Backpackers aren’t always the world’s most ethical travelers. Having little money, and being in places where no one knows them, they get away with quite a bit. For the most part, it’s nothing terrible, just a few misdemeanors. Here are a few of the ones that most backpackers don’t tend to brag about:
1 – Wear Dirty Underwear
Sometimes, backpackers forget to do laundry. Sometimes, it’s more of a question of money. 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. The only thing worse than putting on dirty underwear, is telling other people that you’ve put on dirty underwear.
2 – Steal 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 posh restaurant’s washroom, can overtake many a backpacker, clandestinely walking around with a huge wad of toilet paper in his or her backpack. Sure, they’re only about 10 cents a roll, but it’s still money saved.
3 – Eat Other People’s Leftovers
You can catch them in the act if you carefully scan a restaurant for the hungry-looking travelers (usually slightly disheveled) eyeing up a table that is nearly finished their meal. As soon as the table leaves, the backpackers scoot over and grab whatever looks edible and slightly tasty. It’s not their proudest moment, but at least they saved money on bread, if not their dignity.
4 – Pee in the Water
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 the Hostel Common Areas
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 where else are they going to fulfill them but in the common areas after everyone else has retired to their beds? They just better hope there are no security cameras to record their exploits.
6 – Lie About their Status
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-past. No one around knows them, so they figure, why not tell a little white lie to make the situation work in their favour?
7 – Stereotype
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
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
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.
10 – Crave Western Food
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.
- 10 Backpacker Stereotypes You Meet on the Road
- The Art of Traveling in Developing Countries
- 9 Useless Things Travelers Tend to Pack
- How to Travel Very Lightly
- Why Travelers Should Never Leave Home Without Duct Tape
Photos by Kaila Krayewski