Sunday, October 14, 2007

Youth hostels, backpacking and the John Muir trail

The summer of my junior year in high school I went to typing school, band practice, and at the end of the summer went to Mo No Mo Nock in the Pocono's with the folks. I knew I had missed Woodstock. What I didn't know until going to a Philosophy Club meeting in September was that the hip kids had all gone backpacking in Europe and stayed in Youth Hostels or, if they traveled domestically, they had hiked the John Muir trail.
I thought my sleeping bag days were over after Boy Scouts. Now I found I needed my camping gear again if I wanted to stay au courant. I scoured the cellarway for my back pack and sleeping bag. My mother had given them away. Funny these things disappeared right after Woodstock.

Travel is one of the many things that changed with the sixties. Previously travel meant getting in the family sedan and going to an overnight resort that had a pool for the kids and a golf course for Dad. If you were an outdoorsman you went on camping trips and hunted deer with your father.

Now you were supposed to backpack the Appalachian trail and travel overseas with a rail pass and stay in Youth hostels. You and your guitar were supposed to have adventures and experience life. Meeting fellow travelers of the female persuasion along the way.

I was a slow learner. I didn't have a girlfriend until my seventeenth birthday and I didn't stay in a youth hostel until I was in my thirties.

editor's note: I recently came back from a brief vacation in Portugal. On the second to the last day my wallet was stolen and the only money I had left was an emergency stash, rather paltry it turned out. Squashing the thought of staying in a posh hotel I was looking for cheap quarters to crash for the night before I could take my plane back in the morning. I was walking down the main boulevard of Lisbon and noticed a sign on a building that said "Travellers House". What the heck. I went up the stairs and was greeted by two friendly ladies who let me stay for twenty euros. The place had Internet access, a color tv, a kitchen and a beer party for guests. The beer party was swell and, the hostesses encouraged the guests to dance to the records. Thankfully, my shared quarters was in a room with quiet men instead of the British young men, drunk with beer and rugby stories.