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


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


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


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


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


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      

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