Every long-term traveller makes sacrifices, as backpacker Paolo Neumann has been reminded today. For the fifth year in a row, the wantaway Brit has celebrated another lap around the sun in some hostel somewhere with some random people he’s never met before.
After the obligatory Skype with Mum and Dad – performed in the middle of the hostel common room to make sure everybody heard – Paolo pretended not to make a big deal of his special day. “Oh yeah nah, just going for a few drinks if you want to tag along,” he said to the motley crew in the common room, even though nobody had asked.
“By the way, I did get a little something haha,” he said with an unnecessary wink. He then went to the fridge and pulled out one of the saddest cakes you’ll ever see.
“Hip hip hooray,” said the smattering of couldn’t-care-lessers in unenthusiastic semi-unison as Paolo blew out his birthday joint. None of them wanted to be there, but they felt some weird social obligation to watch on as Paolo cut the $3 supermarket cake into embarrassingly tiny pieces.
“How old are you turning?” a bloke from Coogee asked in an effort to break the unbearable silence. “Oh, 25. Yeah, that’s two years older than me. Interesting…”
The long-term traveller then went on to recount all his favourite adventure moments from the past 12 months. Again, nobody really gave a fuck, but it would’ve been rude to just leave, so they half-heartedly pretended to listen.
At publication time, the mood of the party had improved significantly after Paolo said he’d buy everyone shots. In exchange, they had to promise they’d hang out with him at the local dive bar for at least 20 minutes and pretend to enjoy it.