21 Signs You’re a Real Backpacker

21 signs you're a real backpacker

– Written by Victoria Philpott

Backpacking is another world. A world of no schedules, new friends every day, freedom, festivals, love, fun, extreme adventures and doing whatever the hell takes your fancy that day. But even if you start your backpacking adventure as a normal person, as the weeks turn to months I can guarantee you’ll start to become… A REAL BACKPACKER. You’ll feel it happening as you tick off more of this list…

HostelBookers 15 Signs Youre a Real Backpacker

Created by HostelBookers

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1. You only know what day of the week it is by the drinks deals going on in the local bar.

2. Discovering a few squirts in a leftover shampoo bottle in the shower is a real find.

3. You’ve forgotten about those little things called socks, or shoes, or stress, or parents.

4. You can barely make out your face (boys) or legs (girls) for the excessive hair you’ve nurtured and encouraged.

5. Or your wrist from all the pieces of string and random bangles you’ve got snaking up your arm. Or even small patches on skin where you’ve got tattoos to commemorate something, you’ve forgotten what.

21 signs you're a real backpacker

6. Jumping out of planes, off bridges or from mountains attached to a metal and parachute structure is just a normal day out.

7. Your bunk bed rocking from the couple below enjoying themselves doesn’t disgust you, or even anger you; it just sends you into a lovely sleep.

8. You’ve invented a simple sniff test to check whether your clothes are wearable, and the standards get lower as the days go by.

9. At least you can wash them in the sea, yes, you believe that counts.

10. A day without drinking is like a day without breathing; it doesn’t happen.

11. Your Facebook is updated every day with ‘X is now friends with X’ and you surpassed the four-figures of friends mark long ago.

21 signs you're a real backpacker

12. All that matters to you on the HostelBookers website is the sort by ‘room price: low to high’ function. And you only consider the top two.

13. You see the word ‘FREE’ and you don’t care what it is or how you get it, you just take as much of it as possible.

14. You’ve learned to play the guitar/ukulele/dread hair/juggle/play with fire/walk over hot coals, or other.

15. You vow to never, ever get a 9-5 job in an office ever.

16. You know everywhere with free Wi-Fi within a three-mile radius.

Backpacking in Pisa

17. You’ve read Shantaram.

18. You try with the local language, but so far you’ve only got ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘two beers please’ on your repertoire.

19. You’d happily eat bread and berries from trees if it means you’ve got more money for beers on the beach.

20. Opting for a 20-hour bus journey with no bathroom facilities across rickety Thai roads is the obvious choice over paying an extra €50 for a 2-hour flight.

21. You can’t imagine life before backpacking, and to try makes your stomach lurch and you get into a bit of a cold sweat.

A life without backpacking is no life at all

How did you score?

Score 1-5? You’re just on a little holiday, awww hope you’re having fun!

6-11? I think I can smell you from here, I bet you left home about six weeks ago right?

12-16? Definitely approaching Real Backpackers status, but you’re just a little too generous with the £$€ and if you haven’t bungee jumped, go do it now!

17-21? I am so PROUD! Well done my little backpacking cherub. You are a Real Backpacker with dreads, bracelets, friends from around the world and no care for a life without travelling. Applaud yourself, and get a tattoo to mark this momentous occasion.

Any other backpacker traits I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments box below…

Thanks to lindyi, keithusc, AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker, Pink Sherbet Photography, vagabondquest.com for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.

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31 Responses to “21 Signs You’re a Real Backpacker”

  1. Superb compilation. I am doctor, but i love to freak out like backpacker .

    i am Strong supporter of this backpackers community.

  2. I like to think being a backpacker is more than being a stinking beer-swigging cheapskate, as this list would lead you to believe. PLACES haven’t been mentioned, surely being a backpacker is firstly about exploring places, countries and cultures….or is it just about finding the first happy hour and cheapest hostel? :S

  3. I guess I am just a different type of backpacker, the party stops when you have a family, but it doesn’t mean traveling has to.

  4. Totally agree with jagannath. Apparently unlees you arent drunk youre not having fun. Backpacking is visiting places. And by places I mean places, not just the tourist hotspots in different cities. Eating local, meeting locals. Experiencing where you are by spending real time there, learning the histroy. Not a day or two blow thru. But, thats my opinion. There are alot more important things to me than passport stamps, postcard pictures and getting drunk everyday.

