15 Things Every Backpacker on A Budget Has Done (Or Will Do) At Least Once


1. Done Laundry In A Communal Sink

When you think about it, this is actually a pretty gross thing to do. Sinks are full of germs, dirt and a whole lot of assorted gunk – so using them to clean ones clothes is actually fairly counterproductive!

However, doing laundry in many hostels will set you back anywhere from a few dollars up to around $10 – which for some people is the equivalent of like two or three days worth of food! As a result, pretty much every backpacker in existence has done a shoddy DIY wash job in a bathroom sink and used their hostel bunk as a drying rack.

It may not be ideal, but at least its cheap!

2. Survived On Nothing But Instant Noodles For A Week (Or More)

I like to call this the ‘Broke Backpacker Diet’. Basically, such a diet involves consistently eating anything that is non-perishable and dirt cheap, despite the very real possibility of developing scurvy!

When I travelled through Greenland, food was unbelievably expensive (and with the exception of literally two meals) I ate instant noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am definitely not the first backpacker to have lived off such a diet, and I will certainly not be the last.

Sometimes we travel to eat, and other times we sacrifice decent food to help fund more time on the road.

The view from Hans Egede Monument in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland

3. Used Soap As Shampoo (and Vice Versa)

Is this good for your hair and skin? Nope! But y’know, in a pinch you can make anything a lot more multi-purpose than you initially expected.

4. Had Sex In A Dorm

If you haven’t done this before but you stay in hostels regularly, rest assured that there is still a high chance that it will happen!

We all know that having sex in a dorm room is totally not cool, but sometimes it just seems to be the only option. Picture this: you have found yourself totally enamoured with another person, you have had a couple of drinks, the chemistry between the two of you is palpable and at that point in time, all you can think about is getting naked with this new person. However, unless you are willing to risk getting arrested for public indecency, you find that your dorm is the only place semi suitable for getting your rocks off.

Is it acceptable? Not at all! But have a lot of backpackers done it? Yep, they most certainly have.

5. Gone 3 (or More) Days Without Bathing

I honestly can’t explain it, but once you really get into the backpacker mentality, personal hygiene goes totally out the window. We aren’t (completely) disgusting, it’s just that embracing the ‘euro bathing’ lifestyle (face, underarms and nether regions get washed) can be so much easier, and if you are staying in a hostel without hot water, can be the only way to make bathing bearable.

To whoever invented baby wipes/face wipes – so many backpackers owe you big time.

Greasy hair? Just wear a beanie!
Greasy hair? Just wear a beanie!

6. Given Themselves A DIY Haircut

If you haven’t ever haphazardly attacked your locks with some dodgy scissors, maybe you haven’t been on the road long enough! There comes a time when you just need a haircut, but if you are on a budget, paying someone to do it is pretty much out of the question.

Funnily enough, the act of cutting my own hair has persisted. Even though now I am financially stable enough that paying for a haircut won’t mean forgoing food for a week, I often still just give my hair little trims when the mood strikes.

Not too bad for a DIY chop job!
Not too bad for a DIY chop job!

7. Paid For A Meal Entirely With Coins

To the restaurant in Budapest that I frequented and then never paid in anything but piles of change – sorry guys, my bad.

8. Entered A Restaurant or Cafe Purely For The Free WiFi

So many backpackers bang on about ‘dining like a local’ and ‘immersing themselves in culture through food’, but what they don’t tell you is how many Starbucks chains they have entered just so they could do a little scroll on social media.

9. Silently Imagined Ways of Murdering The People Having Sex In The Bunk Above You

The irony! The hypocrisy! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

But even though so many backpackers are guilty of getting their rocks off in a dorm, it is still unbelievably annoying when it is someone else doing it!

10. Forgone Shaving and Let So Much Bodily Hair Grow Free

See #5. This is especially true if you are travelling in colder climates – nothing like thick clothing and plummeting mercury to make you want to let your hair (leg, facial, arm etc) grow free and possibly add a little extra insulation.

11. Had Beer For Breakfast

Nothing like a little hair of the dog to help one recover from a night out partying!

12. Developed A Crush on A Hostel Staff Member

I don’t know what it is – but there are some people who seem to become insanely more attractive when they go into a certain career and profession. Bartenders, firemen, musicians and hostel workers all fit within this category.

It is inexplicable, but for some reason, developing crushes on hostel staff is a pretty common phenomena.

If this happens to you – buy them a drink, you never know what will happen!

13. Stolen Food From A Hostel Breakfast

Finding a hostel with a free breakfast is the backpackers equivalent of finding the holy grail. If there is uncut fruit (think bananas, apples, oranges), bread, packaged condiments or muesli bars – you better believe that most of it will not actually be eaten at breakfast. Extra pieces of fruit and haphazardly made sandwiches get sneakily shoved into backpacks by pretty much anyone looking to save a few bucks.

14. At Times Became Really Sick of Living Out of A Backpack

Aching muscles, dirty clothes, broken belongings and eating nothing but cheap shitty food for days can sometimes start to wear on people…

15. But Not For Long, Because A Backpacking Iife Is One of The Happiest Lives Around!

 Just ask any backpacker, they wouldn’t trade it for anything.


