I looked at my social media newsfeeds not long ago and noticed it was filled with people partying at far flung locations around the globe. Topless blokes covered in body paint on tropical beaches danced with girls in bikinis, grasping buckets of cheap booze with seventeen straws in them to help share the love, amongst other things. Looking at the pictures, as jealous as I was not to be partying on a beach somewhere, it occurred to me that although there is nothing wrong with this kind of travel, it isn’t the type of traveller that I am- and I have no problem with that.
I know the exact moment I came to this conclusion. I was on a boat, travelling from the island beaches of Koh Tao to Koh Samui, Thailand. Some friends and I had decided to relax there for a few days before heading over to the party island of Koh Phangan for one of the famous Full Moon Parties that draw thousands of young party travellers each year. The plan was to store energy so we could match it with the other revellers.
Safe. Smart. Experienced.
It was a visit that was only supposed to last a few days. We stayed for a week.
It’s a hard lifestyle to want to leave; beachside breakfasts, fresh seafood dinner’s and drinks on the beach in a relaxing, picturesque setting. So we decided to give the Full Moon Party a miss. Whether that was a decision we would live to regret is hard to say. Regardless, I do not regret my time on Koh Tao.
When it came time to leave, we had to catch a ferry back to Koh Samui. On the way we pulled into the dock at Koh Phangan to pick up more passengers. It resembled something more like a scene from a disaster movie than a ferry terminal. Bodies were strewn around like wounded soldiers; some with face paint still behind their ears- a place always forgotten at shower time. The ones still standing looked defeated. It was as though they were all caught in a fog of both regret and elation and weren’t sure which emotion was winning out. The kind of feeling you get after a night on the booze where you hope you had a good time but weren’t confident that was what actually took place. Hung-over confusion- like a lost kid at a carnival.
When the boat arrived, they reluctantly filed on, half of them looking as though they were in varying degrees of shock, like they had witnessed something horrific but were struggling to recall the details. Or maybe it was the thought of spending and hour on a boat back to Koh Samui, rocking and rolling over the waves that was filling their young hearts with dread. Regardless, it was hardly a feeling of joy they were expressing.
A young girl was loaded onto the ferry looking more worse for wear than the others; an impressive feat in itself considering how everyone else looked like extras from The Walking Dead. A saline drip was attached to her arm as two Thai locals helped her to a seat. I think that it is a safe assumption to make that when you have gone to a party and require a drip to rehydrate yourself the next day, you know you have given it your all. It was in that moment that I thought; how much is too much?
I can imagine the conversation she would have with friends when she got back home;
“How was the Full Moon Party?”
“Oh good. You know. Face paint, buckets of alcohol, I needed a drip the next day. I really gave it 110%.”
I’m not saying needing a drip to recover from a party is a bad thing, but generally speaking, any kind of medical treatment to help recover from over indulgence is usually seen as something a person attempts to avoid when having a good time.
Maybe it’s a badge of honour these days.
Maybe I’m just old.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good time and I’m partial to a beer or twelve- in fact I’m probably more keen for a beer than not. I’ve done my share of overseas binge drinking in the past so I haven’t come to this conclusion because I’m old and over the hill. Far from it. I suffer more from a fear of missing out. How many people have hit the booze too hard and spent the next day laid up, thinking that the world was about to come to an abrupt end and would have been happy if it did?
Firstly, if you said ‘no’ you are a liar. Secondly, when overseas, you have a limited amount of time to spend looking at things you might not get a chance to ever see again. That sticks pretty heavily me. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy these types of experiences- I think everyone should try them- I just don’t base my travel around them.
There are roughly two types of travellers; those who like to party and those who do not. While this seems like (and is) a gross generalisation, it is not all that far from the truth. I’m not talking about comparing young people to old people either- age is irrelevant. I’ve met many an aged individual who enjoys giving the drink a fair nudge while on holiday and I know just as many young people who don’t travel just to party. Some people like to live it up and others like to explore. As easy as it is to say you can do both, I just prefer not to feel queasy whilst doing the latter as a result of the former. To miss a days sight seeing or adventure because I was laid up in bed, hung-over is a positively deflating feeling.
I want to be clear here; I’m not saying you shouldn’t live it up overseas. There is nothing wrong with party traveling and there never will be. I’m not begrudging people who do it and if you can pull it off then all the power to you. I have partied in New Orleans, gone tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos, and Oktoberfest is high on my bucket list just like the Full Moon Party is for many others. I get it. I’m just wary that there is too much to offer around the world to place too much emphasis on how much you can drink as opposed to how much you can see.
Wayward Tip: Make partying a by-product of your travel not the reason- regret is a bitter pill to swallow.