  5. Yeah…can’t really go along with this list. The dreadlocked, smelly hippy stereotype for a backpacker is damaging for two reasons: 1) That is how we are seen by others, and they may not wish to embrace that, and 2) Some people, for some reason, want to emulate that uniform – and dreads, Ali Baba pants and a stink that has its own personality IS just another uniform.

    As well as which, there are alternatives to being either a hippy or a drunken lout. In fact, you’ve likely picked the two most annoying kinds of backpacker: loud, drunken idiots with no appreciation for the cultures they visit, and who need mummy to wash their underpants, and preachy hippies who actually do more damage to the places they visit than the average person.

    And Shantaram is complete bull, btw.

  6. I think this list is not for the “real” backpacker, just the “real spoiled rich kid traveling for the summer”.

  7. So glad other people feel the same way about this list as I do.

    My boyfriend and I have been travelling for over 9 months now and we get fed up of being compared to drunkards whose idea of travel is to buy ridiculously ugly trousers and wear them until they have to throw them away (heaven forbid washing them!) and spend all their time in the hostel getting drunk and bragging about how many places they’ve been to when they haven’t even got past the hostel bar!!

    What happened to seeing places, meeting people, trying local foods and yes local drink too but not for the sole purpose of getting wasted?!!

  8. vagabondginger Reply

    Backpacking means traveling cheaply and packing lightly and seeing the world without a tour bus. It’s intermingling with locals and washing clothes at the hostels and shopping for food at markets. Your list sucks!

  9. Yes, as others have pointed out, this list basically sucks. It doesn’t define a REAL BACKPAPER: it describes the wannabe backpaper backpacking for the sake of being called a backpacker. Yeah so that I can say “look at me I’m a backpacker, I am cool, I drink beer, yeah, cool backpacker over here, add me on facebook!”

    I’ve done some backpacking and couchsurfing and have met MANY along the way. The true HUMBLE backpacker is a rare breed and you don’t find many along the way. I love the beer, and the alcohol, but there are beer-lovers and beer-idiots (ironically it’s the latter who can’t handle the booze).

    This list for guys who strive for social status and bashing the others as inferior beings and newbies. Which is exactly the opposite of what backpacking is about: a fun journey of exploration and many earthly things (including lots of beer) but at the same time a spiritual journey which explores your inner self.

    Well the picture chosen should have given it away to be honest.

  10. Firoz Bharucha Reply

    The list makes funny reading. I don’t think it needs to be taken seriously. I think backpackers should have the basic ability not to take themselves / their image too seriously and just go with the flow! I would assume that sense of humour is an important weapon in a backpacker’s armory. 🙂

  11. Chris ( gold coast) Reply

    I have a few for the list as asked. What about ww7 over the power sockets thats a classic. Or what about feeling sorry for the poor girl who has to sleep next to mr backpackers toes for three weeks straight,or thinking four girls left your room cause they didnt like u then find out they went to cheaper hostel across the road. Peace to all dont forget 7/11 has the cheapest coffee of quality.

  12. I personally find it hard to understand why so many kids travel half the world away to spend 75% of their waking time seeing the inside of clubs and bars, which is pretty much the same the world over.

    This list describes the gap year, trust fund poser kid. Not the backpacker. There is nothing wrong with that, I would probably had been that kid if I had the chance to travel a lot before turning 20.

    And in the end, there is no ‘true’ backpacker. Each of us is looking for something different, each of us has a different set of skills, and each of us has a very different definition of adventure. I am traveling cheap, and slow, I quit my job and abandoned a life to start a vagabond life, and hopefully I will travel for years. Yet by no means I am more of a backpacker than the 40 year old teacher that gets away one month a year and sees much as he can with his time and budget.

    I do have a special kind of respect for the guy that most of the time sticks around in a country long enough to be able to say a few every day sentences in the local language, not just to order beer, but for the supermarket, for the lunch promotion at the local eatery where people are actually surprised to see a foreigner and the waitress cannot say a word in English. It is more about the experience, the culture, the geography and the language.

    Or for the guy that takes a night bus hoping to get to the main station, where he can change currency, have breakfast and take the tram to the hostel, but gets dumped 10 km away from downtown because the bus only touches the outskirts of the city, and then has to sleep in the open and figure out the public local transportation at 5 am, with no local currency.

