On my most recent visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I met a delightful Thai woman who grew up being told that backpackers were lazy, dirty, and were always looking for the cheapest place to stay. She was warned by her family to keep away from them.
After practicing acroyoga in Suan Buak Hard, a lovely park in the southwest corner of the perfectly-square and quaint Old City (founded in 1296), she was approached by a backpacker who said that she was doing one of the yoga practices incorrectly and that he could show her a better way to do it. She agreed, he did, and they became friends.
Through him, she met other backpackers and quickly realized that while it might be true of some, most backpackers and other tourists were nice people simply living their lives, exploring their world, and trying to enjoy their experiences in Thailand.
With this, she had an epiphany. She realized backpackers travel the world looking for happiness and when they find it, they put it in their backpack. And when their backpack is finally full of happiness, they go home happy!
With my own pack now more full of this intangible yet invaluable souvenir of life, I left my serendipitous conversation a little happier.
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