Like enjoying R&B, watching Sex and the City 2 and cheering for the NSW State of Origin team, there are some things I always believed I would never do. Ever.
Fortunately, I still have those three to take comfort from, because last week I broke a different one: being “one of those dickheads” on a travelling buck’s party.
If you’ve spent much time in Eastern Europe, you’ve experienced the nightmare of stag do’s and hen’s parties. They’re a menace. They’re mostly English, sometimes Irish, and they’re taking over places like Prague, Tallinn, Riga, Krakow and Dublin in slurring, staggering waves.
Here, the same sorts of people head to Bali to do the same sorts of things.
They take budget flights to budget destinations, where they set about getting as boozed as possible while either completely ignoring, blindly annoying or willfully taunting the local populace. If you’re ever in a local pub and a buck’s party walks in, you know exactly what to do: walk out.
And so, I thought, that’ll never be me. And yet, last week it was.
An English mate of mine is getting married, and to celebrate he organised a boys’ trip to Japan to go snowboarding (as a bartender in Tokyo said: “What, was Magaluf full?”). There were 13 of us tearing up the slopes and pubs of Hakuba and Tokyo for a full week.
Our trip contained all of the time-honoured stag-do standards: excessive drunkenness; a general lack of interest in the local culture; the causing of inadvertent offence to the local populace, in this case through quoting Team America: World Police (“Oh, harro Hans”); a night out in a red light district (Roppongi); a mysterious post-midnight massage for one of the group; and general loudness in a place known for its polite, gentle approach to life.
We tried to keep things as respectful as possible, but when you get a group of similarly-aged and like-minded people together and send them to a foreign country on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, the dickhead factor is always going to be raised a couple of degrees.
That’s not just buck’s parties, either. That’s hen’s parties, end-of-season footy trips, Contiki tours… you know it, you’ve seen them.
But here’s the thing about those sorts of trips: if you’re not part of the group, they’re the most annoying, cringe-worthy things in the world. If you are part of the group… they’re awesome.
That might just be the most embarrassing thing about our Japan trip: I had a blast. I had fun getting boozed in the seedy cesspit that is the Roppongi Crossing on a Saturday night. I enjoyed having a big group of us roaming the slopes in Hakuba, yelling at each other from the chairlifts. I laughed at the inappropriate conversations that hopefully no one could understand on public transport.
It was all good, really, although the general population of Honshu might disagree. I don’t think we overtly offended anyone, but there must have been at least a few people not entirely happy with the presence of, say, 13 blokes dressed as superheroes crashing their local pub.
So I don’t know what to think about buck’s parties anymore. They’re not that far removed from Contiki-style tours, really – the idea being to travel, drink a lot and ignore everything else going on around you – but I never had much of a problem with those groups in the first place.
I know proper travellers are supposed to despise them, but the people on group tours are just out to have their version of a good time. I did one when I was 17 and I loved it. It mightn’t be the most cultural experience in the world, but that’s not why everyone travels.
Group tours are always going to be around, but they’re not necessarily a menace. They’re just bunches of people out to have a good time, and if no one is seriously offended, what’s the harm?
Still, it’s probably best to steer clear of them when you’re not involved.
Have you been away on a buck’s or hen’s party? Or any group tour? Were you a menace to society or just a bunch of people having a good time?
Hope you’re enjoying the Backpacker blog – there will be a new one published every Tuesday and Wednesday on the Fairfax Media websites. To contact me with any topic suggestions or personal abuse, visit my website, follow me on Twitter, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.