Sunday, October 25, 2009

《嬉皮客的旅程,背包客的形成 》

Several young backpackers in the late sixties and the early seventies travelled the long way by land from Europe to Kathmandu through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Nepal. The majority spent a few months or half an year out there, and a few of them settled in Nepal or India for years, living on a low budget with hash and other drugs. It became a trend, unmistakable connected to the hippie generation, founding the backpacker's massive conquer of the world several years later. But why did they do it?

There are several answers to that question. The romance of the road, the attraction of drugs, the need of breaking the daily, monotonous way of living, the search for direct experience, the desire to explore what's on the other side of the desert or the mountains, the curiosity to foreign, exotic cultures. And to quite a few, a search for their own identity.

However, no matter which reasons took them on the trail, they have one thing in common: Few of them remained the same persons after their return, and it's no exaggeration to say, that the trip became decisive for their behaviour and points of view for the rest of their life. Several Danish backpackers from that period, who came home after a long stay in India or Nepal, were unable to do very much during the next half year after their arrival - apart from gazing at a wall, trying to digest their great experience!

Frontiers of many kinds were crossed by the hippies and the backpackers of the past. In the late sixties and early seventies, travelling to the third world was much more complicated and unusual than today, and for the same reason, places like Kathmandu and most of the sites along The Hippie Trail were much more exotic than now. In the sixties and early seventies, individual travels to The Middle East and The Far East was an exotic experience, which had the capability to change you forever. Backpackers from the sixties and seventies didn't have today's security at all. E-mail, credit cards and mobile phones didn't exist, and a phone call to your home country was a rare emergency action. On the other hand, travellers still had the feeling of being true pioneers and explorers.

Those who had never been outside Europe or the other western countries - which was by far the major part - got the cultural shock of their life. The first really exotic country on the route was Turkey, but the biggest challenge of them all was the confrontation with India. India still has a vast diversity of religions, culture, languages and nature to offer, but to many - especially if you are not used to travelling as an individual - the country can be a real challenge for you! The best things to bring with you are a relaxed mind, patience and a good sense of humour. However, if you don't like curiosity, crowds of people, bureaucracy and a certain amount of insanity, you shouldn't go there, not even today!

I travelled along The Hippie Trail by public transport from Copenhagen Central Station to Kathmandu in Nepal during the winter and spring in 1969. My expectations about the trip were at the same time enormous and unreal. I had never been outside Europe before, and like other backpackers, my confrontation with the Orient and the Far East became the travel experience of my life so far. I had several reasons for making the trip, but one of the most important was an old dream of trekking in the Himalayas - a region visited by very few westerners at that time. The trip started at Copenhagen Central Station on an icy, late night, by entering "The Baltic Express", heading for the former East Berlin. Train travels were much more adventurous in the sixties than today, and railways were felt, smelled and heard much more than in today's synthetic, metallic tubes. One of the things I found very exotic was, that "The Baltic Express" used to have a direct carriage from Copenhagen to Moscow in The Sovjet Union. 


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