How to Be an Idiotic Backpacker

If you’re getting ready for an extended trip around the world, why follow the advice of all those seasoned travelers who have done it already? Ignore those dolts blogging from the road for years and those know-nothings on the message boards at Lonely Planet and BootsnAll. Do it your way. I’m sure everything will turn out just fine.

1) Hit 36 countries in 12 months

Forget what all those long-term travelers are telling you. You’re out to see the world, dammit, not just a piece of it! Cram as much into that itinerary as you can. If you can only visit Laos for one day, so what? You’ve checked off Laos! If you stop over in Bali for two nights and hit Kuta Beach, you can say you’ve seen Indonesia. You have the passport stamp to prove it. backpackingBe sure to hit five or six continents, even if it means you spend half your trip in planes and buses. You need a trip worth bragging about. “Slow travel” is for underachievers.

2) Pack a rolling suitcase so you don’t “look like a backpacker.”

Call yourself a Flashpacker and disassociate yourself from all those scuzzy shoestring travelers by carrying a suitcase with wheels instead of a backpack. Sure, you’ll be picking it up and carrying it half the time once you leave the airport in developing countries as you encounter cobblestones, sidewalks jammed with vendors, sacred cow crap, 1/2-mile staircases, and dirt paths leading from the bus station to your hotel. But hey, sometimes it takes some sacrificing to project the right image.

3) Spend a few hours nightly on Facebook and Twitter

Don’t bother talking to locals or other people in your guesthouse to get travel advice. How can you trust these strangers? Plug in the earbuds each night and tap into that Wi-Fi signal so you can pump out status updates on everything you did that day. Otherwise people won’t remember you’re traveling and won’t be able to keep telling you, “Way to go!” with a thumbs up icon. You are special because you are traveling while they are going to their stupid job each day. So be sure to keep reminding them. That’s more important than spending time interacting and learning wherever you happen to be that week.

4) Don’t do any budgeting or cost research before you leave.

Travel is expensive, right? So it doesn’t matter where you go or how much it costs in particular destinations. If Copenhagen turns out to be really costly, you can just skip all the attractions and hang out in the city parks. If Brazil ends up costing twice as much as Peru and your budget is busted after paying $264 in visa fees to enter, just blow off Iguazzu Falls. You’ve seen the pictures on your buddy’s Facebook page. Close enough.

5) Book every hotel and hostel stay in advance.

Just showing up and finding a place to stay? Too much uncertainty. Sure, everyone will tell you you’ll spend far less that way on lodging and you can see the room before committing, but time is money baby! Book all your stays in advance so you’ll know exactly where you’ll be each night of your trip. Serendipity sucks. Besides, this gets you in the habit of going online each night in the guesthouse common area to book hotels—that way you won’t forget to do your status updates.

6) ? (Add your own advice in the comments below.)

  1. Linda

    6) Take your cell phone from home so you can talk to mommy every day at $2 per minute.

  2. Asa

    7) Don’t eat any street food because if you do, you’ll get sick.

  3. Luke

    8) Touts are the best way to find anything – food, accommodation, attractions. Unless someone is in your face and doing the hard sell, it is probably not worth eating/staying/seeing.

  4. Luke

    9) Whenever buying anything, always accept the first price the seller offers. Bargaining is just a waste of time.

  5. DML

    Bring lots of extra clothes and toiletries. You can’t buy any of that stuff on the road. Pack your backpack to the limit!

  6. Xamuel

    Ermm.. about booking in advance.. I guess I’m not a very experienced backpacker, but when I went to Tokyo during the Summer break, if you weren’t booked in advance at the youth hostels, it meant you weren’t booked at all. They filled right up. Not that I minded– I just slept on the roof!

  7. Jan

    10) Learn to speak like a real backpacker. For example ”partying at the hostel with some awesome cool dudes from the US, UK and Australia” will be ”totally immersing yourself in the local culture” in backpacker language. This will come in useful for Point 11.

    11) Create a travel blog and use it to slag off everybody who doesn’t share your travel style, especially all the idiots and tourists who visit several countries on the same trip. Clearly their experiences are worthless compared to your total immersion in the local culture after spending 12 months at the hostel in Khao San.

    • tim

      Well, I did spend a month in Bangkok getting my TEFL certificate, but the only places I’ve spent a year are Korea (using it) and Mexico (now). “…several countries” is a lot different than hitting 2 or 3 every month for an extended period.

  8. Linda

    Xamuel – high season somewhere is a different story. But if you’re a round-the-world traveler and you’ve planned it right, you usually won’t be somewhere during peak season. If you are in Europe in July, you adjust obviously.

  9. Sara Gabrakirstos

    Make it your goal to absolutely experience the culture as best you can in the amount of time you’re there. The only time you have for downtime is when you sleep, if you need it. Ain’t no time like the present so don’t spend forever and a day researching because chances are you’ll get a lot more out of your experience if you take out your pair of running shoes and hit the ground running. Actually that’s probably the best way to see any city anyway, learned that from a fellow backpacker. Also there are cities that don’t require a whole lot of stay time like Copenhaggen, saw the city in a day and was satisfied. Timisoara, stayed there for two days had some traditional Romanian food, managed to dispel previous notions about the people and culture, and spent a night partying it up in Heaven…well Heaven Studios! The trip was completely unexpected, random, and worth it! So if what you want is to see as much of the world as possible and also learn about it go to these smaller cities that don’t require a long length of stay.

    • Em

      Someone didn’t catch on to the sarcasm of this article…

    • David

      Yeah, this is actually good advice.