    Or the guy that has hitchhiked across Western Asia. Or the guitar busker that played all day to pay the bunk bed next to yours because he traveled far later than his budget lasted.

    That being said, there are a good points, but most of the list is basically off focus.

  13. Hear hear to all of the above who deride this list for what it is. I spent a year and a half backpacking around the world (not long enough and i miss it dearly, but work ALWAYS comes back to bite you in the ass) and the only people i disliked meeting were these so-called backpackers desbribed by this list. I don’t want to sound purist and pompous, but these people were really really annoying and immature. That photo above, with the beautiful young things on the boat? Jeez.

    And no – i’m not jealous, i too am a beautiful (not so young but that happens to you too kids) thing who thankfully has the mental capacity to realise travelling / backpacking is not just about bottles of Chang for 50p, wearing absurd orange trousers, rubber-tubing down an ancient river and getting off with another dork from Hampshire. Yes i know it’s generalising but i haven’t got time to list all of the counties the dorks I met were from, so Hampshire is a stab at demographic accuracy.

    Proud to have scored a big fat 2 on your ‘quiz’ (number 2 and 20, and only 20 because taking that 20hr bus allows you to see much more of the country than cloud cover, and meet many more people). If visiting 12 countries in 20 months is your idea of ‘a little holiday’, meet me at the bar in a few hours and i’ll let you know just how little my holiday was.

  14. Wow, i might be a bit behind, i’m hoping backpacking is still a bit more than spending all your pennies on booze, not knowing and not caring where you are and stink like a pig? I am too proud to score a 3!

  15. The Backpacker takes many forms, whether it the simple party seeking type just looking to get sloshed and be sick in the sea, to the more refined and ever ubiquitous tie-dyed-middle-class-pseudo-hippie – the worst kind of backpacker. They lurk wherever you travel, wherever you stay, from any major Western developed country, pushing on you their self-righteousness with increasing force until you become suffocated enough to vow never to leave your bed again. But what is uniformly true about all backpackers: they are idiots.

    Being a backpacker comes with all the draws of any major modern trend, from whatever end of the spectrum they spawn from. Standard attire is, well, a backpack of course – but nothing under 300 pounds that hasn’t been tested in the Arctic will do – flip flops, board shorts and then an array of assorted accessories that can be purchased from an “authentic“ street vendor en route to the next well trodden “adventurous” location. These range from Fisherman’s Pants that even the locals haven’t worn for 100 years, to some kind of crap headscarf – basically stuff that they wouldn’t dream of wearing at home. The backpacker is constantly inquisitive of his fellow sort, always making sure he is on the cusp of the next wave of true middle-class individuality, and just like all major modern trends, said individuality is completely and utterly lacking in any originality.

    The Backpacker is a product of modern society’s material culture and excessive individualism, just in a fluffy handmade artisan box that has been parceled up and sent off to all corners of the globe – well the ones with nice beaches and cheap beer. They are of course educated, hence their inherent curiosity, but lack any kind of freedom of thought. They travel solely for social enterprise because people who haven’t travelled are in their mind culturally bereft, characterless fools with no understanding of anything.

    The backpacker craves authenticity, through food or mixing with locals. The idea of eating a Burger King or anything remotely Western after travelling half way around the world is seriously frowned upon, but at the same time secretly accepted as part of the late-night ritual when alcohol has broken down the cheap veneer of pretense and one comes to his senses – Burger King is good and rice with fried stuff is well, shit. If you canvased Burger Kings in Bangkok I guarantee that not a single one has ever sold so much as a glass of water to a Backpacker who wasn’t one whiskey and coke away from a stroke.

    An encounter with one goes very much like this “Hello where are you from?” Hi, I’m from The States, how long have you been travelling?” “About 3 months” “Oh excellent, want to get drunk?” “Yes.” The rest is a gargling mess of incoherent stories about getting stuck on a bus in the middle of Laos without air-conditioning while their iPod ran out of battery, or something equally inane.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not so much individual Backpackers themselves that I can’t stand – many are very pleasant people – it’s what they collectively stand for: absolutely nothing. Yet I challenge you to find a single one that doesn’t claim his extended holiday hasn’t somehow changed his entire outlook on life. In many ways I can tolerate them as they are in the main naïve and young, and don’t seem to have yet developed the reflective capabilities to understand their own inadequacies. They’re just like lambs lost on a mountain with nothing but a copy of Lonely Planet to tell them what to do; spoilt children who have had the good fortune to find that the entire world is now their playground. If they could only realise this then maybe I wouldn’t dream of a particularly strong batch of magic mushrooms persuading them to undertake one final yet ultimate voyage of discovery, one which ends up with them en masse trying to paddle to the equator on an inflatable lilo.

