Confessions of a Backpacker

// November 21st, 2010 // Travel Reflection

“Just remember, if you run out of clean underwear, you can always turn them inside out.”

This was the last piece of advice my dad gave me before leaving on my around the world trip, much to the dismay of my mother who gave him the look. You know- that look that anyone who has been married 30+ years can give to their spouse which will be completely disregarded. Little did my mother know, I would be taking my dad up on his advice. There are many things about my trip that are probably best left unpublished on the World Wide Web- but, being ‘professional’ (aka serious) just isn’t my style, and I like to keep things interesting so it’s time for me to go to travel confessional.

One: I went commando in Cape Town. As desperation set in, I had no choice. For the first time on my trip I was going to have to pay to do laundry, since a single bathroom sink shared with 20 other girls was not an option. I was hoping to wait as long as possible so that I would have clean clothes when I flew to Thailand. However, as it turns out, I waited too long, and after the ‘turn it inside out day’ I was forced, yes there was no choice, to go…. Commando. That’s right, I turned in every last bit of clothing except what I was wearing, including every last pair of underwear. You see, I would have been okay, except for point two (see below). I would like to say, though, that it was only semi-commando because I at least wore running shorts, which attempt to have built-in underwear in them.

Two: I left a pair of underwear hanging in a tree in Botswana. I was camping and had the perfect tree with branches that were good for hanging my freshly washed laundry from. Unfortunately, as I scrambled to collect my clothing in the dark the next morning before heading to the bus station, I didn’t grab everything. Bummer.

Three: There are days when I absolutely hate being a backpacker! Days when I have to haul all of my stuff on my back for a few kilometers, days when I can’t find a place to stay and all I want to do is sleep- those days are hard. My friend in Southeast Asia was flying to Madrid when I was off to Berlin. I hoped to have a limo waiting for me at the airport in Berlin. It didn’t happen. When I decided to travel long-term I knew I would be on a shoestring budget. And I was okay with that. But I have promised myself that I will take at least one hassle-free, all-inclusive vacation in my life that is stress free!

Tasty grasshoppers

Nomonde of Mzansi Restaurant, Langa Township

Four: I had a complete meltdown on my 14-hour flight to Bangkok. I’m not talking just a tear or two either. I was leaving behind Africa, my favorite continent that I traveled through. I was leaving behind boys in Kenya that I dearly missed already. I was reflecting on my experience in a South African township with a woman that has more courage and determination than I ever will. I was thinking about the stories I heard about the Rwandan genocide, and my guides there that lost their families to brutality beyond comprehension. I cried for myself. I cried for the African people. And finally, I cried over the guilt of crying for these people who have gone through experiences I will never go through. What gives me the right to cry? Yes, I was a mess. Luckily for me (but not for her) the woman next to me was not mentally stable as the result of a brain injury so I think she was completely unaware. Of course I met a close friend in Bangkok and that was the end of my cryfest!

Five: I wore the same outfit four days in a row (although this time I wore clean underwear everyday!). I froze my ass off camping in Africa and wore everything I owned.

Six: I had a wussy moment in Kenya, and rather than facing the lizards, cockroaches, and possible tarantulas in the squat toilet at night, I decided to go in the bushes. After that I realized how ridiculous I was being and got over it the next day. Of course a toad jumped on me as I was passing the pig pen and I squealed like one of them.

Tarantula in the squat toilet

Seven: I didn’t brush my hair for a week because I misplaced my hairbrush. I still washed it though, so that’s not really a big deal, is it?

Eight: I ate a grasshopper. And convinced my friend to do it too! This is one confession I’m really proud of :)

Nine: I sat on the side of the road in Laos, thinking about giving up, as my friend patiently looked on. My bike was stuck in the highest gear, we were on a long uphill ride, and I was just so over it! Luckily, I got it together to finish, but I thought about lying there forever.

Ten: I got a violent stomach bug that left me puking in Bali. I thought, ‘if I have to suffer through this thing physically, my family has to suffer through hearing the details of it!’. Too bad I sent it to Adam of SitDownDisco.com rather than Adam in my family. Yes, it was horrifying for me, but this poor guy I just met a week ago had to read about it!

I would consider this list just the start of my confessions. Or at least, these are the ones that I was actually willing to write about. I know many of you have a few things of your own to admit from your travels (hint hint, please tell the world about them here).

Note: I would like to point out that even though there seems to be a multitude of hygiene confessions, I’m really not a dirty girl. I promise! I travel with three toothbrushes!

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23 Responses to “Confessions of a Backpacker”

  1. Kyle says:

    Please confess more often. This post was hilarious I have to say that #2 is hilarious. Whoever found the little surprise you left behind must have been a little confused… :)

  2. jamie says:

    great post!
    i went through a phase of jumping fences in the middle of the night to jump off the high platform naked at whatever pool happened to be around. karma eventually struck when i forgot to cross the legs, or go the cup upon landing. nasty.
    jamie´s last [type] ..Mayan Ruins Part 1- Mexico

  3. Backpacking confessional! Good one, although I don’t think I’d dare. Especially since backpackers do have a reputation of being a grubby lot. On a side note, I will always cherish your detailed descriptions of writhing in agony on the floor in your distressed state in Bali.
    Adam @ SitDownDisco´s last [type] ..Bali- Padang Padang Beach

  4. Erica says:

    HAHA! This list is great. I had to play the inside out game in Japan. It took us too long to find a laundromat when we were backpacking through… well, half took too long, half because we didn’t want to take a day out to stop and do laundry.

