How To Be A Backpacker: All The Things You Should Not Do

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Do you really need to learn how to be a backpacker?

A lot of travel bloggers enjoy bragging. They are all about the number of countries they have visited (hint: often times, they have just gone through a country during a bus ride on their way to a different once, but since they got a stamp on their passport they still think it’s ok to tick it off their list). They talk about the epic trips they have taken.

They show off their ability to pack light and to travel on an extreme shoestring, to go local, to get off the beaten path and what not. If this is what it takes to become a good backpacker, then I may well be in the wrong place and will soon have start working on a different project, because I don’t think I can fit in with any of that.

In this post, I explain you how to be a backpacker by telling you all the things you should not do. Take it from someone who never really managed to become a successful backpacker. 

group tour
Get that passport stamped! – courtesy of

How To Be A Backpacker: What Not To Do

I wish someone told me how to be a backpacker before I had my try at it. It would have saved me much time, effort and money. Instead, I have had to learn from experience. And in fact, the biggest lesson I have learned is that I can’t be bothered to learn how to be a backpacker and that I will continue traveling just as I like.

You see, I may well be the lamest traveller in the blogging community because I can’t nearly top the 70+ countries that many others claim to have visited. I have “only” visited 40. Although granted, I have been to most of those 40 two or three times. I have lived in 4 of them for longer than 3 months. And I can actually give directions to a taxi driver to take me to my hostel in Granada, Nicaragua, from Managua international airport.

But, if you care to learn how to be a backpacker, you may want to continue reading this post for two reasons: you can make fun of me for being so lame at backpacking and – most importantly – you can take notes of all the things you really should not do if you care to be an actual backpacker. 

I will try to sum it up all nicely for you.

how to be a backpacker
You may call me Turtle

Pack too much

Rule n. 1 in the course on how to be a backpacker is to pack light. But… Despite my best efforts I haven’t mastered the art of packing light and during my last long term trip across South America my big backpack weighted a full 18 kg (that’s when I actually wore all the heaviest clothes) and my small one was around 10.

But hey, at least I can prove that despite being small I am tough and strong, right? Besides, what would you say if I told you that it was a technique I carefully devised to meet the locals?

I got many bemused stares, a few of them congratulated me on being so strong, others offered their help (which started a conversation!) and some simply laughed (and helped me) when they saw that I could not pick up the pack of tissues I accidentally dropped on the floor, because I could not really bend under the weight and if I did I risked falling on my back and looking much like an upside down turtle. Not too bad, huh?

Buy presents

Do you wanna know why my backpack weighted 18 kg?

 I got carried away in Argentina and bought 3 bottles of wine that I carried around for months (no, I didn’t want to drink them because they were presents, and yes, I broke the rule of all budget backpackers – I did buy presents!) and I even had a whole pharmacy with me because I am really, truly, tremendously afraid of being sick on the road and not having any medication, just in case I can’t get in touch with my health insurance company (ok, I am sounding lamer by the minute – did I just admit that I travel with an insurance?).

Have travel insurance (scrap this: you really want one!)

Speaking of which… Many backpackers will tell you that if you want to learn how to be a backpacker you should save as much as possible and quit the idea of getting a travel insurance. Noooo! Baaaad! You really want a travel insurance, at least with a basic plan – because really, you never know what happens. It’s the safe way of how to be a backpacker. 

In fact, make sure to read my post “Why You Need A Good Backpacker Insurance.”

Spend all your money

Instead of traveling with no money at all, I have managed to spend all my savings on travel. Yup.

Quite shameful considering that there apparently are millions of ways to travel for (almost) free, to get free accommodation and to even make money while traveling. There even are ways to hitch boat rides that go through amazing places, such as the San Blas islands in Panama. All it takes to catch those rides is patience.

But, did I mention I am the most inpatient person you may meet? Seriously. Even the hyperactive globetrotter Diana – master of shoestring travel, incredible travel writer (she actually gets promoted from being a “just a blogger” because she’s won prizes with her short stories, plus she is a journalist) and amazing friend – who’s not really a champion at patience, managed to score a free ride that took her from Panama to Colombia.

