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Aleckii Feb 12th, 2007 09:10 AM

'I was soooo wasted last night....'
I am 21, a medical student from Malaysia, studying in Russia. Where nightlives meant nights in the hostel burying my head in books. So when I started this backpacking trip through europe, I was actually VERY looking forward to some 'real' nightlives, but decided very quickly... it wasn't my cup of tea.

Something which stuck out like a sore thumb was memories of nights in a hostel in Rome, where I had a culture shock. Imagine people my age spending a whole year (or 2) just travelling. Is this something common? In 2 more years (age 23), I will already be a doctor. So it came to me as a surprise that there are people who only start to consider life options at 23...

Another thing was... alcohol and cigarettes. I really appreciated the atmosphere in the hostel, a good mix of europeans, americans, canadians and asians alike. The range of conversations ranged from our travel stories, to economy to politics, to the weather, but every half an hour or so, half of the people say, 'I need my cigarette break', walks out and take a puff. Then to have to see a girl arriving back in the hostel at 7 in the morning (we were having breakfast), smiling and saying, 'I was sooooo wasted last night' like it was something to be proud of. I wonder how many more years will she be spending before her liver cirhosis, lung cancer and brain damage kicks in?

buongiorno Feb 12th, 2007 09:38 AM

and your point is?

sandi_travelnut Feb 12th, 2007 09:43 AM

Some people aren't as focused and serious about education and careers at your age, some are. No big news there.

camelbak Feb 12th, 2007 09:52 AM

Oh how I wish I could have spent a year or two travelling after highschool instead of going straight back to school.

When I was 21 I thought that I had my head screwed on....going to school, married...owned a home. I thought those that travelled, weren't going to school, partied all night, were just lost and confused souls.

Well, by the time I was 23 I had left my hubby, walked away from my home and branched out on my own. I didn't pick up a backpack and wander through Europe, but I did spend a few months having a "good time" and figuring out what I wanted to do.

Now I am 32, married for 7 years (to a wonderful man), have 2 children, and am planning annual trips to Europe.

Everyone finds their own way in the have found "your way" which is just different then those that you met in Rome and everywhere else throughout your travels.

What you may perceive as irrational behaviour for yourself may be called "living life" to those that you met.

Take what you want from those that you meet in your travels...the wisdom of their adventures, their thoughts, hopes, dreams and politics...leave behind the thoughts of how they are living their may just see these people in a different light.

As a side mention the hostel in Rome as a culture shock, and it seems that is where you experienced your epiphany about misguided youth...I read your report earlier that you and your traveller really didn't like Rome - maybe that bad experience tainted you to those at the hostel as well? Just a thought.

If you walk around thinking that things are lame, lame, lame...then nothing you see looks good?

Just a thought.

J_Correa Feb 12th, 2007 10:03 AM

I wish that "gap year" was a common thing in the US like it is in some other countries where kids get a break to travel around between high school and college. Unfortunately it isn't and people think that if you take a break from school, you will never get back, that kids are wasting their time and money, that they need to hurry up and grow up, etc.

I was so burnt out after high school that it took me awhile in college to become focused and figure out what I wanted to do. I sometimes think that taking a year off at that point to travel would have been a good thing for me. Instead, I did go straight to college, but I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I dinked around for awhile and eventually did figure it out. Things have turned out well, but unlike a lot of people, I don't think that going to college directly after high school is necesarily the best course for everyone or the only path to success.

With respect to the heavy partying - some people do that and others don't. And it doesn't matter if they are in collge, travelling around europe, or just hanging around home working a minimum wage job. Those who are going to party will and those who aren't, wont.

Nora_S Feb 12th, 2007 10:08 AM


You are already seeing things from the perspective of a doctor, wishing others would not engage in unhealty behaviors like smoking and drinking too much.

But the smoking should not have been a shock. Isn't there a lot of that in Russia where you attend school?

nytraveler Feb 12th, 2007 10:14 AM

Well education systems are different and different people mature at diffrent rates.

In the US you would typically grduate from high school at 17, from college at 21, from med school at 25 - and then have from 3 to 5 years of residency and perhaps even fellowships. (I know in some places med students go straight to med school from high school - as pharmacy students do in the US - but then pharmacy school is 7 years - not just 4).

And many students in the US don't even have a solid major until 2 years into college - or later - and many professions require at least 2/3 years postgraduate the 4 years of college.

So - most Americans are not nearly as far along in their career plans at your age. We regard the 4 years of college more as learning who you are, what you want to be - and for many of the more immature - that means not just some - but constant partying.

Do I think they should be more serious - yes a lot should be. but - many already are - you just don;t see the headlines you do as with the ones involved in headline scandals.

