Maybe it’s because its culture is different to our own. Or perhaps it’s because English isn’t a first, or even second, language. If could be the fact that the food, climate and landscapes are so unique. Whatever it is, there is something about Asia that makes it a truly exotic backpacking destination.
Head to Asia with just a backpack and a wonder lust and there is the sense that anything can, and will, happen. It has that allure, that promise, of anything being possible. You feel that after months traveling around Asia you will come home full of interesting stories and life-changing experiences.
Europe may have its history and culture along with a few quirks, but its efficiency and safety standards means that there is an underlining feeling of respectability. Really catching a ferry from Dover to Calais will never have the same sense of adventure as one from Thailand mainland to Ko Samui.
Australia and New Zealand promise a laid back vibe and a good party atmosphere, along with some adrenaline-fueled fun. Even with this, there is still something missing.
South America, once the destination of the truly adventurous, now just seems overrun with tourists. So much so, that you feel that you are just walking in the footsteps of paths already well-trodden, instead of discovering new and interesting places and people.
Asia on the other hand, offers everything a backpacker is looking for from their travels. Whether it is spiritual enlightenment or just the chance to visit fantastic beaches, Asia has it all.
OK, so Thailand beaches might be overdone and Bali is full of young Australian holiday-makers, but there are parts of Indonesia, Nepal, South Korea, China and Vietnam that haven’t yet become regulars on the tourist trail. There is still the idea that travel to Asia and you will be able to discover hidden beaches and long-forgotten temples.
Perhaps it is Hollywood that can be blamed for this Asian allure. If ever a character wants to start a new life or discover themselves they head to Asia. It is especially popular with action heroes with the likes of Jason Bourne and James Bond heading to the continent to start anew, even Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins learned his Batman skills while finding himself in Asia.
It’s not just action heroes heading there either. In “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a group of retired Brits all head off to India to start new lives, while in “Eat Pray Love,” two of the three locations the main character heads to in order to re-build her life are in Asia.
Then there is the ultimate backpacker’s film, “The Beach.” Set in Thailand, this film starts with what almost every would-be backpacker imagines traveling to be like. It has fantastic beaches, excitement, romance, great parties, the element of danger, interesting people, plus the chance to discover paradise on earth. Could it be set anywhere other than in Asia?
Does Asia live up to this ideal? In total honesty, probably not. But it has so much to offer and so much waiting to be discovered, which is what makes it the ultimate backpacker’s destination.