Research ways of saving and then actually ignore them

She may have spent 2 full weeks in Portobelo, she may have become the subject of a few jokes at the hostel, but who cares, when she managed to save the $550 USD that the ride normally costs?

how to be a backpacker
Why ride a car, if you can go by horse? – photo courtesy of George Kenyon

All of this, when I was the good student to begin with. I did all the homework: researching the best boat companies that crossed from Panama to Colombia, enquiring on dates, routes, and discounts, reading all the online reviews, checking the recommendations to get a decent boat and stocking up on motion sickness pills “just in case” I may unexpectedly get seasick.

I studied so hard that then, when I had to sit the exams, I was so nervous that I failed: I happily boarded a boat that was a whopping $110 USD cheaper than the rest. “Blimey”, you may say, “that is actually quite good saving!”

Ha, I say. Wait till you hear the rest of the story. Because you see, on top of being over 1/5 cheaper, the boat was also smaller and more crowded – understandable, considering that there were 10 passengers, including the 3 backpackers who had actually managed to score a free ride (how did I miss on that?).

The crowd, combined with the worst case of seasickness ever (you can read about it here) led me to abandon the boat after 24 hours of suffering (even back then I knew I was lame, and proudly so!), having to wave farewells at my $440 USD, to arrange my return to Panama City and eventually find a flight to take me to Cartagena.

So, just to give you a rough overview of my expenses: something that normally costs around $500 USD, and that a few good backpackers manage to do for free ended up costing me around $800 USD, including the one night accommodation in Isla Porvenir, the extra meals, the fast boat and 4X4 ride back to Panama City, the extra night at the hostel in Panama City and the flight.

how to be a backpacker
A sunrise worth $800 USD

Never do a homestay

Yay me, I am the champion of going over the budget! Now, don’t come to me and say: “Oh Claudia, that’s ok – you didn’t really know that you could travel on a budget, and get freebies in exchange for a little bit of work!” Errrrr… actually? I knew. All those beautiful programs that allow backpackers to get in touch with farms, hostels and to do homestays, housesitting, and “volunteer” were known to me. I even subscribed to one – and paid my subscription.

And by all means, stay away from cockroaches and the like

But really, is it not my fault that all those gorgeous farms were infested with cockroaches and I really really have a phobia for them so when I got to the third one in a month and the (very green, tree hugging) owner told me I should just tell them to go away I thought I’d had it. It is not my fault if I like to eat real food and all those very green and very environmentally friendly farmers think they can save the world by eating (and feeding others) just mango and papaya.

Never volunteer

And truth be told, as a former human rights lawyer, I cringe at the thought that people consider working all day in exchange for a bed at a farm or at an hostel (aka actual businesses making profits) as “volunteering” when in actual legal terms it should be considered slavery. Never mind the lawyer in me! Call me a lazy ass, but quite frankly I could not be bothered to work while traveling after having spent years and years working hard and saving to be able to backpack across Latin America.

Not my idea of fun! Besides, I may be picky but I really am not interested in the oh-so-cultural experience of dealing with a bunch of 20-something western drunk and often stinky backpackers; and I have already done my good share of toilet scrubbing, dish washing, glasses filling, plates serving, fruit picking, animal rescuing which is enough for 3 lifetimes (and, shame on me!, I did not even do that to support my travel addiction but to actually pay my tuition fees while at university).

I actually felt lonely in Cuba
I voluntarily spent all my money on travel

It’s not that I have anything against 20-something western backpackers (I have also been 20, you know), but although a good portion of the travel media industry tries to perpetuate the idea that age doesn’t matter, to me it does – I am 40, for Christ’s sake! (thank you, thank you, I do get told that I look younger!).

I do get tired, I do get back pains, I can’t be bothered to binge drink and party all night (been there, done that), I need a good meal at least once a day, I value my beauty sleep and my idea of getting to know a local culture has evolved into a more sophisticated, quieter and introspective one that sometimes required taking part in a guided tour (and paying for that).

Mind you, I am not against the concept of working while traveling, when one doesn’t otherwise have money. But yaaaaawn – been there, done that, end of story.

Read more about my opinion on guided tours on this post.

Practice at being a tourist

I also confess that I don’t get the big frenzy about going to off the beaten path places. Wait a second, what did you just say? “Going local, silly!” Oh, ok. “Getting to know the culture of a place, darling!” Mmmm. True. Granted. Then forgive me, but I truly must be less than intelligent. Because I actually do enjoy touristic destinations, so much so that I even pay the entrance fees without trying to find a way to sneak in for free, and on top of that, I even go to the same place three times!

Machu Picchu, Peru
Tourist x 3 – I have actually been to Machu Picchu 3 times!