    • Wow, very interesting argument Steve. Thanks for giving us your point of view. I agree with some, but not all of what you’re saying. I’ve just got back from Africa where I met some amazing backpackers who refused my offer of Konyagi and hated the idea of going travelling to ‘find yourself’. I know I have classed everyone as one in this article – which is what the comments are against – but I think it’s impossible to. No one can say all backpackers are idiots. Have you ever been a backpacker and what would you class yourself as?

  16. @ victoria: this is not REAL backpackers, just little punks who believe they are the coolest persons in the world because they are far away from pa & ma as perfectly described by Steve.

    @ Steve: your definition fits to the ones described by Victoria, but you should know that some travelers have a very different vision about traveling; not everybody is like you described even though your description fits to a big number of backpackers.

  17. Jonnie Boehner Reply

    Guess I misread the title I was expecting to see pictures of classic boat condoms. Perhaps some other day.

  18. i’ve just popped across here from the facebook page where i had a good laugh at this list. not because i’m laughing at backpackers, but because as victoria says in response to steve, this list is a generalisation and it’s funny because at one point or another a backpacker has done the smell test to see if their clothes are wearable, or had so many hostel bands attached to their wrist that they can’t find their arm from the elbow down.
    i’m fairly new to this travelling malarky, but let me tell you the reason i travel is because the world is both too big and too small not to. i enjoy going to new cities and talking to new people. but one thing i really take a dislike to is being called a spoilt child. i’m 24 years old & have spent a good few years saving to be able to afford to travel. maybe i’m slightly out of the norm for a backpacker because i keep a full time job at the same time as trying to travel but i think it’s something i have worked hard and saved for.

  19. You people need to calm down, the article is tongue in cheek. Especially Stev. What’s the matter, did a backpacker pee in your cornflakes or something?!

    The worst kind of backpacker is the pompus snobby kind, who believes they’re superior to all other travelers, labels them all, and looks down on everyone and everything, thinking ‘their’ way of travelling is the ‘only’ way.

    Even worse is the bitter old guy who hates backpackers just because they are doing everything he wanted to do but never did/could.

    Although your comment suggests you could be either of those, I guess the latter, Steve. Who else but your typical cantankerous, envious old fool, regretting the fact he didn’t travel, would say ‘all’ backpackers are ‘uniformly’ ‘idiots?’ On a hostel booking site, of all places!

    There is no right or wrong when it comes to travelling. There is no such thing as a ‘real’ backpacker. Do what YOU want, go where YOU want, for whatever reasons YOU want. Throughout this world you will find not just backpackers, but people from all walks of life, that annoy you. The key is not to let it bother you. Don’t stereotype, don’t generalise, and don’t judge. Just live and let live.

    Otherwise you end up like Steve, a sad old idiot making bitter internet comments dressed up in supposedly funny and ironic prose, that just come off as miserable, jealous, and far more irritating than any backpacker you could ever meet.

  20. Christopher John Perrin Reply

    I have a complaint! Come to COOKTOWN and find out what it’s all about.
    See if you have what it takes to blend in with the real people in this world.

  21. Hey you. Lot, we are now month 8 into our backpacking little trip and so far we have done 12 countries and a fair few more to go, we decided to recharge the ole batteries up in Fiji for 2 weeks doing nothing before setting off again, we left the uk with a large backpack, and we are not a traditional backpacker age group me being 49 and the wife 57, we class this as our mid life opportunity, to do what we couldn’t do 30 years ago,

    We scored only 6 by the way.

  22. 6yearsandcounting Reply

    I believe there are backpackers and there are travellers. My boyfriend and I are working and travelling the world together, 6 years 😉

  23. The picture at Pisa is RIDICULOUS!
    Who goes to Italy with huge backpacks on their back? Leave your stuff at the train station, friend, because you’re not looking any wiser than the average gringo with his safari hat and money pouch taking pictures of everything.

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