not the friendly, funny and interesting type) who were immediately identifiable as Israeli and giving the whole country a bad name.”

And that’s coming from an Australian.

Also in 2006, freelance writer Jeff Koyen wrote a column for www.jewcy.com, entitled The Israeli Asshole, in defense of obnoxious Israeli travelers. In the column, Koyen presents arguments as to why Israeli travelers are generally perceived of as douchebags and why it’s OK for them to continue being douchebags.

“Raised in their own land, speaking their own language, Israelis have freed themselves from the anxious self-monitoring still experienced by the Jews of the Diaspora,” he wrote. “The Jews of Israel have learned to stop apologizing. Early Zionists would have taken great pleasure in knowing this day would arrive. Perhaps we should take some pleasure in it, too.”

Uh, sure. We should all take pleasure in things we consider reprehensible, like child pornography and female circumcision. After all, the perpetrators have learned to be unrepentant about their cause. Good for them! Let’s celebrate their offenses as justifiable acts of self-preservation. Koyen has clearly lost his mind as well.

Atop Koyen’s column is a photo of a sign, from Bella Bella Guesthouse in the Khao San Road district of Bangkok, saying that it does not accept Israelis because of problems it has had with them in the past. Coincidentally, I took a picture of the same type of sign when I stayed at Bella Bella in 2007, but this one had a damning newspaper article attached to it:

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Few bad reviews can compare with a simple refusal of service. It’s pretty crazy, really.

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Link to article: One in eight young backpackers has been a victim of theft

A British travel insurance company has found that 12 percent of young backpackers have been a victim of theft while traveling. Another 5 percent of British backpackers polled have been mugged in foreign countries.

Other findings:

  • Male backpackers are more likely to be mugged than females.
  • 7% of male backpackers have been mugged, versus 2% of females.
  • Likewise, 12% of male respondents have been victims of theft, versus 11% of females.

“For many young people, going traveling is the best time of their lives, but it’s all too easy to forget that some places are full of unscrupulous people who are waiting to prey on backpackers,” said Perry Wilson, founder of InsureandGo, the company behind the study. “Young people shouldn’t be put off having fun, but they should take care not to put themselves in dangerous situations and they should plan their trip as carefully as possible (i.e. buy expensive insurance from me).”

Personally, I don’t know if we should necessarily take advice from guys named Perry.

Despite the known risks associated with backpacking, a considerable number young adventurers go without travel insurance, as has been previously reported (see 22. Scooter accidents). InsureandGo noted that 37 percent of respondents “do not always have travel insurance while away,” and one in five (20%) “rarely or never have it,” and would therefore not be covered for any stolen possessions or medical bills resulting from being mugged overseas.

As a male backpacker who has never bought travel insurance and who has indeed been a victim of theft (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed and 16. iPod Thieves), I confess that I will continue to forgo travel insurance, not eat my vitamins, put my mean face on in public, and take whatever shit comes my way. Bring it on, gypsies! I’m ready.

Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
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Classic DFMO. Note the tribal tattoo.

What a shocking bit of news. You mean to tell me that backpackers are promiscuous? And they drink too much? No way.

Hmm… Perhaps the backpacking, drinking and promiscuity are related. Worth looking into.

A few highlights:

  • Over 430 backpackers in hostels across Sydney answered questions about their boozing and scoring tendencies for an Australian study, which also tested for Chlamydia. Subjects ranged from 18 to 30, with an average age of about 23 and an even distribution of men and women.
  • 3.1 percent of men had Chlamydia; 3.9 percent of women had it.
  • 7.6 percent of men reported a previous case of Chlamydia; 10.1 percent of women previously had it.
  • That pushes the percentage of ever having Chalmydia to 10.7 percent for men and 14 percent for women.
  • 31 percent of men had a new sexual partner en route to Australia; 20 percent of women had one.
  • 60 percent of respondents said they “always” used protection.
  • 33 percent of men are drinking over double the recommended daily intake of alcohol; 28 percent of women are doing so.

Doing a study like this is like polling Jamaicans to see if they smoke weed. Backpackers can regularly be seen having unprotected sex on the shore at Full Moon Parties, for chrissakes. While the investigative process was no doubt entertaining, we already knew the answers. I want to see a study examining the amount of beenouing going on in Sydney hostels. Wait a second, I know the answer to that question too: A lot.

Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Link to article: British backpackers plead guilty to insurance fraud in Brazil

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Two British backpackers, Shanti Andrews and Rebecca Turner, have pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in a Brazilian court after admitting they misled police about being robbed while on a round-the-world trip. (Source: Telegraph.co.uk)

As you can see, just another couple of Female Backpacker Type As doing their thang. Lookin’ pretty wubes, too.

I told you guys my ESP was kickin’ in.

Aug. 21 - Here’s a link to the follow-up article: British backpackers could spend months performing community service in Brazil

Aug. 25 - These bitches won’t quit: British backpackers in false robbery claim appeal conviction

16. iPod Thieves

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

After being stolen from, no matter what the circumstance may be, a question you will inevitably ask yourself is, “Who would do such a thing?” The answer is: Assholes.

Don’t give me the sob story of Oliver Twist. These poor locals. They must steal from the rich travelers in order to survive! They desperately need to feed themselves and their families! They need the money in your wallets, so they’ll pick your pocket, take out the cash and ditch the rest - sorry for the inconvenience (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed). In reality, most of the iPods getting stolen along the backpacker trail are not taken by Oliver Twists.