Don’t go off the beaten path

The Colosseum in Rome is touristy? Call me a tourist then, fine by me! Everyone goes to Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu? I am one of those everyone. There are better sites than Tulum? Matter of opinion, I say – but, come to think of it, I really have been to pretty much all Mayan sites in Yucatan and I have yet to find one as beautiful as Tulum.

Besides, I think some locals must take a real pity on me because even if I find myself in the middle of tourist-landia Cartagena, or right at the market in crowded Cusco, I eventually get to talk to the them. They really must feel bad for me that they eventually start spilling little local secrets about the city.

Oh no, I swear they were not trying to rip me off! Unless being offered a whole bunch of eucalyptus leaves to cure my sore throat is an attempt at poisoning. Mind you, I don’t have anything against going off the beaten path. I actually end up off the beaten path – because I get lost, or stuck. Or both.

Like the time I went to the insanely beautiful Marcahuasi, in Peru, and realised there was no bus going back to Chosica, where I could catch the bus to Lima. So I did the only thing to do: spend the night in the lovely, quiet (aka isolated) village of San Pedro de Casta, listening to the village donkeys bray, do like the locals, and wait around. Some bus would come. Eventually. Just in time to catch my plane from Lima to Cusco.

Marcahuasi, photo 2, Peru
Getting off the beaten path in Peru: my only company was a dog!

Avoid street food

Looking to learn how to be a backpacker? Street food you must eat!

One thing I do well when I travel, though. “Finally!”, I hear you say. “Ha, you see?!”, I answer. Yes. I do eat street food. I really do. Except when I do get a terrible stomach infection from eating tacos in Palenque and end up having to stay in bed for 2 full days (well, not really just in bed, but you get what I mean).

And except the times when I really, really want to read a menu and sit at a table and eat whatever I am served in more than the 5 minutes it takes to gorge down street food.

Tacos Guadalajara
Mmmmmm, street food! – photo courtesy of Bill Walsh (flickr)

How To Be A Backpacker – Take Two

Why am I telling you all of this if it looks like I really don’t know how to be a backpacker? Why am I spilling the dirtiest traveling secrets I have? It is not like my opinion matters more than that of anybody else, or that I am more authoritative on the subject. Not at all. But I am tired of reading article after article that try to give the definitive and right idea of what travel should be, and since I am at it, and I write a travel blog, I may as well give my very humble opinion on how to be a backpacker.

What I want you to understand is that there is no learning such thing as how to be a backpacker, and it is ok to make budgeting mistakes (ahem, it is, isn’t it?). We are not all accountants who walk around with an in-built spread sheet to tick off expenses as we go. I am not even good at math – in fact, I am so bad at it that my sister keeps saying I am a perfect target to rip offs, although with time I managed to master the art of haggling.

I also think it is ok to be attracted by touristic destinations and major attractions. Because seriously, for as crowded as it is, for as expensive at it may be, Venice is an incredible place to visit (and you’d be surprised, even I managed to do good there).

And, more than anything else, it is ok to travel and spend money, because money comes and goes and there will always be a chance to make some and ultimately, travel is a huge revenue and a great source of income in many countries (even the ones where it is possible to travel on a shoestring, such as Nicaragua) and we may as well show a little support for the local economy.

Ziplining, Argentina
Rule #1 of how to be a backpacker: Do whatever makes you happy!

So no, I do not feel like a loser and I don’t feel less than amazing for having spent all my money on travel (except when I don’t have money to buy a new fancy camera, that is). The truth is that traveling already is epic enough and already brings us outside of our comfort zones for having to deal with places we don’t know, cultures we are not familiar with, and languages we may not understand.

We are free to enjoy it in whichever form we want – an all inclusive luxury resort were we splurge and pamper ourselves, or a bed in the cheapest hostel in town. That’s the beauty of traveling: there is something for anybody.

Planning to travel long term? Make sure to read my post “All The Useful Backpacking Essentials For Long Term Travel.”

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77 thoughts on “How To Be A Backpacker: All The Things You Should Not Do”

  1. You make some very interesting points here.
    I’m definitely less impressed by people who have visited 70+ and stayed there for 4-5 days than people who have been to 20-40+ countries but profoundly explored its culture. I’m a slow traveller two and I’m currently enjoying my third month in China, yet I would never dare to say I know it well.
    And yes, it’s much more fun to to travel stuff while travelling rather than work. What’s the point of quitting your well-paid job in Europe or USA to travel+work. I’d rather just travel 🙂

  2. I roll my eyes at the snobbery with tourist spots. Sure, it’s annoying, but it’s become a tourist spot for a reason. I love off the beaten paths more than anything else, but I do love going to known tourist spots as well. Call it guilty pleasure but I don’t think that makes us less of a “true traveler”. I do hope to come across you somewhere in this big planet of ours, Claudia!

