Confessions of the World’s Worst Backpacker


Erika from Tall Travels Blog
In today’s post, we’re happy to introduce you to Erika from Tall Travels Blog. She is a 
kinesiologist from Canada, currently based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She is always up for exploring and adventure, in both her beautiful home country and abroad. Erika is finding ways to make her ambitious travels goals fit with her slim post-uni student budget and as she confesses in this blog post, she is one of the world‘s worst backpackers! 


I spent many a university study session procrastinating, staring longly at Instagram travel blogger’s archives of adventure, longing for my turn to spread my wings and see the world. But, when my time finally came, I realised there was a whole lot less glamour and a whole lot more challenges than I expected. Here is a collection of lessons I have learned along the way, and some behind the scenes spoilers to the life of a full-time traveller.

Before I transitioned to a budget backpacking traveller, my international experiences had been more of a vacationing tourist. Though I definitely had experience visiting destinations far from the beaten path, I was always comfortable enough when I was in another country, and it was always short-term if I wasn’t. I was a bit naive in thinking backpacking would be the same travel experience, just cheaper- no way! When the budget changes, the whole experience does. My lesson began on day one when I checked into my first hostel.

desserts
I found friends with just as much of an appreciation for excessive desserts (I worked here to be able to afford eating here)!

I pictured a hang out of like-minded young adults, eager to dive into new surroundings and cultures, to discuss global issues, and to plan great itineraries together. What I got was a mysteriously damp top bunk in the corner of a dingy room with the distinct odour of stale beer. Any ideas of conversation were quickly erased as, at 1 pm, my roommates were snoring loudly in attempts to ease their hangovers, minus the couple sharing a bed that were definitely unhappy to have a new, and awake, roommate. It was a flashback to living in the university residence, but somehow, so much worse. I spent my days in that city solo, letting my ideas of finding kindred spirits travelling die. Of course, this moping was short lived. I made friends at a local job fair who loved eating out at unique restaurants as much as I did, I met girls at a workout class in the park to join in with daily runs, and I eventually met some great people at the hostel (just not my roommates). But none of this changed the fact that I quickly realised I was a budget backpacker who hated hostels. So did I give up, blow my budget, and go home early? No way! Hating hostels taught me how to stretch that budget to the max, and while hostels are not always avoidable, I have managed to find sweet Air BnB stays, done some house sitting, and chosen cheaper destinations where I can stay like royalty for the same dollar. I’m a backpacker, but I’m not a vagabond or a carefree hippy. I like being clean, safe, and comfortable.

drinking coffees
Mornings just aren’t the same without a great cup of coffee (this cafe might have the best view in the world). Worth the $5.00.

Backpackers are notorious for having a terrible diet, and I’ve met travellers budgeting an instant coffee for breakfast, half a pack of ramen noodles for lunch and supper, and otherwise depending on freebies left by others passing through. One guy had made it ten days spending only $8.00 on rice and apples! To choose to live that way is so intense, but I’m not here to judge, I’m impressed. It works for him and lets him travel longer. Inspired by my budget savvy co-travellers, I was determined to write the cost of every food I bought. I dedicated a little notebook to the cause and planned my weekly budget to the cent. By my second week, I had deviated so much from my budget there was no coming back, and by the third week, I gave up on my notebook entirely. It’s not that I spend as much as I want, it’s just that food is not an area I am willing to skimp on.

a girl is drinking a smoothie
Yeah, so the smoothie was $13.00. But I needed all the extra protein and caffeine shots to be able to carry this monster of a backpack, right?

I like fresh fruit and vegetables, and going for a good cup of coffee in the morning. I enjoy eating too much to live off of cheap carbs and powdered beverages. I find ways to make it possible to have a great food by working at gourmet cake shops and cafes, so I can save and eat well while doing it. When I pass through major cities, I have a list of recommended restaurants I plan on hitting while I’m there.

healthy smoothie bowl
My entire day’s food budget on one smoothie bowl…but it seriously was as amazing as it looks.

