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Don’t Be A Hipster Traveler

“I think a lot of the problems we’ve been experiencing come from the fact that no one embraces the miracle and amazement of the present. So many people—steampunks, fundamentalists, hippies, neocons, anti-immigration advocates—feel like there was a better time to live in. They think the present is degraded, faded, and drab. That our world has lost some sort of “spark” or “basic value system” that, if you so much as skim history, you’ll find was never there. Even during the time of the Greeks, there were masses of people lamenting the passing of some sort of “golden age.” But I’d never go back and live in any other time than teetering on tomorrow; this is the greatest time to be alive.”

– Patton Oswalt, via GQ

Just to drive that point home, and if you get nothing else from this article, teetering on tomorrow is the greatest time to be alive.

A few days ago in Hanoi, I was invited to meet up with some travelers who happened to be in the same town as me. Various accents all talking with each other about the trials and surprises of discovering a new culture as it happened. We shared tips, warnings, and hilarious stories about expectations crashing into reality. When everybody has a backstory and common purpose, we go out of our way to help each other out, because we are all teetering on tomorrow.

United together in new horizons

Amidst all of the friendly banter and support, one girl stood out like an ingrown hair. She kept trying to loudly pull people together for a trip, but wouldn’t listen to what anyone else suggested. There were some amazing events going on nearby, but she wanted to go somewhere far from everything that only really existed as an out of the way destination of what the country used to be like. “To see the real Vietnam,” she justified as people lost interest. She flagged down a waiter and repeatedly drilled him about how she could get a bus to somewhere that no bus ran, refusing to listen to his explanation. When she was told by multiple people she would need to get a taxi, she whined “but I want to take a bus!”

Slowly people stopped trying to coordinate anything with her and left her to her own spiral of whining. We kept telling stories about amazing areas nearby and getting each other excited about places we were thinking about while she flipped through her book, occasionally interrupting everyone with a shrill non sequitur about how she wanted everyone to go with her to the place nobody cared about.

Unfortunately, she is far from isolated. I’ve seen an increasing trend of “hipster travel”. People who only want to travel to places nobody else has been, and say anything else isn’t really seeing the country. These are the people who, when they see another non-local somewhere say “this place is too touristy,” just like a hipster would say their favorite band had “sold out” once they finally started succeeding.

The concept that the 80% of the population that lives their lives inside cities isn’t “real” is ridiculous. Meet the people around you now. They are doing amazing things, following their dreams by building on the past that made them what they are to shape the future they will become. The world is ever changing, and while it’s great to see some of the historical aspects that make places amazing, there are some things you will only get to see right now.

Cities are alive and ever-changing. They have never been like this before, and they will never be like this again. Do you want to tell people you only saw the sights everyone else saw? Do you want to tell them you avoided every interesting person around you to have a “real” experience?

Jump in!

My personal philosophy about travel is that I do the same things I enjoy everywhere, I just switch up the location and the people to add depth and variety to my experience. I’ve often made the joke that I’m a metrosexual in the sense that I want to make love to large metropolitan areas. This isn’t for everyone. Some people hate the hectic bustle, but it fuels my desire to travel and see more. Regardless of why you travel, be true to your purpose for traveling.

There is no shortage of travel guides to introduce you to things you never would have known about. There are tools to discover the part of a city you want to see. There are websites where locals that would love to show you their city worldwide.

Dive deep into exactly what it is that you love, then push farther. Don’t ignore everyone on your path to find some mysterious truth. They live here. They’ve been down that road and have some great stories that will make your journey much more fun and fulfilling.

Don’t be a lone hipster traveler on the road to fake enlightenment. Be the person who shares the experience with everyone who wants to be a part. Always teeter on tomorrow, because today truly is the greatest time to be alive.

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