  3. You go girl! hahaha Love this post and I have to say this is one of my favourite rants I have read in a while. I agree 100% with everything and I travel much like you do (except I’ve ONLY been to 25 countries so please don’t hate me 😉 haha) Erica in comment above makes an excellent point that tourist spots are popular for a reason, THEY ARE AWESOME! I think travel is a completely individual thing. You are spending YOUR hard earn cash so YOU should be able to decide, without criticism, how you spend it. What you do, where you eat, the places you visit etc, is entirely up to you and is no one else’s business. Same goes with travel blogging. Blogging is a personal thing. If you want to blog a certain way then who is anyone else to judge. Thanks for the great read Claudia.

  4. Everyone has their own travel style and why should we judge that? I’m not less of a traveler because I like tourist destinations too. I’m not less of a traveler because I like all-inclusive resorts. Do your own thing and if it makes you happy, that’s all that should matter.

    May the world be at your doorstep.

  5. I LOVE this post! You restored my faith in every backpacker!! 😀 I just started travelling one year ago and I have been to 21 countries so far – NOTHING compared to everybody else. But: All that glitters is not gold. And your words reminded me of that. Thank you!

  6. I have been working hard the last months. And was looking for some traveling. I started looking for exchange, but then i realised I just want to relax and see nice places and refuel. SO now I am just going to travel and work in between at home I guess.

  7. I feel like a slacker now. Almost 5 years, and in that time I’ve done… Um, yeah, I think I’m on country number 3…

    I think people travel different ways, same as they live. Some keep score of everything. Every penny saved, sight seen, country stamped in (and out) of. Others are looking for something else. I tend to focus on my budget a lot, but only because I know if I don’t I’ll be spending $50 a day on food.

    I’m lucky, though. I can work on the road, because I take my work with me. And I have the advantage of turning down clients if I want some time off, or working on their projects at times more convenient to me. Like midnight. 😛

  8. Great post. Everyone travels different. No one should look down on the next because of what they like or want to do. Your time your money your experience. Get it girl!

  9. You never know Erica. Perhaps we can meet in a very VERY crowded Angkor Wat, who knows? We’ll both be tourists there 🙂

  10. 🙂 I am glad you loved it! I had fun writing it, recollecting all my failed backpacking experiences and it was really hilarious!

  11. 21 in a year is A LOT! Make sure you make the most of it, you learn something from each of them – whether it is a personal lesson, a travel lesson, a life lesson 🙂

  12. Good to know that you have found a way of traveling that suits you perfectly – keep having a good time!

  13. You raised a lot of good points here! This is also why I always keep saying that it’s fine no matter what anyone’s traveling style is, as long as you travel and are doing what you love then it’s all fine 😉

  14. GREAT post!! We’ve had several people ask us how they should start travelling and we always say “find the way YOU like to travel”. We realized FAST that we aren’t the budget backpacking-hostel-sleeping-hitchhiking-type of travellers. We do travel light (because we like not having too much to carry, but we definitely prefer more comforts than all those travellers you’ve referred to. A lot of people do talk about the best way to travel – we say travel how you want, how YOU enjoy, what makes you have the best experience! Good for you for doing that and telling the rest to stick it! ps. we think “tourist” locations are also a part of the culture….or else why would it become so popular in the first place? AND we even (get ready for it!) eat at fast food chains at times… sometimes international, sometimes local… because, guess what?, locals eat there too!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We’re 100% behind ya!

  15. I think everyone has their own way of travel and I hate it when people think their way is better than others. I of course am guilty of this sometimes when I meet people in China who just spend a day or two in each city and think they know the country.

  16. Indeed. I don’t think I could ever stay at a resort. But if I others like that, why not? Who am I to judge what they like?

  17. Ha! I love to read that – yes, locals do eat at McDonalds hehe. I don’t go there, but it is just my taste. And at times I crave pizza so much that I literally walk whatever distance to get a good one!!

