10 Things Backpackers Do But Don’t Admit

Backpackers and budget travelers aren’t always the world’s most ethical travelers. Having little money, and being in places where no one knows them, they can get away with quite a bit. For the most part, it’s nothing terrible, just a few misdemeanors.

Here are a few things that many travelers do but don’t like to admit:

1 – Wear dirty underwear

Dirty Underwear

Sometimes, travelers forget to do laundry. Sometimes they just don’t take the necessary time to do it. Sometimes, they don’t want to pay for it. Sometimes, they lose their clean underwear in a freak gasoline fight accident. Or whatever. It’s just not always possible to maintain a fresh supply of clean underwear on the road, and you just have to pull a pair out of the dirty pile, shrug your shoulders, and suck it up and put them on. Just pray that you aren’t in a humid, tropical environment when this happens.

The only thing worse than putting on dirty underwear, is telling other people that you’ve put on dirty underwear.

2 – Steal toilet paper

toilet paper

What can we say? When washrooms rarely have toilet paper, and you’re on a low budget, the temptation of taking extra napkins from the café you’re in, or even taking a whole roll from a restaurant’s washroom or any public bathroom, can overtake many a backpacker, clandestinely walking around with a huge wad of toilet paper in his or her backpack. Sure, TP isn’t exactly the most expensive item at the store, but every penny counts, right?

3 – Eat other people’s leftovers

Half eaten

This may be an extreme example, but it happens, more than you might think actually. You can catch them in the act if you carefully scan a restaurant or hostel kitchen for the hungry-looking travelers (usually slightly disheveled) eyeing up a table that has nearly finished their meal. As soon as the table leaves, the traveler scoots over and grabs whatever looks edible and slightly tasty, not making eye contact with anyone and quickly exiting the premises. It’s not their proudest moment, but at least they saved money on bread, if not their dignity.

4 – Pee in the water

P1050039

Be it a lake, an ocean, a pool, whatever, backpackers love it when they can avoid the often dirty, dingy toilets that blanket backpacker-frequented areas. And when you’re on a beach, the temptation to use the sparkly ocean as their toilet can outweigh any moral dilemmas they might have about it. A little pee in the water never hurt anyone, and when you gotta go, you gotta go, they tell themselves. Sure, it’s disgusting, but it’s only one person doing it, right? Right!?

5 – Have sex in hostels

sex

Be it a 12-person dorm with another person sleeping on the bunk above you or the common area late at night when everyone is asleep, we have all heard it (and maybe taken part). You don’t want to think it happens – you don’t want to think that the beanbag chair you’re sitting in may have been someone’s love nest the night before. But it happens more than you think. Hey, backpackers at hostels have urges too, and when they’re knee deep in drunken passion at 3am, where else are they going to fulfill them but in the common areas or dorm room? They just better hope there are no security cameras to record their exploits.

6 – Lie about their status

ring

Whether it’s saying they’re a student to get the student discount, pretending their significant other is their cousin in order to get a room with them (in religious countries), pretending to be royalty from an obscure country in order to garner attention and preferential treatment, or saying they’re married to get an aggressive local off their case, backpackers don’t usually hesitate before making up some convenient alter-ego. No one around knows them, so they figure, why not tell a little white lie to make the situation work in their favor?

7 – Stereotype

tourists

We hear it all the time: Typical Germans – always have to leave right on time; those Japanese and their cameras; they must be American since they’re loud…backpackers get to know different nationalities, quickly form opinions of the entire nation from those encounters, and hesitate little before sharing their often misinformed opinions with their fellow travelers. But they would also later deny their stereotyping ways.

8 – Drink their dinner

drinking dinner

When on a tight budget in a party town, sometimes backpackers have to choose between food and drink – and many backpackers choose the latter, thinking they’ll also save on booze since drinking on an empty stomach is far more potent than on a satiated stomach. But they don’t usually tell their friends, since this is also known to be a sign of alcoholism.