  10. Stuart

    Get all your info online. Ask your friends in Sydney via Facebook where the best streetstall in Bangkok is. Tweet while walking down the road. Eat noodles sitting on the pavement barefoot because that is what the locals do.

  11. rob

    I like my wheeled backpack :(

  12. Jeff Bartlett

    I bet 80% of backpackers could use a roller. I don’t think a backpack is required to bus to a hostel, drive to a glacier, or drinking beer while talking about “experiencing” Patagonia…

  13. tourdumonde

    12) Always take the first taxi who is talking to you at an airport, especially if you do not know the city you’re in. Ensure you are landing at midnight, with no idea we’re to go.
    13) Keep only hundred-dollar bills in your wallet, whatever the local currency is.

  14. Fabio

    14) Never put valuables in your pockets, it’ll hinder your walking freedom. Leave everything in your day backpack, possibly in the outermost pocket where it’s easier to reach.

  15. Adam

    Don’t bother learning any of the local language. Most people speak English now anyway, and if they don’t, they should. Not worth talking to otherwise.

  16. Anders

    It’s silly of you to hate on people who update their facebook with travel news… on your travel blog. Jackass.

    • Rolf

      For an American, long-term travel is a rebellious act. So many compensate by staying enclosed in the cocoon. They surround themselves each day with their same circle of family and friends and home, embraced by the same virtual hugs and thumbs-up icons that make them feel they still belong. To turn that off and immerse themselves where they are now, completely, would just be too scary. Then they would have to acknowledge they’re different and can make it without their traditional built-in support group.

  17. Caz Makepeace

    Expect everything to be just like it is at home and when it is not complain your arse of and annoy the shit oout of everyone.

  18. Allie

    This is CLASSIC!!! GOOD WORK !!!

  19. w. Zebco

    #11,Always go to the places your travel book (and everyone else’s says to.
    #12, be stoned everyday and act they way you never would at home.

  20. FilXeno

    #13 Write condescending blog posts in a sarcastic tone to persuade others how to act. Everybody will love it.

    • D

      lol..i like this one

  21. Naeem

    #14 Get everything stuffed to be fully independent during your travel, over plan for all the exciting comforts, do everything the way you want-never compromise, stay away from local food and people, always carry cooking recipes you are fond with, and make sure you have laptop loaded with best movies of all time, and most important, a mobile broadband to start anywhere and everywhere ! :DD

  22. Spoiler

    Caution: This is a super duper deceptive blogpost and might be misunderstood by a few readers. If you are not able to understand the humor, you may end up with a miserable traveling experience.

  23. The Runaway Guide

    Don’t bring anything less than 2 large suit cases.

  24. Sabina

    This is hilarious! Here’s another piece of *shrewd* advice – forget about hanging around outdoors amongst the locals. Spend as much time and money as possible inside, visiting museums and other indoor spots specifically geared toward tourists. Additionally, go on lots of days tours on those tour buses packed with Westerners. How will you learn about the culture and history of where you’re visiting if you don’t?

  25. Dina

    OMG, this is so great! :)

  26. lucy

    backpacking is a unique experience, everyone should do it.
    and I agree, the best way to know the city is walking around, my friends hate me at the moment cause I made them walk a lot haha, but now they really appreciate cause we have the best memories of it!

  27. jack

    Don’t forget to bring your sense of entitlement. Make sure you ask shop owners, “What’s that in real money?”

  28. Michael Robert Powell

    Great advice … have followed all of it :) to great effect and now the locals love me.

    An Accommodation Tip: Sleeping 11 travelers to a hostel bed is the smart way to sleep cheap (but watch out for stray er%ctions).

  29. Will

    Always have sex in your dormitory. Nevermind other.

  30. Juanita

    Eat every meal in one of the restaurants listed in your LP guidebook. If it’s in there, it must be the best, right?

  31. Nomadic Samuel

    Make sure to pack twice as much as you think you need. People in ‘other’ parts of the world won’t have these items to replace :P

  32. Saffron

    Don’t bother learning any vocabulary of the country you’re in, not even thank you, hello or goodbye, everybody should speak English right? And if not, just talk to them REALLY slow and loud in English, then they’re sure to catch on.

  33. Erin

    #15 – Stand outside a beautiful monument. Get your phone out and blow $$$ on roaming charges because you just HAD to tell your boyfriend about your day trip.

  34. Maricel

    Pack ‘heavy’ not light. Bring your booootttssshhh and bags to match your outfit for the day! Don’t leave space for souvenirs! (That’s why I ended up leaving my suitcase in Holland when I went ‘backpacking’ in Europe. he he)

  35. John

    Although you are not into art and have never visited the museum in your own city, make sure to visit the art museum in the city you visit. Afterall, you are a traveller…..this is what travellers do.

  36. Kar

    Spend a few hours every night on Facebook and Twitter? You should now add tons of other social media to that now…

    • Tim Leffel

      Facebook gets more time than all the others added together and it’s still what I see on most peoples’ screens in budget hotels and internet cafes. The world’s greatest time suck.

  37. Gerald

    #17 Take selfie photos with your phone in front of every monument you visit and post all of them on Instagram. If your face isn’t in front of it, you weren’t there!

  38. Effy

    Wear whatever clothes you want. Who cares if revealing clothes offend where you are. That’s their issue.

  39. Effy

    Almost forgot..make sure to ask every local you meet, ”Do you speak ENGLISH” If they do proceed to speak to them as if English is not your native language either.

  40. Jenny

    Pull out your iPhone and take selfies in a crowd of people that are trying to feed their family on $2 a day. It won’t bother them at all.

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