  18. The best part is getting travel bloggers writing about a country they just passed through – that, really, is sad!

  19. There is a big difference between travellers who are interested in collecting stamps on the passport or putting a flag on the rucksack and travellers who are interested in knowing a country. To understand a foreing culture requires time over all. Not only time to visit wonderful places but also time to spend with people who live in. And sometimes… you can also be so lucky to score a free ride from Panama to Colombia… by sailing through San Blas!

  20. WOW what a refreshing read! I love it! I travel with two young kids and yes i want to see all of the tourist attractions too! i don’t want the typical backpacker experience including those things you mentioned that you can get for free (such as the slave labor farms hahah). I want a comfy pillow, a clean enough space for my family (cockroach free if possible haha) and to see the world! To me that is epic enough too!

  21. I am glad to see that there are many more persons that like to travel in a “less demanding” way 😉

  22. A “Rant” ? Come on, that’s a passionate declaration of love for life in general and travel in particular !

  23. Preach girl! As your 40 year old sister in the world of travel and wanderlust, I loved this article on so many levels! The whole travel vs tourist argument really annoys me also and the idea that people need to label everything and that other people are doing it better than you. I like be inspired by people who go places both on and off the beaten path and teach me something, and inspire something in me, and encourage me to get out there too. Thank you!

  24. Well, this definitely fell into the “rants” category 🙂 But you have mentioned quite a few interesting points when it comes to getting to know the world – in particular, the time we spend in each location and how we spend it. Either people travel to collect stamps and get drunk here and there, or to be obsessed with the most exquisite locations, I’d say it is a question of taste. Yet, I do follow mostly of what you’ve said 🙂
    And hey, who hasn’t had terrible street food experiences ? 😉

  25. I try to completely disregard what others are doing and just do what makes me happy. I don’t think there’s a way to measure if you’re doing it right (as a travel blogger). You just do what you do and there will be other people who want to do it that way too. Backpacking was something I did when I was younger, but you won’t see me doing it anymore. I’ve earned the right to graduate into luxury travel.

  26. Hahaha thank you so much for this much needed post! I thoroughly enjoyed this! I‘m not a backpacker at all but I am not a lux traveler either, so sometimes it is difficult to see the things in between. I do love visiting tourist spots, in my opinion it‘s just a matter of timing. Just choose a time when it is going to be less frequented!
    I especially loved how you point out that there is no right or wrong to traveling! Thank you!

  27. I have earned the right (and the money) not to have to ‘volunteer’ to slavery while I travel 😉

  28. One thing we ought to understand too is that certain people can only take vacations at certain times. For example – Italians are pretty much forced to go on holidays in August. That’s when you find them crowding the beaches. Can they blame the rest of Italians who were forced to do the same? 😉

  29. That’s a very good point! Japanese people are usually pretty bound to fixed times as well!
    Traveling is for everyone! 🙂

  30. I love your view on traveling, it’s so refreshing compared to most of the “top” travel bloggers out there! Being in my 40’s as well, I recently noticed how my idea of good experiences has changed compared to the 20+ backpackers you meet in the hostels (but always be one of the first to wake up does make me feel OLD!).
    Thanks for a great post!

  31. First of all, you do look much younger than 40+. Who cares if we are the first ones to wake up? We also are the first ones to explore, experience, and get a REAL idea of what a place is like. I think traveling requires a good deal of intelligence and education to be able to appreciate a place fully and to learn more from it. Not everyone has it – not even those bloggers who like to think of themselves as experienced and well traveled. 😉

  32. Wow… you suck at traveling… JK! hahaha. I was laughing at most of this, shaking my head ‘yes’ because I’ve felt/done the same, and just loved your “unsuccessfulness.”
    But ya know what? It’s all an experience. There’s really no RIGHT way to travel. Travel how you want. I too spent all my savings in a few months. Oh well, WORTH IT! 🙂

  33. Admittedly, I was amazed the first time I read about travel bloggers who go off-the-beaten path, travel on a budget, and those who quit their job to travel. As I read more of them though, and I have been traveling myself, though not full-time, I realized that many of them set unrealistic expectations about traveling. Also, what may not work for them may not work for me and I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself that I still have a 9-5 job while many of them are out there traveling the world. I just learned to accept that we all have ways of traveling and one way is not necessarily the best way for someone.

  34. Here’s the thing, Marge: we don’t have a 9 to 5 job in the sense that we don’t have to drive or walk to work every day, but we do work a good 10 to 12 hours per day. We don’t travel all the time. Or else, we wouldn’t have time to write about our travels. Isn’t that ironic?

