The Backpacker's best abuse of 2011

People take travel seriously. People take travel blogs even more seriously.

I've been thinking about how to sum up 2011 given this is my last post of the year – maybe with a list of great experiences I've had over the last 12 months, or with a round-up of destinations that'll be "hot" next year. But you can get that anywhere.

What you can only get on this here blog is the comments left every week by my wonderful, funny, intelligent, passionate, occasionally humourless, sometimes irate and quite possibly completely insane readers.

So I thought a nice way to look back on the last 12 months and sign off for another year might be with a retrospective of some of the more amusing abuse I've copped this year.

Because if there's one thing I've learned about writing opinion pieces on travel – some wilfully divisive, others completely misinterpreted – it's that it gets people all fired up.

Let's check it out.

The fun started in February, with a post on the joy that can be had on an overseas buck's party. "PETE" wasn't impressed: "I can't take any guy seriously after they've admitted to seeing the Sex and the City movie. Mate, stick to milk liqueurs and let your husband decide on which shoes you should wear on your next date."

I took that advice, too. Manolo Blahniks are extremely uncomfortable.

In June there was a list of the world's most difficult countries to travel through, which was always going to get an irate response.

"Librarian" wrote: "The douchepacker's articles never fail to amuse me on the level of backwardness and ignorance it brings to the table. ... STAY HOME. The reason why it does bother me cos (sic) it gets to be in The Age. This is hatred."

It sure is Librarian. But moving right along. The August post on the riots in London (which I later retracted in an admission of hastiness) also brought out the hatred.

"Lally" was one of the first in: "What a rubbish article...well done to all the comments for not falling for this utter rot! Ben Groundwater needs to find an alternate career ... News of The World maybe?"

Unfortunately NOTW closed down shortly afterwards, but there wasn't much I could do about that.

One thing I learned later in August is that you don't mess with Russia. Or at least if you're going to, you should make it very clear that you actually enjoyed yourself before messing with Russia.

Most of all, however, I learned, with not a small amount of concern, that I was responsible for bringing an entire nation of travellers into disrepute. Said "Kenser", from the States: "Before reading this article I was sure that the most stupid people of the world live in the United States. Now I see that Australians must be in the first place with their stupidity."

Sorry Australia, my bad. "Steve", at least, could see that the shortcomings were purely my own, rather than those of a nation: "Mate, you really don't understand the first thing about travelling do you? That was the weakest, most pathetic article I've read all year."

Sigh. Even a post about the changes Siem Reap has gone through in the last decade or so was cause for a scuffle.

"Tom" wanted me to get out more: "Champ, your blog is like groundhog day. Can you come up with some new adventures? Go holidaying and write this blog from an exotic location."

And you know what, Tom? I took your advice. I'm writing this from a beach in Fiji, which is why I'm unfortunately unable to reply to comments today. Still, lovely and sunny.

Onto November, however, when my list of the world's best cities for foodies sparked an outbreak of universal agreement and congratulations. Wait, that's not right...

While most comments began with the phrase "I can't believe...", some were a little more passionate. "SS" in Bangkok was "aghast" at the inclusion of Singapore (whereas most people just couldn't believe it), while "makan-makan" had a suggestion: "The author needs to travel and learn how to eat a little more."

My bathroom scales would argue that I have, but whatever. Later in November, the post on "bad" places making good destinations quickly descended into a slanging match, mostly on unrelated topics (hi, "James Shaw").

"Roger", at least, stayed on-topic with his critique: "You should write a book: 'The Egomaniacs Travel Guide'. You come across as someone who likes to travel to dangerous locations for the boast factor."

That's totally not true. Fiji's quite safe, and I'm boasting about that, too.

Finally, not seven days ago, there was my list of the world's dumbest sports, which was passed off as "culturally insensitive rubbish" by some, and "not funny in the slightest" by others.

"FJ" said: "Being snide about other cultures is a sport of which you're already a master. Well done!"

While someone called "Really?", which may or may not be his/her real name, chimed in with: "Sorry Ben, you get paid for this? 5 minutes on the bus and you have a column? I'm all for lightheartedness but this is just year 5 tosh."

Funny, that's what my grade six teacher used to say.

And so ends another 12 months of sporadic useful insights, occasional hilarity and year-five tosh.

Obviously I've cherry-picked the wilder accusations here for the sake of entertainment. This year's mostly been a good one – I haven't had my leg humped like Sam de Brito, but I haven't had lefty conspiracy theorists screaming at me like Paul Sheehan, either.

All told, it's been a blast. Have a great Christmas break everyone, and see you in the New Year for more of the same.

Safe travels.

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