Although impoverished locals (assholes) are responsible for the odd stolen iPod, the majority of iPod thieves are douchebag travelers (also assholes). Unlike pickpockets, who are predominantly poor people or gypsies, these iPod thieves are more in it for the device than for instant black market cash. I don’t know what the resale value is for a scratched up, poorly file-categorized and already obsolete iPod, but it’s probably not much.

It’s ironic because you would expect your fellow travelers to be people who look out for each other and turn in forgotten items to the hostel lost-and-found. Optimists would argue that most backpackers are trustworthy, but if this were the case, why all the lockers in the dorm rooms (see 15. Dormitories)? Cynics, however (myself included), would counter that the average backpacker isn’t as trustworthy as one might hope. No offense to all you good samaritans out there.

It’s the same with camera theft. Once you’ve lost a camera, you come to realize the content on the device is worth more than the device itself. An iPod contains a backpacker’s personal soundtrack to his/her trip. It took a long time to create and pirate that music (and sometimes movie) library. Tireless hours of last-minute leeching and seeding before you have to catch that flight. In some cases, your piracy went as far as syncing your library with those of other travelers you met and hung out with along the way.

Older backpackers may better relate to stolen CD wallets, which were much worse because original CDs cost so much. A good buddy of mine went on his first backpacking trip to Australia almost 10 years ago and got his CD wallet stolen. The thing was chock full of original CDs (72 in total) bought with money he worked thankless minimum wage hours to earn. Seventy-two CDs, at an average of 15 bucks per, is $1,080. That’s a lot of cash when you’re between the ages of 16 and 20. But the point is, when you’re on a big trip, your music collection is worth a hell of a lot more than that. It’s fucking priceless.

So here’s a modest request from good travelers to would-be douchebag travelers out there. Don’t be an asshole. Buy your own iPod. They’re cheap now anyway.

15. Dormitories

Friday, June 26th, 2009

If you don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a dormitory, you’ve obviously never backpacked in Europe (beenou), North America  or Down Under. The reason there’s a difference is because backpacking in the developed world is expensive as hell (See 8. The Lonely Planet). Meanwhile, in underdeveloped countries, one can procure a luxurious private hotel room for the price of a Happy Meal in Western currency.

hostel-dorm1Because affordable lodging space is so limited in the former, it becomes possible to charge a premium for not only a room, but for a tiny fraction of a room (literally one-16th). There are, of course, varying levels of expensiveness. For example, North American backpackers know what it feels like to pay outrageous sums of money (after converting their meager dollars to English Pounds or Euros) for half of a bunk bed. It’s a sensation akin to non-consensual jailhouse sodomy (i.e. ass rape).

Aside from obvious disparities in global currency and real estate values, the inflation in high-traffic tourist areas is senseless. The average minimum cost of a dorm bed in Prague in July is 15 Euros (21 USD) per night; 23 Euros in Rome; 26 Euros in Barcelona; 22 Pounds (36 USD) in London; 30 Euros (43 USD) in Paris;  and a whopping 35 Euros (49 USD) in Amsterdam. Go to the same cities in, say, November and the price is 30 to 40 percent cheaper. That’s the beauty of supply and demand, folks.

Remember: a) this is for a wretched dorm bed, and b) backpackers have no money.

So what makes dormitories so awful? Hygiene is a major issue. Before going on my first backpacking trip, I brought a sleepsack (a bedsheet folded over once and sewn) as it was suggested to me to avoid using hostel bedsheets, which could have bedbugs. Long story short, the sleepsack was excess baggage and I’d overpacked to begin with, so I ditched it early on. Besides, I was too lazy to use or wash it, so I went ahead and used the hostel bedsheets. Bad idea. I got bitten by bedbugs and it was terrible - but that’s for another post altogether.

hostel-dorm2Regardless of the hundreds of online reviews you read about competing hostels, they are all dirty. It’s not the hostel’s fault. Consider their clientele. A typical backpacker’s day consists of sightseeing and heavy drinking, both of which involve perpetual movement and perspiration. Piles of unwashed and reworn clothes, especially socks and underwear, contribute to the dormitory’s signature potpourri. At capacity, there can be 8 to 16 people in a room (on 4 to 8 bunk beds), depending on its size. The room smells of other people’s feet, breath and sweat. It’s disgusting. Every morning, a sour, humid stench hangs over the place as sunlight begins to cook it through the windows.

The mattresses are uncomfortable and sometimes squeaky. The really bad ones have uneven springs that dig into your back. So, it’s hard enough to fall asleep, and then there’s the element of noise. Whispering, giggling, snoring and, God forbid, fornicating. Like bedbugs, dorm sex requires its own post. There are also the drunks that stumble in, yelling belligerently, turning on all the lights and crashing violently into their bunk… which is incidentally right beneath yours.

Because other backpackers are generally untrustworthy, there are often large lockers in the corners of the dormitory, consuming whatever residual space that would have allowed for orderly room navigation. Lockers must be large enough to fit a 90-liter pack. Thus, occupants bump into and step over each other attempting to get from one end of the room to the other. Doing so in pitch darkness, while drunk, is no easy task.

Sleeping in close proximity to foreign strangers is creepy. Movies like Hostel or Taken are not particularly inspiring cinema to watch prior to going on a cross-Europe dormitory tour. You never know what kind of nutjobs are sleeping in there - above you, under you, or beside you. Some of them are Aussies, others are Israeli - both are crazy. Sweet dreams, everybody.