  35. Oh Claudia, I feel you. I’m totally in the same boat when it comes to getting free stuff, voluntourism, and actually *gasp* liking touristy destinations. I’m also full of flaws as a traveler, you can read all about my confession on my blog. I think you might find some of these you can relate to! Oh, and don’t worry I don’t hate you because you have a big backpack, sometimes you just can’t avoid it. 🙂

  36. I think we are all guilty of that – but a few of us are brave enough to admit it 😉 I am going to read your post now!!

  37. When will we stop comparing ourselves to others. When will we stop measuring our success against others “accomplishments”. STOP!!! Be your own traveler. See what you want to see. Do what you want to do at your own pace and in your own terms. Do what makes YOU happy. I am different than other people so why should my experiences be the same as theirs. My experiences will be my own and they are not any less worthy. Great post. Happy Roving

  38. Ah, you are my traveller spirit animal! If I hear one more person on their high horse talking about their organic farm voluntourism experience, or that they hated destination XYZ “because it was too touristy”, obvious eye rolls will need to be suppressed!

  39. Hahahahah the best two I have heard – from self-acclaimed travel bloggers – were “You won’t end up spending the whole day in Machu Picchu, so no worries about carrying water.” And “I got bored in Angkor Wat”. Seriously? I visited Machu Picchu THREE times, and each time I spent the whole day there. In fact, I spent 2 hours in one point, just admiring how the light changed. And I roamed around Angkor Wat for 2 days and could have gone for more. Now, of course I took guided tours both times. I mean – a guided tour of a TOURIST attraction. Couldn’t get more unsuccessful than that!!

  40. This post is so funny. I too, carry around gifts for people for months. My family is coming for Christmas and when I’m offered a beautiful hand-woven textile on the Ausangate Trek, hell yeah I’m going to buy it and carry it around. I also carry chia seeds, maca, and powdered cacao in my food bag. I carry far more food than any other cycle tourist out there. But you know what? We eat better and it makes me happy. I also love the “volunteer” places that make you pay $35 per person per day and maybe feed you breakfast. Then have you work 5 hours a day. And when you ask about the high cost to volunteer, they tell you that you’re the first person who has ever mentioned the high cost….

  41. I don’t carry around much food stuff now that I travel for shorter periods of time, but I remember when I backpacked for 5 months I even had a bottle of PRECIOUS olive oil in my backpack! Now that I was in India, I carried a huge pack of crackers, just in case. I am glad I did as I definitely could not cope with having two spicy meals a day!!

  42. It’s all about travelling to experience cultures, people and live in the environment you are in not just get a stamp so you can write about it! Definitely agree with you there! Funny article!

  43. Glad you think so. Even the other day, walking the streets of Amman, I totally looked unsuccessful lol

  44. Thank you so much for the wonderful, honest, funny, humble and most realistic ‘blog’ I have read in a longtime. I have read several of your other blogs and this one I definitely connected with the most. I am recently retired and now am taking the time to travel. My husband and friends are all still working, so I often go solo. Although I enjoy reading (almost) everyone’s travel stories and experiences I do realize that many of them have to glamorize their journey because it’s a part of their ‘job’. Most readers don’t understand that they, or you, ARE working. I recently decided that I wanted to do a little blogging on my own, but strictly for fun and to provide some more basic and realistic information to anyone who would be interested. Like most I read articles and blogs to get inspired, learn different things but mostly for ideas and recommendations. I am currently planning a trip to Thailand and have taken lots of notes from your posts. I do try to keep in mind that you, as well as others, are often promoting a hotel, tour or restaurant because it may have been comped as part of you job. Would you personally ever promote a place that you felt wasn’t worthy? I get the feeling that you wouldn’t. Anyway, as usual I’m getting carried away, but if you haven’t stopped reading by now, I just want to say to continue to be real, funny, honest and beautiful just the way you are. I look forward to crossing paths some day. Safe travels, Kristen
    PS I never guessed you a day over 30!

  45. Kristen, you have just made my day! And yes, I am over 30 (waaaaay over 30) – and I read that far, lol 🙂 Anyways, back to blogging and being honest: I always carefully research places to stay, whether they are comped or not. Usually hotels that are comped are so nice anyways, that it almost goes without saying that I will say nice things about them. But you can be reassured that if I am not happy with a service (whether it is a hotel, a tour, or a restaurant) I won’t mention it at all (or mention it to advice to stay away from it!). If you happen to go to Koh Chang, in Thailand, make sure to go to Bang Bao Beach and to eat at a lovely restaurant by the sea called Pecan’s Kitchen (or something like that). The owner prepares delicious curries!!

