Friendships and meetings are fleeting on the road. There is generally simply not enough time to fully know someone in the short window before one of you heads off to your next destination; and so inadvertently intuition and stereotypes are utilized to dissect a new acquaintance. How are they dressed? What personal belongings did they bring with them? Does your first conversation revolve around getting wasted, meditation, or finances? What are they drinking? When I meet travelers drinking different things, certain feelings enter my brain about them. I’ve done my best to own up to my stereotypes* about others and share them in an organized fashion, whilst willfully admitting to exemplifying each one on occasion (and some pictures to prove it).
Sweet Fruity Girly Drinks
Frozen Margaritas, Strawberry Daiquiris, Pina Coladas, anything with Malibu Rum… the starter drinks. They are so sweet and fruity, that a five year old could drink them. These are the things I craved when I was sixteen, but will only drink now under special circumstances. Acceptable excuses to drink toothache-sweet girly drinks: 1.) They are free. 2.) They are a local specialty. For example: Margaritas in Mexico. 3.) They are served beachside or poolside. 4.) You are under twenty. Besides those reasons no self-respecting travelette should ever order these kinds of drinks. At least not on a regular basis.
Why? They are overpriced, if you are on the road for an extended period of time, don’t blow your money on expensive drinks. They are also full of sugar and give you the worst hangovers, and, trust me on this, your friendly bartender HATES making frozen drinks.
Stereotype: If you are ordering a sugary frozen drink while traveling you are most likely a young and inexperienced drinker, and are going to get hammered quickly. I imagine you call your parents more than once a week, take your malaria medicine religiously (even though you are in a no-risk to low-risk area), your passport is new and shiny, and you are frightened of squat toilets and bearded men.
Drinking local beer shows solidarity to the country you are visiting, and openness to trying new things. This is my top way to drink on the road. Every country has its local beer, and whether you’re downing Heineken in Holland, Bali Hai in Bali, or Imperial in Costa Rica; you’re letting people know you are down to fully immerse yourself in local culture. Buying local supports the local economy and simultaneously supports your wallet’s economy! Imported beer is often twice as much as the local beer, and after months on the road, the drinks add up fast. You can learn about local drinking customs drinking local as well. I love the salted and sometimes spicy “Michaladas” in Central America, and I like the fact I am replenishing my body with salt as I sweat it out in the hot climate.
I would like to make a confession though: I remember spending a day’s budget on a Chimay in Laos, because after three months in Asia, I hadn’t drunken anything resembling a Belguim beer in what seemed like years, and could not resist the temptation.
Stereotype: If you are drinking local beer you are a down-to-earth, ready-for-anything, roll-with-the-punches, in-for-the-long-haul type of chick. You can hold your own with the guys, you handwash your own clothes, you’ve been down many roads (most of them unpaved), and you’ve eaten some local delicacies abroad you kinda wish you hadn’t.
Or anything non-alcoholic, but there is something significant about drinking tea when everyone else is indulging. You have been around a bit, have been through the party-scene, and believe yourself superior to those who are doomed to repeat the same trials and tribulations you yourself have surpassed. You see travel more as a pilgrimage than as an adventure, and don’t want to waste a single second of this lifetime distracted by mindless activities. I worked at a tea lounge for years, and know the type well. I also know how excited I was to find kombucha in Pai (and how I wanted everyone to know how hip and healthy I was for drinking it).
Stereotype: You think you are better than everyone, but still want to spread your wisdom and try to help the lost souls you encounter find inner peace (although they might be more inclined to listen to you if you showered). You have some sort of a gimmick for making money on the road, whether it is playing an instrument, making hemp necklaces, reading tarot cards, or contact juggling. You have very strong opinions about green pu-erh. You maintain eye contact for so long it begins to feel awkward.
Imported Premium Beverages
If your standards are so high you are fine spending up to four times what it is worth to drink Primitivo in Cambodia, Corona in Ibiza, or Grey Goose in South Africa; then it’s time to chill out. Part of exploring new countries is embracing local culture. Try something new already. Use your money for things that matter and support the locals (like shoes and massages for instance.) Expand your horizons. I still wouldn’t order a martini with anything less than Grey Goose, but I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a martini while backpacking.
Stereotypes: Overspending on pretentious drinks that don’t fit the setting make you look ostentatious, close-minded, and snobby. You brought your pearls/diamonds backpacking (and constantly worry about them getting stolen) with you, you brought more than a few pairs of high heels, you wouldn’t dream of vacationing without air-conditioning, and you are pissed beyond belief customs wouldn’t let you bring your designer dog with you. Oh, and you can’t lift your own backpack without help.
Oh, those famous buckets… Along with late-night banana pancakes, sunburns, and massages, these are a Thai specialty, especially in the islands. What is a bucket drink? A sandbucket full of ice, Samsung, Red Bull, Coke, and a handful of straws. Some say “yum,” some say “puke,” and most do puke. If you order a bucket anywhere but Asia you will most likely get a blank stare. In my opinion these are only excusable to drink because they are so prolific and have become such a part of backpacker culture.
Nonetheless buckets do have a certain charm. They are a great bargain, make making new friends a piece of cake, and have that kitschy draw to them. However, do drink with caution, not just because it is so easy to get carried away, or because many bars use condensed Red Bull syrup (hello caffeine kick!), but also because there are more reports of travelers being drugged and robbed while drinking buckets than any other drink.
Stereotype: If you are ordering a bucket then you are ready for a good time you may or may not remember, with a group of friends whose names you may or may not remember. You own at least one “Bintang” or “Same Same But Different” tank top, you have burn marks from trying to learn how to fire dance on the islands, and you have watched that episode of Friends where Joey does that thing way too many times while hungover in Haad Rin.
There is one reason and one reason only to take shots: to get drunk as fast as possible. You can girly them up and call them cute and stupid names, but shots are to get you plastered. Maybe your passport got stolen, maybe your Facebook got hacked, maybe your dad wants you to come home and get a “real” job, or maybe your boyfriend has been spending too much time at that massage parlor…. Maybe you don’t really want to take shots, but you want to show off what a badass you are, how you can keep up with the guys. I’ve done that before for sure! Oh no… vague memories surfacing of snake shots in Vang Vieng… Whatever the reason you need to take shots, you are not taking them and expecting to have an early night. This isn’t even a stereotype, this is just how it is. So live it up while you’re still young, because you can’t expect to drink like this all the time and stay this youthful.
Stereotype: Shots are the quickest and least pleasant way to get drunk. If you are out taking shots you’re looking to get fucked up and party hard. You’ve had nights where you’ve lost one or both of your shoes. You like being the center of attention, and you are 100% badass up until the moment you vomit.
*Disclaimer: This post is for humorous purposes only and is not intended to offend anyone (too much).
All photos are my own, with the exception of the tea photo taken from flickr, and the last two photographs of me were taken by David Wong.
* post written by Kyra Bramble. To read more of Kyra’s, check out her website.