    Nice list!
    Erica´s last [type] ..For Love and Travel

  5. Heather says:

    I’ve already confessed my sobbing spell in a bathroom stall at LAX on the way to Oz! I’m coming up blank now — nothing terribly interesting — but it’s good inspiration for a future post :-)
    Heather´s last [type] ..Macaron Day- 67 Birthday Presents

  6. Annie says:

    Loved this list! Thanks for sharing, I’m still laughing! :) Although, I’ll have to think a bit more before I come up with my own confessions… ;)
    Annie´s last [type] ..Top Picks in Prague

  7. Lois says:

    So proud of you Laura! That was a long list! Gives us girls hope that we can definitely travel for a long time and survive a backpacking trip.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures!
    Lois´s last [type] ..Battle of the Islands- El Nido vs Coron

  8. Andi says:

    That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger! ;-)
    Andi´s last [type] ..Cuba- Day 5 Part 1

  9. Abby says:

    LOVE these types of posts! People should write more often about the backpacking culture. We can all relate! Please, I don’t wash or brush my hair once a week NOW. Proudly, my best friend/traveling partner was the one with the breakdowns during our trip. Me? I egged her on and let them do them in luxury — oh, M is having a breakdown, maybe it’s time for a hotel? Shameless. It sounds like you had an amazing, emotional trip that touched your soul.
    Abby´s last [type] ..Life after long-term travel- adjusting back

  10. Sherry Ott says:

    Love this! Brought back many laundry memories for me. Thanks for being so honest! Loved #10 – now…when are you going to post that email for us all to see…that would be a good confession!

  11. AudreyDez says:

    Haha this is a funny list! Makes me realise that not everything is magical when backpacking, but hey, we can still survive and laugh about that later:)

  12. Kirsty says:

    Brilliant list, I agree with Andi :) And I hope whoever got your present of pants in Botswana are treasuring them!
    I think running your fingers through you hair kinda counts as brushing it anyway! (that’s what I tell myself when I have lost mine!)

  13. Sabina says:

    Quite the list! And no, it’s not so bad to not brush your hair for a week. As long as it’s clean and looks good :) Mine’s so tangly if I didn’t brush it for a week I’d have to shave it off. I’m glad you fared better.

  14. Emily says:

    These make me laugh. Reading the one about the laundry reminded me of your first day here! Poor thing. You had to dry your laundry all over the place in our apartment because we didn’t have any quarters. You thought you were leaving the “backpacking life” behind, but we fooled you! Maybe next time, don’t keep a secret (with my husband) from me and I’ll provide quarters! ;)

  15. Carl Roberts says:

    This post was funny indeed. I think we all we have something to say and something to hide. It seems people like you have many experiences to say. . Despite I just found your blog and read some of your stories, I realize I envy your life style Laura.
    Carl Roberts´s last [type] ..Compression Socks

  16. Ali says:

    Really enjoyed reading this! Funny, a bit scary, and sort of a warning to those of us who haven’t done it yet.
    Ali´s last [type] ..100 Hamburger or My Charlotte Mileage Run

  17. Jill says:

    Hey there. I’m one month into my RTW trip myself and stumbled upon your blog. Great post! I’ve definitely already worn the undies inside-out while tramping. Keep the hilarity coming!

  18. Pete says:

    Great post and congrats on eating the grasshopper! I have yet to try any *insects* but that is on my Pete vs. Food to-do list. I look forward to your next confessions blog. Cheers!
    Pete´s last [type] ..The Hecktic Top 8

  19. hahaha you are hilarious. The underwear one cracked me up. And a grasshopper?! I ate a fried worm and bee in China. And you know what? I’m kind of proud of that too haha. I convinced my boyfriend to do it with me!

    And as for your time in Africa – thank you for sharing that confession. That one really made me think.

    My confession: hmmm. When I was living in Beijing I once saw an old woman sifting through the trash and she pulled out an old McDonalds cup and tried to drink out of it. I went up to her to give her 10 RMB so she could go get some dinner and she refused to take it. In China receiving tips of offers like that is saying to the person that they can’t take care of themselves. It’s disrespectful. But I was so mad at her for not taking it b/c she needed it and she was old and didn’t deserve that I screamed at her in english “Take the money!!!” and shoved the money in her bag and walked away. Everyone around me was staring as it happened. No one really helps homeless there. It was just a weird experience. Truth be told, I was angry at her. And there’s a lot of things about the way people do things in China that made me angry. I don’t like that anger. But CHina has so much to learn about compassion, and about giving and receiving help.
    Lauren Rains @ TheMadtoLive´s last [type] ..An Anti Lazy POS Lifestyle Design Travel Story

  20. Kirstin says:

    I can definitely relate to having meltdowns! On my first solo trip I went to Thailand by myself and Etihad Airways LOST my backpack. The whole thing. I was 19 and had only had my carry-on purse with me. Meltdown in the airport, meltdown to a taxi driver, meltdown to several hostel owners. It eventually all worked out, but this is usually a part of that trip that I leave out when telling people about it ;)
    Kirstin´s last [type] ..another friday night

  21. Patricia GW says:

    OH MY GOD!!!
    Screw the squat toilet; if there’s a tarantula in there, I’d have gone in the bushes too!!
    I think the email story of sending it to the wrong person is really funny, although I’m sure it wasn’t at the time. You’re a much stronger person because you’ve gone through all of these ordeals :)
    Patricia GW´s last [type] ..Chai Tea and Pillowmellows

  22. [...] What is your most embarrassing travel moment? I can only name one? Hmmm… that’s tough! I can’t really think of anything jaw-dropping at the moment. I will refer you here, to my travel confessions. [...]

  23. Travel Genes says:

    Loved your style of writing… the way you share even funny things about yourself is what keeps the magic going… just stumbled on your site today & i must say i m hooked!
    Travel Genes´s last [type] ..This is how we say Good Bye to the winters : Holi Festival India

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