This is a guest post by Emily Callaghan. If you want to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.
French guys in America. English guys in Spain. Spanish guys in France. Argentinians in well, Argentina.
Traveling, among other things, is about hooking up.
Are girls sluts if they sleep around? (Don't answer that.) Are they tramps if their repertoire includes people of other languages, countries and cultures?
Absolutely not. In my opinion, they're resourceful.
I should clarify what this “hooking up” business is, exactly. Not until I was abroad did I realize that I had a PG-rated conception, and so I'm using the term as such. Hooking up in my eyes was making out. Anything past that was, well, something past that. “Yeah dude, I totally hooked up with Roberto in the middle of the dance floor last night,” I told Caroline, a hostel roommate.
Come to think of it, I've gotten more strange looks than I've deserved over the years.
I shouldn't over-generalize. Some people are committed (maybe even faithful), celibate, or unlucky at gettin' lucky. And just like there are things that single or promiscuous people miss out on by not settling down with one individual, those who don't engage in the said hooking up while traveling are missing out as well.
Hooking up, in my eyes, is learning.
Traveling, and living in hostels, is life in fast-forward. People are constantly coming and going, which has its pluses and minuses, but knowing you have just two coinciding days with some 28-year-old Australian may make the seven year age gap less off-putting as you consider the question, “what's the worst that can happen?” and rationalize, “I've got no time to waste.”
It's the perfect opportunity for trial-and-error; a chance to do things that are far less appealing when involving a co-worker or classmate whom you'll see come Monday. And how much about the world will you learn from someone who lives in your neighborhood compared to a member of the opposite sex from another country.
The benefits extend past the obvious. Hooking up removes a wall and opens a door. Let the knowledge flood in.
There's nothing like the insight gained laying side-by-side in a twin hostel bed on pilling sheets after sleeping with a Brazilian, hearing mumbled Portuguese/Spanish about how they haven't felt so relaxed since they found their pet monkey after it escaped from their Copacabana balcony to a playground when they were twelve years old.
It sparked my interest. A month later I found myself in that very part of Rio de Janeiro with an Israeli who taught me how to cook shakshuka and to let my “independent girl” guard down.
I spent a few hour-and-forty-five-minute blocks of time in “telos,” more or less sex hotels which are a cultural staple, with a Buenos Aires native. I learned of idioms and local bands. I took two-hour local buses to his suburban neighborhood – somewhere I would never visit had I not “known a guy.”
I'd rather hear of childhood memories and be shown around by a local than read the “culture” and “where to go” sections in the Lonely Planet guide book, and I think most people would concur.
Considering the experiences, the language, the stories and the cultural understanding that come with it, I think all who have done so have to agree that traveling wouldn't be traveling without hooking up.
Emily Callaghan is currently writing a book on the topic of her former study abroad program vs. living in a foreign country and learning through foreign boys. She writes a regular column for The Smart Set, and is the Editor of Table Matters.