Separately - there is strong data that people who make life decisions too early - often end up unhappy with the results - since they made them before they were really adults. (The divorce rate in the US is over 50% for all marriages - and over 90% for those in which one party is 21 or under.)

Aleckii Feb 12th, 2007 10:21 AM

Sound advices from you guys. And your replies are much appreciated.

Nora_S, why yes, smoking and drinking is VERY common in Russian, but I don't mix around Russians that much, so I never had a conversation with a friend, only to be interrupted every half an hour or so by 'cigarette breaks'.

Camelback, you sound like my parents. I live my life now rather in the footstep of my parents. We weren't really... rich back then. My parents worked hard earning a living, and now, we are much much better off (they won't stop reminding me about their past- which I am really grateful off). Now, each year, they have their well-deserved breaks, 5 years ago it was Australia, 4 years ago Japan, China, Korea, 3 years ago it was Thailand, 2 years ago 9 countries in Europe, a year ago it was New Zealand. They were considering Russia either this year or next for my graduation.

And I'm realy glad they finally found time out to enjoy their lives now (they are in their 50's in case you're wondering).

I don't really consider travelling a waste of time, if you know me, you will know I love travelling above all else (except maybe cooking?), but I think it is more healthy, perhaps more wise to have a goal and an aspiration just alongside this wish of yours to travel? Like I met countless other travellers (also in the same hostel) who said they were taking a break from job to travel 6 months in europe, then they're going back to their lives working as a nurse and a biochemist.

To me, that's what live's all about- aiming toward something. Anything at all. Not just aimless 'where-time-takes-me' stories.

FainaAgain Feb 12th, 2007 10:31 AM

Everybody has his/her own speed of moving through life. My son traveled in Europe for several months, now, at 25, he's waiting for answers to his application for PhD program.

I was born in USSR, went to college in Moscow, and it seems unreal to me that you spend nights with books, not with friends with vodka.

It's just... different strokes for different folks, I guess. Or maybe you had a sheltered life so far, and just opened the door to the real world for the first time?

You will be a doctor. You will have to deal with patient who had "wasted" their lives, perhaps. ARE YOU READY?

Mathieu Feb 12th, 2007 10:38 AM

"...What you may perceive as irrational behaviour for yourself may be called "living life" to those that you met.

Take what you want from those that you meet in your travels...the wisdom of their adventures, their thoughts, hopes, dreams and politics...leave behind the thoughts of how they are living their may just see these people in a different light..."

I don't mean to hijack this post (well just for a minute perhaps) but I want to thank you, Camelback, for your words of wisdom.

I am currently dealing with very difficult situation involving one of my best friends that is in conflict with my way of thinking, in a similar way that the OP finds his ideologies challenged.
However, your comments above have made me consider the situation I face in a different light.

Thanks a mill.

(A fellow Canuck)

Aleckii Feb 12th, 2007 10:54 AM

It's all right, hi jack it all you want, it's a free forum and everyone's words have a ring of truth in it (some more like a gong clashing).

Camelback, well, it did, to an extent, I suppose. The day we arrived in Rome, the couple I mentioned (the one going back to be a nurse and biochemist) immediately mentioned- watch out for your wallets and documents. It's dangerous in Italy. Her passport was stolen in Milan, his wallet was stollen in Rome. Imagine hearing right after arriving from Switzerland that morning itself. I literally clutched onto my wallet and camera everywhere I went.

And actually, my friend was saying lame lame lame as we were walking through the palatine hills in a joking manner. He didn't mean anything bad out of it.

Aleckii Feb 12th, 2007 10:56 AM

Pardon my typos...

ekscrunchy Feb 12th, 2007 11:06 AM

Aleckii the only thing I will add is that in 2 years or so you will be a doctor with a great career in front of you, and certainly time to travel in a more upscale manner than hosteling. Where will all of those "wasted" people be in a few years???

I say good for you! And I will also tell you that I spent most of my college life with my books and not in a nightclub. {Of course, I went to a college which was virtually all women, so the options were not so great as far as social life goes.} To each his own, as they say here in the US..I wish you a good trip with many experiences, good and bad, that will inform your character for the rest of your life.

WillTravel Feb 12th, 2007 11:08 AM

Aleckii, I've noticed many school and university acquaintances who were major partiers (even drug-doers) and not so academic become very successful. It's because schmoozing and sociability are very important in some professions. Maybe it doesn't seem "fair", and it might not help your career as a doctor in Malaysia, but this dynamic definitely exists.

suze Feb 12th, 2007 11:21 AM

For the foolish girl who gets sooo wasted - liver damage, cancer, or brain damage are still a long way off regardless of her risky behaviour.

Aleckii- if you want to worry on her behalf worry about SDTs including AIDS, pregnancy, or getting into an ugly or potentially dangerous personal situation.

