For the past two months I have been in Cusco, so I’m not exactly what you would call a “traveler”..yet. Soon, I will be one of those dirty backpackers with a look of bewilderment somewhere in a plaza toting around my belongings. To be honest, I don’t want to be one of these people, not because I don’t want to see new places, because I don’t want to be associated with a certain breed of backpackers. The party hostel packers. This specific type of culture is not unlike a frat culture but without U.S law enforcement. Everything that disgusts me about frat culture in America, from rape to racism, is present in party hostels in an arguably even more horrific way. What is most shocking to me about this culture is the unwillingness people have to leave their own culture behind.
Two years ago I arrived to Cusco as a volunteer and some other volunteers invited me out to a hostel in town called “Wild Rover”. This hostel, unbeknownst to me, is a notorious party hostel chain that has several locations across South America. At the door you had to leave your passport number and locals, with a few exceptions, were turned away. It was almost strictly English speaking white people who were admitted to this hell hole. English music bumped through the bar as shirtless bar tenders poured liquor down willing and unwilling people’s throats who danced on the bar. “This is a frat party” I thought to myself- although I have very little experience attending such events even in The United States it resembled a culture I was familiar with. Why the hell would you travel all the way to South America to just continue to experience your own culture? Not only that, the worst parts of western culture.
I do not understand how people travel through South American countries without even trying to experience local culture in any form. For god’s sake, at least stay in a locally owned hotel and support the local economy. The wide spread tourist industry has allowed for people to have all the comforts of home while abroad. While I understand having some of these things can be nice- like familiar food, you are not in your home country so why not try to enjoy what the place you are in has to offer? How can you even say you have been to a place without experiencing parts of the culture? That’s how I saw Wild Rover’s guests. People who wanted to visit other places, but only to an extent, which is sad to me because Peru has so much to offer. If you want to be that ignorant why even leave your home country if you can’t be open to new things? I am not trying to generalize everyone who stays at these establishments but rather capture the essence of the culture behind hostel’s like this. Party imperialism if you will.
Such businesses are taking advantage of the relaxed laws and the tourist industry in other countries that will attract people with a party agenda with no return to the local community or acceptance of the local community. In fact, the local community is ostracized! Okay, you are on vacation. I get it, I like to party too. But damn it, have some class and respect for the local people and area. As an American, it’s embarrassing. These places are not enriching in any way or different than what you already know. Try something new, learn something, be a little uncomfortable, and you will grow as a person and hopefully be less of a douche bag.