  46. Wow, I just stumbled across your blog and I’m already a fan! You absolutely hit the nail on the head. So many backpackers try and claim the “traveler, not a tourist” route, when we’re really all doing the same thing no matter how we choose to spin it. It’s so refreshing to hear from a blogger who is both humble and confident! Keep it up 🙂

  47. Ha! I am the number one tourist hitting all the major tourist spots and spending a fortune too. Thank you for your kind comment, Anna. If someone successfully manages to explain you the difference between a traveler and a tourist, let me know. I shall warn you if I find out too 😉

  48. Thanks for your hobesty!
    It was an interesting read.
    Even if I do prefer “offbeat path” to big tourist attractions, especially as I believe I can always go back to those! I love and support the idea of travelling to a destination more than once. So why not leave something for some other time?
    I was hiking Cambodia for a month, and don’t feel ashamed to admit I didn’t see Angkor Wat. I was for weeks in Java, and skipped Borobudur. I had to go to Paris for 15 times before even catching a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. And I have no regrets. I am not fulfilling my bucket list of “places to visit before you die”. I am working on the idea to live, have no plans to die soon 🙂

  49. Ha! Good thinking. Last Thursday, for the first time, I have finally been to Temple Mount. It was my fourth time in Jerusalem!

  50. Ah, finalmente! Vivo in Vietnam da 7 mesi e ho girato un po’ (ma mai contato i paesi!), non faccio che leggere di mirabolanti avventure e incontrare persone che devono insegnarti come viaggiare, spostarsi e entrare in contatto con la vita locale spendendo poco o niente, e in condizioni che per me non sono accettabili, e non e’ affatto detto che ti diano di piu’ in termini di comprensione del posto e della gente (e spesso per differenze di prezzo irrisorie!). Sara’ la maturita’ dei post-30! E ti diro’ di piu’: viaggio per lo piu’ con il trolley da aereo perche’ con il mal di schiena che ho non posso permettermi neanche lo zaino da 10 kg, e lo trovo molto piu’ comodo! Sto leggendo il blog con piacere 🙂

  51. Benvenuta nel mio mondo! Ma chi se ne frega poi di cosa fanno gli altri… giusto?

  52. Claudia, thank you for openly sharing your experience. I think a lot of people skip the bad experiences they made when they write about their trip. I was reading about WWOOF and thought, what a beautiful way to connect and work together with permaculture farmers… Until I read your post, which was a real eyeopener. I am almost 40 years old, I love to backpack for the sake of connecting with a mix of people around the globe plus locals, however I am not willing to clean people’s farms, etc. for staying overnight, noo, I have 3 university degrees, worked in europe, can make way better money in europe, no need to go back to student times. And while I was reading your experience at the WWOOF farm, I was happy that you didn’t hesitate to leave that farm.
    I came to your blog, while I was making a research on South America, where I would like to backpack solo, and learned a lot.
    Thank you!

  53. :-)))) I was considering taking olive oil to south america… I know… And I have my own oregano spirit, made by my grandmother, if I would have an upset stomach.

  54. AMEN! There are so many ways to connect with the locals. Besides, most of the time WWOOF farms in Latin America are owned by Americans!

  55. I loved your post! I can relate to everything you mentioned. I’ve tried workaway and then realized that I’m working for 5$ a day (this was the price of a night there). I have a good job and can afford to actually just relax on my 3 months of backpacking that I’ve been saving for.
    About getting off the beaten track: disappointing as it may be, the best things are usually found ON the beaten track – that’s why they became so popular after all. Taking guided tours is not a sin, especially regarding that by doing so we are supporting the local community – the least we can do for them to make up for destroying their habitat with our hordes.
    I also know people who save money on transportation by hitchhiking. Then again, if you do so, you have to entertain the driver throughout the ride. Being an introvert, I prefer paying a little extra but be able to just listen to music and enjoy my ride.
    I guess all these ways of travelling cheaply make sense if you can’t afford it otherwise, if the choice for you is either cheaply or no other way. If you have money though, it’s definitely not worth it to economize on everything just to be ‘cool’.

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