Ah, the 90s.
An era that brought us hair mascara, the Spice Girls, curtain fringes and dubious shell suits. A time when Gwen Stefani pleaded us to not speak, when strappy tops and Bjork buns were all the rage, and when Jared Leto was our crush du jour (those eyes!).
On TV, we had the comforting warmth of Friends, Dawson’s Creek and Malcolm in the Middle. On the radio, an eclectic free-for-all saw Nirvana rock their stuff alongside Catatonia, Oasis and Sixpence None The Richer.
This was my coming-of-age decade, so it sparks a certain nostalgia. But there’s no rose-tinted haze when I say that it was one of the finest times of all.
Age of easygoing
Millennials didn’t exist in the 90s (well some did, but they didn’t know what they were yet). There was no sexting, doxxing, explicit Tinder snaps or Twitter storms. And, as a result, everyone was more relaxed.
Of course, bad things still happened. This is a decade where the Gulf War erupted, and genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia went unchecked, causing widespread devastation. There were sex scandals, political corruption and sensational murder trials. But, on a lesser day-to-day level, people seemed more easygoing and open.
We didn’t snipe at each other from behind a screen. We didn’t shame people when they wore purple goth lipstick, or developed a random infatuation for NSYNC. We might have taken the piss, but there was no viciousness of the tenor we see online today. We accepted people as they were, and quirkiness was genuinely encouraged.
More emotionally open
Even the terminology of the 90s had an air of freedom about it, like we knew we weren’t taking life too seriously. Think “Sweet!” “As IF” “My bad” “Nice” and “Talk to the hand”. And the unforgettable, “surfin’ the crimson wave”.
With this chilled vibe came an emotional openness that we have not seen since. We were willing to bare our bellies, and howl out our feelings, No Doubt-style. We weren’t afraid to be vulnerable. We felt how we felt, whether that was the anguish captured by the likes of Radiohead lyrics and shows like My So-Called Life, or the straight-out joy of the New Radicals and the Fresh Prince.
We have emotions nowadays, yes, but they seem more fraught. There’s a lot of anger that unleashes itself in social media storms, and in online forums. Even when we do feel happy, it’s apt to take the form of a heart or thumb’s up emoji, rather than anything more profound. And amid the wealth of self-expression we see on Instagram and Facebook, it’s hard to differentiate what’s real, and what people want you to see. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
Real life, real people
The most poignant thing about the 90s is that it was the last decade where we didn’t have phones. Sure, some of us had big, clunky plastic things that we painstakingly typed out 10p texts on. Some of us had pagers. But, generally, if we wanted to see someone, we picked up the old-school phone and made a date. We might even have had to queue for a pay-phone, or speak to our girlfriend’s mother first. And there was no backing out, because we couldn’t just decide on a whim that we’d prefer a night in with Netflix instead (throwing out a lame excuse on WhatsApp).
People spoke to each other. Not just in a cosy Central Perk with coffee and sofas way. But also in real life, with funny and meaningful conversations. They weren’t distracted by half a thousand message bleeps or breaking news alerts. They weren’t throwing out dime-a-dozen platitudes on social, without any real feeling behind it. They weren’t stressed by what was happening in the world beyond them, and whether someone looked like they were having a better life on social media. They simply lived their own lives, and took the time to get to know other people, from friends to lovers and beyond.
Travelling with strangers
The 90s have gone, and we can never get them back. But we can reclaim a little of that carefree time when it comes to meaningful connections in the real world. And joining a group travel adventure is a great way to do it.
Here at Flash Pack, we draw together like-minded solo travellers in their 30s and 40s. We don’t believe in cliques or unfriendliness. We make sure that everyone who joins our trips shares the same type of open, inclusive and kind-spirited outlook.
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The idea of travelling with strangers can be daunting, but many Flashpackers find that they quickly form genuine and lasting friendships – simply because they are strangers. We’re so unused to connecting to new people in this day and age, beyond the flakiness of an online date.
When you travel with loved ones, the tendency is to be complacent, and dip in and out of your phone as you always do. When you travel with strangers, however, it’s important to make the effort. And, far removed from the pressures of everyday life – in an incredible place like the glacial lakes of Patagonia or a rooftop infinity pool in Cambodia – this is easy to do.
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There’s less temptation to reach for your phone, because there’s so much stimulation already. You have the intoxicating delights of a new country, and new people to explore it with. You have challenges such as scaling Table Mountain in South Africa or bathing rescued elephants in Myanmar, that will draw you in, and demand the entirety of your attention.
This is the magic of what we do. In an age where so many of us are stuck behind screens, we want to facilitate authentic and uplifting experiences in the real world.
Perhaps that 90s flame of brilliance can be re-kindled, after all…
Where will you travel to next?
Photos: Shutterstock and Flash Pack