My bucket list isn’t just sightseeing destinations and adrenaline junkie experiences, it’s also ethnic dishes and famous restaurants I want to try. I am a backpacker that dedicates a significant part of my budget for food. It’s a huge part of the travel experience, and for me, it is worth it.

Anyone dedicated to backpacking has the travel bug, and it definitely just gets worse the more you go. Each place you see is just a little bit closer to another country, another famous location, or another must-see piece of history. I absolutely love learning about new places and planning to see them- but when I’m on the road, I also love planning to go home. This concept is insane to a lot of backpackers out here. Going home is the ultimate failure, it means you ran out of money or worse, lost your sense of wonder.

hostel room
The unavoidable hostels. It’s not the end of the world, but it sure makes me appreciate having my own space.

You will meet backpackers who haven’t been home in years, and travellers looking for any countries that will give then extended visas to stay anywhere that isn’t their home. For me, it’s just the opposite! I’m not backpacking to be a backpacker forever (though I’ll be a traveller forever, it is in my DNA). Regularly visiting family and my hometown is a part of my travels, and I get excited looking forward to it as an adventure comes to a close. When you are in new surroundings every few days or weeks, it’s like a sensory overload that never ends. And of course, I love it. That’s why I currently live on the road. But it makes the familiarness of home all the sweeter. You’ll never catch me whining of the miseries of my small town. Each time I go home, I have so much to share with my family and friends, and there is nothing better as a traveller than seeing others get inspired by your adventures. I am a backpacker who loves going home.

plane
Last moments in the air before I was home again after my last adventure.

Becoming a traveller is a big transition from a stable, home-based lifestyle. So many people dream of becoming a backpacker because it is the ultimate escape, the endless wanderer with no ties to property, possessions, or employment. For many, backpacking means budget hostels, rice diets, and never booking a flight back home. By those standards, I am the worst backpacker, staying in apartments and houses, eating at incredible restaurants, and deliberately saving for the purpose of going back to my hometown. But I have to confess- if that makes me the world’s worst backpacker, I’m okay with it. I’m not here to copy anyone else’s travel style, I am doing it my own way. And so far, it has been an incredible journey.

Tags from the story
,
More from Agness Walewinder

Made it to the Maldives – Adventures in Paradise

In this latest post, we describe our visit to Thulusdhoo Island, one...
Read More

12 Comments

  • I am done with dorms meself, couldnt bear the thought of having to stay in one again. Still, kudos to those who can! its very hard to travel on a tight budget and still use restaurants. you need to find the right mix of comfort levels to suit your personal needs. which you seem to have done!

    • Thanks Andrew! Anything out of my comfort zone is a great learning opportunity but I also would be happy to never stay in a dorm again!

  • Well,I love traveling,but we travel as a family.Life as a backpacker sounds interesting as there are no responsibilities for properties etc.But,by looking at the other side of such life,it is not in my world too.I want to see my home after a few days travel :) I enjoyed reading this post Erika & Agness.It is interesting and with much details…

    • Thank you for the comment Amila! Each person has a unique approach to travel and it is so interesting to learn from fellow travellers, especially when you do things differently. Travelling with a family may be challenging but you must have so many wonderful memories together!

  • ‘Love this post! Don’t worry, you’re not thw world’s worst backpacker, you’re a distinct individual who knows what she wants!

    I admit however, that I was probably one of those backpackers who never wanted to go home. I once met a fellow British person in Hong Kong who hadn’t been home in 6 years! And as for myself, I took up a job offer that was supposed to last 6 weeks, but I came home 2 years later! Ooops!

    The first time that I actually ever wanted to go back home was while I was in India. I was there for over a month, and I had a good time and everything, but it made me tired and weary and I got seriously ill, but after my time was up, I just couldn’t wait to go back home. And that home for me wasn’t in the UK anymore, but in Berlin. Where I still live!

    • Victoria you are so right, I know what I want and what works for me! I loved talking to people who had been on the road for years, they complain the least out of all travellers I have met:) I just love back and forth to share my stories!

  • Loved this because I don’t think I’d scrimp on food either, food is such an important part of travel for me that I couldn’t just forgo it for the basics. Everyone has their own way of doing things and I’m glad you found yours :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *