You Know You’re a Backpacker When…

Call yourself a backpacker? 

With scruffy hair, dozens of bracelets tied around your wrist and mismatched flip-flops, you certainly look the part. But have you truly entered into the South East Asian backpacker spirit yet?

Have you left the old, (clean) ‘you’ behind to discover a new ‘travelling you?’ Someone who is a lot less fussy, a load more spontaneous and maybe, just maybe a little wiser?

There are times during your travels when you will even shock yourself with how well you have adapted to your new backpacker lifestyle! Do any of the following statements sound familiar?

If you nod in agreement to any of these statements then you are well on your way to earning your backpacker stripes…

1. You confuse Baht with Kip, mistake Rupees for Ringgit or Riel, but still manage to argue the price down.

Laos Kip

2. You spontaneously decide that tomorrow you’ll go to another country.

3. You don’t know what month it is and you’re not positive that you have the correct year either.

4. You speak to everyone slowly as if they don’t understand English.

5. You see a storm on the horizon and you still set out to sea in a boat that you’re pretty sure may leak.

Storm on the horizon

6. You think it’s a little cold if the temperature drops below 28°C.

7. There are ants in your soup but you keep on eating.

8. You pop a squat on a perfectly western toilet.

Please do not squat

8. You use the acronym ‘SSBD’ instead of saying “same  same but different.”

9. You’re ‘guess-that-nationality’ game accuracy becomes 95%.

10. You ask someone who you’ve been having a 20-minute conversation with, “Which country are you from?” and they tell you they’re from the same country as you.

11. Taking three different types of transportation on a journey is standard… things only get interesting when it is five or more.

Bus taxi tuk tuk sir

12. You JUST figured out the currency and you have to leave the country that day.

13. You can arrive in a new country at 3 am with no sure idea of where you’re going and instead of being nervous, you see it as just another day on the road.

14. You’re about to order your noodles and see a huge rat in the kitchen, you shrug your shoulders and order anyway.

15. You know that tiger balm cures all.

Tiger balm cures all

16. You wake up at noon and chug the beer you left on the nightstand when you went to bed six hours before.

17. You think that going shopping and spending more than US $5 on any one item is outrageously expensive.

18. You forget to put your shoes back on when leaving a restaurant.

Forget to put your shoes on

19. You go from writing OMG to OMB (Oh My Buddha) on your Facebook page.

20. You can say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in four different languages… but can never get the right word in the right country.

21. The closest approximation you can give to your location is… ‘Thailand?’

22. You know that lion, tiger and kingfisher are better enjoyed cold from the refrigerator than in a wildlife reserve.


23. You can dump your backpack on a boat and only check to see it’s still there when you return five hours later.

24. “Mai pen rai” has become your quote for every tricky situation.

25. You automatically reach for the bum gun when you are in a swish place.

(The points in this article were written by Jennifer Rowe, Danielle Walker, Courtney Muro, Kaberly  Doerr, Jacqui Peters and a whole load of travellers at the Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel in Vietnam.)

7 thoughts on “You Know You’re a Backpacker When…”

  1. “Mai pen rai” is awesome and it basically means no problem. I love this post. We were over in SE Asia for 7 months and are returning again in a few months and reading this post made me miss it more than any yet.
    Cheers and Thank you

  2. haha congrats guys, this is brilliant! when you are a backpacker and find out that actually you are not the only one thinking like this means you not that “alien” and you feel better about yourself.

    Anderson these guys are also exagerating which is more fun to read 🙂 but yeah how many times i messed up with the money and mom asking in the phone where are you and I took 10 seconds to think about the answer hehe

    keep up the good job guys!

  3. Queenofmuffins

    Same, I’ve backpacked through SE Asia for 15 months, only heard ‘Mai Pen Rai’ maybe once? Still don’t really know what that means. XD

  4. Hey Anderson…
    Just a quickie in response to your #24 query – have you ever been to Thailand?

    1. ya, 6 weeks the first time and another 2 weeks now for X-mas NYE. I did notice it once recently on a hotel sign as that was the name of the hotel.

  5. haha! didn’t realize this was a public post ; ) I thought it was just feedback to the mag writers.

  6. I appreciate what you guys do for sure, but some of these are just bad, not accurate, or just plain wrong. #10 – you know within 30 seconds of a convo with someone when they are from your own country. #21 – everyone knows the town they are currently in, everyone. #24 – I just asked 12 people around me what this means and not one person has ever heard of it.

    side note – I have opinions about other articles as well.

    again – thanks for what you do – only writing bc I care

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