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30-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

89 thoughts on “15 Things Every Backpacker on A Budget Has Done (Or Will Do) At Least Once

  1. So I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not but as I’m reading through every point I just said yes to all 15 points ….even though some we shouldn’t be proud of you are so right amd hot the nail on all of them haha

      1. that we are haha ….Hey just a quick question about your blog, what self hosted sight do you use ? ..I’m planning on leaving the free WordPress version soon, I’m thinking of bluehost so I can run WordPress …taking the plunge haha

  2. LOL
    Loved this post – all so true and all why we love/hate backpacking isn’t it? And yes, I can relate to all of them except no. 6 – I just didn’t cut my hair for a few years… 😊

  3. may be i don’t have a 100% backpacker’s mentality, but i’ve done no. 13 several times before 🙂 even in a more fancy hotel. sometimes no. 1 and 10. No. 2? yeah, sometimes in lunch & dinner. but not the whole week or more hahahaha…. this is a very fun post to read btw!

  4. I have done #1,3,8 and felt both #14 & 15. Sex in a dorm? I had trash duty in a dorm, once, and opened/shut a room door, in a flash, just as a girl was going down on her bed-buddy.

  5. Number 8 for sure… I’ve also gone into many McDonald’s to use the bathroom for free.
    And I’m not proud of it, but I’ve also done number 4 😛 But not with anyone in the bunk below me. I’m considerate like that.

  6. Yes to all but #1. #4 never for me and wouldn’t (must be my age); #9, #11, #12 I have never stayed in a dorm; #14 Not yet not even after 10 days in the backcountry; #15 would not change a thing. And I haven’t seen a barber in 10 years, I always give myself my own haircut. Fun list, keep them coming.

  7. I haven’t had #6 or #9 happen to me just yet, but the rest are true. I’m the first to admit I go to Starbucks not just for the wifi but for the coffee because coffee in Asia just doesn’t do it for me.

  8. To be honest I do #2 all the time anyway, and who doesn’t nab ‘extra’ breakfast from their dorm?! If I have to pay £4 for breakfast then I’m bloody well getting my moneys worth!

  9. As a seasoned backpacker I can relate and vouch for all observations. Only last year I folded at 50 and purchased a wheely suitcase thing. Kicking and screaming, street-cred out the window. And do you notice how few backpacks are around now relatively? (Never fear my backpack is still far from obsolete.) Go gal.

  10. It’s interesting about the hair. When I gave up my science job to try and become a writer (still trying) I realised I had to give a lot of things up and live an austerity lifestyle. The price of (male) haircuts locally had skyrocketed from £5 to £15 so I started snipping away here and there and have never been back. I don’t know what it looks like to others, but no-one’s said it looks awful, and I find the whole process very cathartic.

    Hopefully like Vince Noir – the midnight barber, snipping away at Howard Moon’s hair when he’s asleep – it just doesn’t appear to grow.

    And as for “euro bathing” I think we might have to take umbrage at that. Is that what you all really think of us down there? This sounds like war talk!

    p.s. I tried to look up what it’s known as here and couldn’t find anything that sounds familiar but I did find sink wash, whore bath, hillbilly shower – you looking down on us, us looking down on Americans – and I also see it’s called a “French bath”, so maybe you were right all along.

    1. Love the Mighty Boosh reference! I would totally let Vince Noir cut my hair in my sleep haha

      It’s not what I think – it’s just what people call it! Hahaha

  11. What fun to read through your list, I have many fond memories of living out of a backpack (for 3 months each year in Mexico!), it was very freeing and taught me a lot!

      1. It was wonderful – we haven’t done this for a few years now and miss living there so much! Life sometimes sends one on a different path…this is why I enjoy reading about your adventures so much!

      1. I thought that however once finding megan it all changed a lot, although we never stopped travelling we travelled together instead. It was different but just as fun! Now we have a little son it will definitely change

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      1. Hey I wanted to let you know that I’ve moved my blog off WordPress and I don’t wanna lose you as a follower so to continue to follow your soulmate (that’s me) you’ll have to pleeeeeeease go to http://www.batmantravels.com and enter your email through the email subscriber.

        I hope it’s not an inconvenience and if it is I apologize.

        You can find the email subscriber dealio in the main menu under “Follow this Blog”.

        I promise it’ll be worth it cuz as you know I’m also full of adventures and all of your dreams will come true and why would you want to miss out on your dreams? 🙂

        Thank you so much Ellen and I reeeeeeeally do hope you’ll come over, subscribe, and re-follow! Thank you!

  13. This is incredible. I am turning 35 on Thursday, and i have been stuck in a life that just doesn’t make sense. I can’t wait to read all your posts. I have been wanting to travel alone for so long, but haven’t found the courage. I feel it coming though, and your posts definitely give me the boost i need. Thank you!

  14. This list is so true and so legit. But what does it say about you if you’ve done 1 or more of those things while in your own hometown saving to travel? lol….

  15. Love everything about this post and related to every 15 points!! Makes me miss living out my backpack even though you moan constantly at the time!!

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