9 – Put the toilet paper down the toilet

Toilet paper in trash

In many backpacker countries, the plumbing is not developed enough to handle toilet paper down the toilet – there are signs everywhere imploring travelers not to throw anything down the bowl. But muscle memory often takes over and the toilet paper ends up in the wrong spot more often than most backpackers would care to admit. And I know I’m not digging it back out after making that mistake.

10 – Crave western food

McDonald's

Backpackers are meant to be well versed in travel culture, eating local foods and turning their noses up at western chains like McDonalds. However, though few admit their Big Mac cravings, every traveler sneaks into a western chain every once in a while. And if they aren’t in an area where western food is available, they will just dream about it.

Would you admit to any of these things? What would add to the list. Comment below to share your thoughts.

Further reading:

Photo credits: Daniel Rossi, Paul Long, Sam Howzit, James Qualtrough, Dan Foy, William Warby, epSos.de, pinguino k, Heather Cowper, felixtriller      

Featured


Leave a Comment

  • Worldtravelfamily said at 2014-05-09T15:31:17+0000: Yep, done all of those, but the only people's leftovers I'd touch is the kids. We tend to just not wear underwear rather than put the dirty stuff back on...ew!
  • said at 2014-05-11T14:26:14+0000: Yup, we do all of these. Espe ially the alter ego bit -but usually for good reasons!. In Athens, Greece, I watched and listened while taxis as well as shops were charging fellow Americans more than the locals and travelers from different origins for their products and services. Determined not to be taken advantage of, as well as on a budget, I decided to utilize my knowledge of spanish and even adopted a spanish accent. While my son, who was trVeling with me was a little embarrased by his mom "putting on an act," I noticed immediately the attitude towards the both us dramatically changed for the better. Everything suddenly became cheaper, the service we recieved was ijcredibly more pleasant, and so many more people wanted to talk to me! It was such a change of pace from being deemed an obnoxious american, that the "act" continued as we ventured on into Italy!
  • Liz Kennedy said at 2014-02-08T03:10:19+0000: lol, sounds about right :)
  • Nick Siddall said at 2013-06-29T15:21:02+0000: Sometimes I dream of a Big Mac or Whopper & Pizza hut/ Pizza company, when I see the yellow M, I say to my wife 'The yellow M is calling me'..lol I also take toilet roll, but mostly for the travel as many of the bus break toilet stops don't have any paper, & also just in case the next g.h/hotel doesn't have any, at least I have a back up supply.
  • Liv'in Cebu Cdo said at 2013-04-25T11:45:40+0000: hahahaha, some are true... but definitely not No. 3
  • Magu Bee said at 2012-09-10T20:18:08+0000: When in India, I learnt pretty quickly that whenever people ask me if I have a bf, I should always says 'yes'. A little later I learnt that I should also say 'yes' when they follow up with the "but do you have a boyfriend in India?" question :) Other than that I still seem to have a lot of things to cross off when it comes to this list.
  • Emily Sussell said at 2012-10-09T20:18:49+0000: Great article. I'm guilty of at least half or these!
  • Coral Musgrave said at 2012-09-10T19:34:20+0000: Three. One by accident.
  • Dante Harker said at 2012-08-28T12:53:26+0000: I think these are all great apart from the stealing food from other's tables. That's just dirty. The rest seem fair enough.
  • Chisa Iwuagwu said at 2012-08-13T23:26:26+0000: This article confirms I'm just not cut out to be a backpacker.
  • T Nick Usalis Knight said at 2012-05-12T22:53:56+0000: In some countries, Western chains become a quick safe option.
  • Evelyn Gaa Cezar said at 2012-05-10T00:26:42+0000: aaawww funny article! But true!
  • Claudia Leão Fracalanza said at 2012-05-05T18:04:57+0000: hahaha I've done almost all of that! Very funny!
  • Kelsey Timmerman said at 2011-09-13T18:29:30+0000: One of life's greatest pleasures is peeing in the ocean. I refuse to believe that someone doesn't do this.
  • Greg Rodgers said at 2011-10-31T13:31:38+0000: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!
  • Jennifer Avventura said at 2011-11-18T11:01:17+0000: Great list. I've been guilty of # 2 and # 4.
  • On A Junket said at 2011-11-08T01:59:58+0000: I confess. Take me to jail.
  • Jo Silver said at 2011-09-13T18:08:26+0000: nicking toilet roll isn't just for backpackers!
  • Mary Rose said at 2011-10-11T21:50:47+0000: I am guilty of 8 of these. #1 and 3 I have not done.
  • Eager Existence said at 2011-07-27T13:25:53+0000: I've done all of these things! :-o
  • Swarnabhumi Nusantara said at 2011-09-15T01:27:55+0000: Great writing. And looks like we are all admitting it finally..
  • Christine Cantera said at 2011-09-13T18:01:31+0000: Wow. I never wanted to backpack before... and now I REALLY don't. Yikes.
  • Curt Hill said at 2011-07-01T02:55:18+0000: no one was supposed to know about all of that lol I thought I was the only one doing that kind of stuff hahaha.
  • Active Planet Travels said at 2011-07-28T23:39:23+0000: Hahaha....this is so true.
  • Mike Couch said at 2011-08-24T10:34:56+0000: I laughed when I inserted "hobo" where backpacker is. Isn't this just a modern day hobo? Not saying that in a negative connotation, just pointing out the similarities.

