Backpacking is amazing and never let anyone make you think otherwise. There’s something so freeing about being in a new country with nothing but a carry on. With hardly any baggage weighing you down, what can’t you do?
But, like everything else, traveling takes a toll mentally and physically. We’re forced to constantly adapt to different languages and cultures in record breaking time. It seems like we walk a marathon each day. Backpackers do some strange things that aren’t perceived as normal back in their non-backpacker lives. Though backpackers aren’t really known for having normal lives, are they?
Even though I haven’t been backpacking enough to quench my wanderlust appetite, I’ve spent enough time living on the road to pick up a few “tricks” along the way.
We don’t always wash our clothes for longer than we’d probably like to disclose
That’s different than saying we don’t shower. We’re not dirty and we don’t (always) smell, but a shirt usually isn’t going to be soiled the one time you wear it. If you’re constantly flipping through clothes on a four month backpacking stint, that’s a ton of laundry to do. Shirts last a couple days, jeans a bit more. As long as you don’t throw your clothes in a smelly pile on the floor, they’ll be fine to wear the next day. No one is going to care if you wear the same thing all the time. We all do it.
I mean, there are always exceptions. Please don’t wear that skirt that one dude spilled his beer on or that sweat soaked jumper. We’re trying to be practical – not gross.
We lose the toothbrush cap and then wad up the tip with toilet paper
That sanitary cap will maybe last a few weeks . . . two months tops. And there’s no way we’re just going to let it bounce around in that backpack that’s been on every train compartment floor since Berlin.
We eat like scavengers
When we’ve got a whole city to see, sometimes food the last thing on our mind. Conventional meal times don’t exist; we eat a bit of something here, something there, perhaps a crêpe (or two). Or someone brings up food late at night and we realize we haven’t eaten in over a day . . . there’s no in between.
We talk about all the things we’re going to buy as souvenirs . . . and then don’t buy any of them
I love going abroad and finding things that I can’t find in the States: food, clothing brands, spices, cute little trinkets. I always say I’m going to bring them back. And I don’t. Backpacking isn’t the hoarder’s best friend.
We pile all of our crap into one corner of the bed
It’s either that or make continuous trips to the lockers. When I travel, I have a neat little pile that I sleep next to with my glasses, my next day contacts, pjs, a book, a medicine bag, my belt, a pair of jeans, and a spare shirt or two. We’re also good at hiding the important stuff under us while we nap: laptops, wallets, phones . . .
We create stories when the smalltalk gets a little monotonous
No matter how often traveling seems like it only is smalltalk, I wouldn’t recommend this. Yes, while the smalltalk is never ending, it’s over quickly. You make friends faster as a traveler. So, if you start making stuff up, you’re going to find yourself in a very deep hole that may or may not be possible to dig yourself out of with new friend still intact.
However, sometimes you don’t want to disclose all your information (where you’re going, the fact you’ll be alone, ect). I’ve only told a few white lies, usually around extremely forward 3am uber drivers and pushy solicitors.
We hoard food like squirrels hoard nuts
There’s a buffet for breakfast? You bet we’re taking bread and packets of jam to-go. Actually, any bits of food we pick up along the way will probably end up shoved in a pocket somewhere. Airplane snacks, small baggies of cookies, half eaten candies, chocolate – fruit goes bad very quickly, so it’s a hard snack to grab and forget. When it’s too late to scavenge for food, we resort to the snack pile.
With only a certain amount of space in our tiny backpacks, it doesn’t seem like food would be an option. But, trust me, we’ve all got something hidden away somewhere.
We hide our socks just as well as we hide our valuables
I haven’t come across spare socks in the dorm room too often and that’s because we’re actually doing you a favor here. You do not want to get even a whiff of one of our socks after a long day of hiking around town because [see weird thing number 1].
We hang everything off anything
Those smelly (but hopefully no longer) socks, underwear, towels, tees – anything that’s small enough to wash on its own in the sink with a bit of soap will end up hanging from the dorm bed bars at least once. I’m not paying 3 dollars to wash a quarter of a load every week. 3 dollars is like 2 pints at a cheap bar in Budapest. Hungarian beer > laundry.
We’re pros at dressing in the dark – or getting ready in 5 minutes because we overslept and our train leaves in less than half an hour
We crawl into bed and change inconspicuously under the sheets. We’re like the traveling version of the Flash – the moment our roommates step out of the room, we’re taking our pants off and getting dressed in a new outfit within the ten seconds they’re gone. Sure, you can pack up all your stuff and head to the restroom, where you’ll probably drop your shirt onto the damp floor. If you’ve been backpacking for a while, you’ll have your routine down and clothes you can just throw on and go. Our style is definitely effortlessly chic or comfortably vagabond, sometimes both. Black is always a great option.
What things have you done (or seen travelers do) that would be considered ‘weird’ back home?