A life of foolishness freedom
Why films are yet to grasp female backpackers on screen
It was April the 4th 2015, and I was stuck in a petite yellow dinghy with eight others hurtling down some uncontrollable rapids. I watched my friend’s fingers dig into the tiny ropes beside my hips whilst laughing with fear. In about two minutes I would watch her, in an attempt to try and save the miniature inflatable, swing her paddle behind across my face and completely wipe me out into the waterfall. We would spend that next week infused with alcohol at Australian bars telling elaborate stories of wrestling monkeys and braking up brawls which resulted in my black ringed face. I put Samual L Jackson’s eye patch to shame.
This was probably a tame moment when I think back, one in which was a mere blink for me compared to the insane about of memories and experiences I collected travelling with three of my closest girlfriends in Australia. Over the years I have watched movies depict travellers in films, but none have managed to explore the boldness, freedom, and stupidity that is learned between a group of girls on their quest for travel.
The media has previously exploited the vision of a ‘traveller’ on their journey in numerous movies. I mean, without ‘The Beach’ attracting hungry tourists to their shores, would Thailand’s boat drivers ever have had jobs? We were engulfed with understanding how people were seeing the secrets of the world while sleeping on sand dunes under the stars. Leo conveys the idea of freedom impeccably, one that everyone during this epidemic is longing for — now more than ever. But the film doesn’t display to the audience the comedy value of your failures on the road. Surely Dicaprio got in a tuk-tuk in the wrong direction a few times and ended up in the middle of nowhere struggling to find a toilet? Some of my fondest recollections are the failures we had as a team travelling together. This is something missed out when witnessing these beautifully rich natured features.
Then the media flipped the freedom fighter characters. In 2014 there was the release of the opposite depiction, showing travellers as satire idiots in ‘Inbetweeners 2’. Don’t get me wrong, the film has some amusing parts and it was a breath of fresh air to see the road experience of young travellers in hostels. However, all the film really explores in depth is the challenges the boys face across the country whilst trying to have sex with anything that moves. There is no reference of women having the courage to do this journey alone as travellers, only that they are waiting at home like mad hatters or lost dancing in a club in the middle of the desert.
Then came the movie ‘Wild’ — a powerful narrative about a woman rediscovering herself, after recent struggles with divorce and the loss of her mother, hiking along the 1,100 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail. Finally, a film that showed audiences what most travellers set off to find, what it feels like to be alone by yourself in an unfamiliar world. And the fact it was a female explorer was unique at that. The director wasn’t afraid to show the tears, the screams, and the fear for her character. There are these moments of loneliness when you jump on that crowded bus in a foreign city with no map or idea where it was headed. I smiled ear to ear when I saw that Witherspoon’s character didn’t wear make up, walked in hikers boots and carried an ugly blue backpack in this film. Anyone that says backpacking is glamourous is either lying, or staying in the five-star hotel with a private car down the road. But what about the younger generation of females wishing for adventure?
There is a huge gap that hasn’t been explored of the truth behind female travellers trecking across the world. Yes, travelling brings laughter and unique experiences for all, and I’m sure audiences across the world appreciate seeing anyone adapt within a new culture. But the friendships you have with these fellow packers are unlike any connections at that age. I want to see a film that shows a group of young women taking each footstep with no fear, looking over the edge of each cliff, wanting more extremities, failing at every turn, to find the ultimate escape of travelling the world together - just like we did.