Older comments on 10 Things Backpackers Do But Don’t Admit

Canuck Girl
04 December 2009

Fantastic, and pretty true. Thanks for the laughs.

Beachcombers
04 December 2009

NO 11 – Help yourself to other travellers food stored in communal fridges.

This used to make me soooo mad!!! When we traveled across Australia, there always some skanky lowlife helping themselves to our milk/orange juice/beer/bread etc.

Shannon080
07 December 2009

This is hilarious – and I am guilty of at least three of these (and probably all though I wont admit that! ;-)

seabass43
07 December 2009

Haha, well done. I have done nearly all of these. I have not eaten other’s leftovers, but I have come close. If my wife hadn’t been around, I most likely would have succombed to temptation.

undefined
08 December 2009

1a – Don’t wear any underwear except for special occasions (helps deal with humidity and staying ventilated:)

Betsyboo
08 December 2009

haha, so true. Thanks for this.

keon
12 December 2009

now for the really inadmissable: stolen credit card/money/passports/cameras/phones, etc. not much fun, but worth recognizing. especially if you like to party.

DiabloTranquilo
15 December 2009

So true, number 11 too! How about 12- inevitably come home with less socks than you started with, usually an odd number. Can’t tell you how many lone socks we’ve found in the corners and underneath the beds!

webber91
03 January 2010

lol – brilliant article. A few of those caught me a treat. It’s fair to say i had tea coming out of my nose on number 3!

bucho_ky
07 January 2010

Haha – so true! Thanks for calling us out. :)

Kiwitravelwriter
07 January 2010

yep! I too have done some of those :( wicked woman that I am

Eowyn
07 January 2010

Love it! Great choice of topic, kudos to the author! I’m Facebooking it (yes, we gotta get FB share up here)

f_merriwell
13 January 2010

The author is indeed spot on, backpackers are some of the most selfish, inconsiderate people on earth. Yes, where else could you possibly have sex other than in the common room? How about spending some alcohol money on a private room.

jwbooth
19 January 2010

This is so true. I have to admit to 5 of those but I could not imagine eating a stranger’s leftovers

Jenny Booth
19 January 2010

This is so true. I have to admit to 5 of them but I could not imagine myself eating a stranger’s leftovers.

Megan Eaves
21 January 2010

that’s fantastic! and @Beachcomber – so true! stealing out of the fridge is probably more common than eating other people’s leftovers. backpackers can be so gross sometimes (self included)!

OzxminO' Malley
22 January 2010

:( No, I never use dirty underwear, I prefer not use anything instead hehehe.

Christie Britten
30 April 2011

ahh 100% true.Right there.

a.bettis04
06 May 2011

Love this article, it’s 100% true and I’ve probably done (almost…) all of these! haha. It’s a good laugh and at least people can admit that they do it too!