Brotherhood of the Travelling Beard
Howdy all. It felt time for a slightly quirky, reflective post and so here it is! One thing you can’t help but notice when you see males backpacking in a foreign city, be it India, Europe or wherever, is that a very healthy proportion of them have beards! People, who at home whilst working and going about their daily lives would never grow a beard, have decided that shaving is a bridge too far when they are away from home.
I mean, sure, people do grow beards from time to time, even when at home, but when backpacking that percentage doubles or triples at a guess. I couldn’t find any firm statistics on this, so I am only going on the evidence of my own eyes, but I could help but notice when I was at Hakone that so many of the western tourists had beards. And in celebration, to show that I am not mocking but merely commenting, I haven’t shaved for a week so that I could present you the reader with this wonderful picture of me with a whole lot of facial hair.
I will be shaving it off in the next 24 hours by the way, the wife is not so happy about it. And let me be perfectly clear fellas, if you do have a beard it’s probably not hitting it off with the ladies. Yes, out there somewhere are women that think facial hair is a bit ‘alright’, but they are like one in a hundred if not thousand. I’ve been told by some chaps here that they have had very positive reviews on the beard by Japanese women, but when quizzed on facial hair by my goodself I am yet to find a female of the species with a positive view on them.
Personally, I have grown a few beards in my life. Goatees mainly, back in the late nineties when they weren’t all the craze but I fooled myself into thinking they were. And travelling, more than once I have let a beard grow. I even had a full beard and long hair back in 1996 when people referred to me as ‘Bill Oddie’. Bi-loody hell!
In defence of the travel beard, there are reasonable circumstances to understand why it grows. When you are backpacking you stay in all sorts of places. Hostels for example – not the best place to shave. A big bathroom with multiple showers, few sinks, poor mirrors that are fogged up a lot, variable water strength and temperature. And the need to carry a bottle of shaving foam with you! You can take a can anymore on planes, too big for cabin baggage and it will probably explode if you put it on checked baggage, so your only option is a tube of cream, which I have used. It breaks, it’s smells, it gets everywhere and you might as well use soap! Soap is another thing I tried. It’s not pleasant.
If you’re in Asia, Africa or South America and staying at budget places again the mirror is often an issue, you may not have hot water (with sensitive skin, you need hot water!) and in some places you may not have water at all. In a dingy bathroom with poor lighting… things can go to pot pretty quickly.
I know what the female readers of this blog are thinking, use an ELECTRIC razor. Well, just so you know, electric razors, in my humble opinion, SUCK. I can’t stand them. The real reason I have a beard right now is that I only have an electric razor until I go back to Australia and it makes me itchy, pulls the hairs and only gets about 80%. It also takes ages. It’s just not worth it. Give me a blade any day of the week even if I have sensitive skin and often end up with bleeds. At least it does a proper bloody job. And the electric razor I have now is the best I’ve ever had. The number of crap (pardon my French) electric razors out there far outweighs the very expensive, bulky ones that are actually ok.
So, next time you see a backpacker walking down the street with a beard down to the knees, understand why. Don’t presume it means he doesn’t care for personal hygiene, or is trying to frighten ladies away. There are reasons. And just think, you should be able to gauge how long he’s been travelling by length of his traveller’s beard!