If you have not laced up your wrists with a copious number of souvenir bracelets, have you really backpacked? It is a time-tested sign of a backpacker, the bracelet. Colors, sizes, homemade, gifted, bought, yarn, twine, and you get the picture.
I hold this backpacker sign closer to my heart. I collect bracelets and here is why.
When I was in Zanzibar, a friend of mine gifted me a bracelet. He lived in the village that I was volunteering with at the time. The local people were very tight-knit. It was a touristy region and the locals were not so keen on having tourists continue to occupy all of the most beautiful beaches on their island. They had already been displaced by the 5 star all-inclusive hotels that kicked them off of their beach and disrupted their fishing economy that had sustained their livestyle for decades.
I prefer to avoid the touristy areas myself. While I was there, the local beach hotel was throwing a full moon party similar to that of the famous Thailand full moon parties on Koh Phangan. They sell tickets for 15 dollars and welcome all the vacationers abound. I was alone walking down the beach away from the fire dancers and drunk Italians and stumbled into this guy I had met while working earlier in the week. He invited to a little shack on the beach that was lit by candles. I said sure. We walked around the corner of the main beach to a darker part of the beach away from the hotels. Inside, were about 6 people. locals from the village. They were selling some beers for 1/3 of the price as the full moon party and drinking out of the bottle. They were smoking some of Zanzibar’s finest greens. They were listening to reggae and some light rap music (they were big fans of Wyclef Jean). We couldn’t talk much because of the language barrier, but there were good vibes. I was polite and they continued to welcome me in their little space.
For the rest of my two weeks in Zanzibar, I returned to this shack every day right around sunset. Bought a beer or two. Shook the hands of the locals and gave some smiles. Then, for the most part minded my own business and listened to the music. One day, I brought my small bluetooth speaker and connected my phone to show some music, they loved that. Another day, they asked for help pulling their boats out of the water during low tide so they could repaint them.
At the end of my time in Zanzibar, the guy that brought me to the local bar gave me a bracelet in exchange for a beer. I wore the bracelet for the rest of my trip. From then on I have bought a bracelet in almost every country I have visited. When I meet someone special, I gift them a bracelet, just like my friend from Zanzibar gifted me his bracelet.