A girl with pastel-coloured hair, a nose piercing and an outfit that my mother would describe as highly impractical starts off. Two months of helping orphans in some African country. The other girls smile politely, but I can tell exactly what they are thinking: been there, done that. Africa is so 2012. Good luck keeping your instagram followers entertained with the umpteenth series of selfies with small underfed children, who, “despite having so little, seem so grateful and appreciative of everything they do have”. This girl has already lost the game and everybody knows it.
A second girl named “Everly” is clearly better prepared than the first one and starts talking about the Mongolian tribe that she will immerse herself in for three months. “I really just want to become one of the locals, you know, have a true authentic experience. I don’t want to be one of those tourists who goes to Bali for three weeks and then thinks they have become part of the culture there.” The other girls laugh nervously. One of them rolls down her sleeves quickly to cover up a tattoo of the Balinese word for love, while the other girl tries to hide the wristband that a Balinese surf dude braided for her last year. Everly has a victorious look in her eyes.
But then a third girl starts listing statistics about the sickly amount of carbon dioxide that airplanes excrete. “I’m totally not judging you guys,” the girl says judgingly, “but I personally just don’t really want to contribute to that kind of pollution. That’s why I’m hitchhiking to a sustainable vegan eco-farm in the outskirts of northern Albania. It is completely self-sufficient and I will be planting trees there to reduce the carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere. I just really want to be more aware of my contribution to climate change. We’re all in it together you know.” She smiles as she watches her other friends die on the inside. The battle is over. She is the alpha millennial now.