Michel_Paris Feb 12th, 2007 11:41 AM

I don't believe in the idea that once you are a certain age (21,23,...) or have finished college or university, that you will/should-have your life planned and ready to start implementing. One shoe does not fit all. People mature at different rates. I left home at 16 to go to school...I know people who went to university, graduated and found full time well paying jobs, while still living with their some cultures that is normal, in others it may be seen as not fully taking the leap into living your own life.

Is it better to be happy in what you do, or just to be doing something?

I am an engineering gradute, and our statistics is that only 1/5 are still practicing in their field of study 5 years after graduation.

I wish I had taken a year off after graduation. Start a job and you will get 2 weeks of holidays for the next xx years, then have to wait another xx years to get to 3 weeks. Why not take a year to see the world, grow up, and then settle into a 9-5 job, or maybe come to a realization that...what you had (degree) when you left for your year off was not what you wanted to do....or that maybe you appreciate that you don't want to bum around anymore and want to get a degree, that maybe you need a degree to get out of the McJobs.

I don't see many negatives about taking time to find yourself, though I might be somewhat more circumspect if "daddy" was paying the full freight.

I think you are being a bit over-dramatic/prudish about extending that girl's drinking binge into some cirrhosis/brain damaged terrible end. Part of growing up,in my books, is being a bit of a rebel, enjoying social activities, and yes, sometimes that leads to a bit of alcohol consumption. Every night: no, drinking alone with people don't know (especially for a woman) Personally, I've had my wilder days, and I'm glad I did. Grown up, I'm more wise about how often, the where the when and the quantity of my consumption.

In my opinion, in Europe (France for example) I think there is much less taboo about drinking, parental responsibilty where alcohol (wine) is just another part of a meal with your parents, drinking is placed into a proper context, which I think we in NA could maybe learn from them.

Another Canuck...

Sue_xx_yy Feb 12th, 2007 11:53 AM

You speak of 'culture shock' but as a doctor-in-training, you will appreciate the risk of generalizing from small samples. What you conclude are cultural differences could just as easily reflect the differences in personality between individuals, not to mention possibly income level.

For example, I didn't get to travel until I had finished my first graduate degree, at 24. When I finally had a few weeks and a few dollars saved to travel, I decided I couldn't afford to spend the time partying. My reasoning being, I could always party at home, but my time in Europe was a chance I would not soon see come again. I had, after all, only a few weeks. (And unfortunately, my prediction was only too accurate - I didn't make it back for years.)

On occasion, I'd join the crowd and dance the night away. But most days I left the campground or hostel early each morning, while many of my fellow travellers were still sleeping off the previous night's party. Not a few of these people thought me a killjoy, in fact some of them were at pains to let me know their opinion of my behaviour, which is kind of amusing when I think about it - the partygoers as the conservative, conformist ones, pressuring others not to buck the party line, so to speak. Point being, it's not what path you take, it's how you walk it, that matters.

camelbak Feb 12th, 2007 12:12 PM

I have to agree with FainaAgain's quote "You will be a doctor. You will have to deal with patient who had "wasted" their lives, perhaps. ARE YOU READY?".

I was thinking the exact same thing and was scared to say it. :)

I was one of those "wasted" lives when I was 22 (see my earlier post) travels landed me in my perfect spot where I am today. Friends, family and complete strangers have all touched my life to make me who I am now..and darn it I would not change ONE thing about my "wasted" past.

One of the things that a wise grasshopper (alright, my father) has taught me in my short 32 years, is to above all value those around you. Take everything you can from them, and give everything of yourself back. Learn from them and help them if they ask for it. Look at life through their eyes...not necessarily how you preceive how they should live their life.

The people that you met are on their own personal journey...some on breaks from careers, some (like the girl you met) may be travelling so that she can find what her purpose in life is. At least she is strong enough and has enough heart and adventure to make the journey.

Everyone muddles through life - noone has the golden answer, or ticket, to the perfect way to exist...and that perfect way to exist is different for each and every one of us. THAT is the beauty of humanity. Another beauty is that we can help one another in times of trouble..and laugh with eachother in times of pleasure.

Mathieu - I hope that your friend comes out the other end of the conflict okay. You are a good friend just by standing by, even if you are conflicted.

Now...if I could transplant myself to a smoky room in a Paris cafe (and I don't smoke anymore...but dang if it isn't the Parisian way!)...with fellow travellers chatting about the virtues of this or that red wine, I would be in my own personal heaven.


ira Feb 12th, 2007 12:23 PM

Hey Alecki,

Glad to hear how things are going.

Keep us posted.


Michel_Paris Feb 12th, 2007 12:24 PM

That was very well said, you have gained much knowledge grasshopper. Count me in for a glass of Bordeaux :)

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