Posted 08 Apr, 2013 | 21 Comments
Posted in: Musings, Travel Blogs

We’ve been travelling for over 3 years now and one thing has become quite apparent: not much phases us anymore! You name it, we’ve seen it, and probably even done it. Some things we may not be too proud of, but that’s the life of a backpacker.

So, without further ado:

You Know You’ve Been Travelling A Long Time When…

1. A cockroach tries to steal your food and you think it’s normal.

A cockroach was literally pulling away some of Nick’s’ rice one day in Malawi and I said quite calmly “Nick, there’s a cockroach stealing your rice”. He flicked the cockroach away and carried on eating the rice as if it were a totally normal occurrence.

2. You bargain down the last dollar, even penny.

We’ve bargained for everything: passport photos, bus rides, souvenirs, meals, entrance fees, guide fees, clothing and more. Even though it’s normal to bargain for things in most countries, we’re working on not bargaining too, too low. That penny could really help a shop owner.

Bargaining for items is a huge part of travelling the world…just don’t go too low.

3. Accidents don’t phase you.

We’ve seen more accidents than we’d care to say.

We were in Luxor trying to arrange a shared ride with some backpackers and a taxi driver. When the taxi driver opened his door, a motorcycle rode straight into the opened door. The 4 of us looked at the carnage and continued discussing the journey, unphased. Don’t worry, local people were there to help the guy out.

4. Six people on motorbike doesn’t even make you turn your head.

3,4,5, or even 6 people on a motorbike/moped is common in SE Asia. The most we ever saw on a motorbike were 3 adults, one teenager and 2 kids being held off to the side in Cambodia. Hang on!

5. You prefer squat toilets.

I think squat toilets are used more around the world than western style toilets. And you know what? We now prefer them! There’s nothing worse than sitting on a public toilet that others have sat on, why not just squat above it? It’s more sanitary in our opinion.

6. You squat more than you sit.

In this case I don’t mean the toilets. When travelling there is hardly anywhere to sit while you wait for transportation. We’ve been squatting beside our backpacks many a time.

budget backpacking
Nowhere to sit. Waiting for a bus with some locals in Myanmar

7. You’ve slept on more airport floors than you can count.

It makes sense to spend the night in the airport rather than getting a hotel room only until 3am. We’ve slept at many an airport, and I’ve gotta say, it’s usually not comfortable!

Just a day in the life of a backpacker – sleeping at the Kuala Lumpur Airport, Malaysia

8. You perform the “smell check” before putting on clothes.

Not only do we wear the same outfit over and over again while on the road, we unfortunately aren’t able to do laundry all that frequently. Every time a wrinkled, dirty piece of clothing is pulled out of our backpack, we have to smell it and gauge whether or not it’s wearable.

9. Getting on the roof of a bus is no big deal.

Even though this may sound dangerous, it’s pretty standard in parts of Asia and Africa. No room inside the bus? Get on top! FYI – watch out for low-hanging tree branches…

budget backpacking
Riding on the top of a ‘bemo’ is common in Indonesia, just watch out for low-hanging branches!

10. Finding hair in your food is ok.

If we sent back food everytime we found a hair, bug or even toe nail (yes, toe nail), we’d never eat! Just pick it out and carry on.

backpacking on a budget
Pulling a nice, long, black hair out of our tofu meal in China…and yes, we continued eating

11. A 10 hour journey is a short one.

We’ve spent so many hours in transportation, it’s unbelievable. Getting from point ‘A” to point “B” is not always a quick jaunt. Our longest journey was 42 hours on trains in India! Now if we find out a journey is 10 hours long, it’s considered a short one.

budget backpacking
Settling in for a long train journey in China

12. You’ve been sick more times than you can count.

Getting the dreaded “Nile Piles”, “Delhi Belly” and “Yurt Squirts” are all part of travelling to different parts of the world. We’ve had food poisoning more times than we’d like to say and we’ve been seriously ill about 4 times. Dont’ forget to pack your Immodium…

sick while travelling
I don’t feel good! Sick in Morocco

The life of a backpacker is definitely an interesting one! It may not seem all that glamourous, but we don’t always travel to 3rd world countries where the above things would usually happen. Either way, it makes for great stories around a hostel dinner table and they are the moments we remember most when we tell people back home about our travels.

Good or bad, it’s all part of the journey and we love every minute of it!

What do ya think? Anything to add to this list? Leave a comment below!

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Written by

Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift are the owners and founders of Goats On The Road. Together they have been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and have more than 20 years of combined experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Their expert advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and they also spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift on their respective author archives on this site and on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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21 thoughts on “You Know You’ve Been Travelling A Long Time When…

  1. Haha, nice one you two. I’ve slept on that same airport floor in KL. Not the best night… 😉

  2. This is hilarious and so true. I would also add, your first question of hostel staff, waitresses and other service people is always “wi-fi?”

  3. Love this post! Really lets me know what we have to look forward to! We leave for our 2-3yr RTW trip in 81 days!!!!

  4. Totally! We’ve spent a few nights there…it seems to be the hub of SE Asia 🙂 At least we all saved a few bucks, right?! Cheers.

  5. haha, totally! That’s a good one to add. We’ll choose a guesthouse or somewhere to eat based on whether or not they have free wi-fi available. Cheers for the comment 🙂

  6. Exciting!!!! You guys will have a great time. Glad we could shed some light on the ways of backpacking 😉 Cheers for the comment!

  7. Wow, what a list and what an experiences! I admire you both for being able to deal with this and not even bother that much.

    I think I could deal withmost of it too, but unlike you, I will do my utter best to avoid all of these situations. If I am not forced to, I will not choose for them.

    Also I am happy that I can still be amazed when seeing 6 people on a bike, etc. Even though I have seen some things a lot now, I am happy to be amazed, thrilled, surprised (in a way), admiring, grocing out, shocked…..
    It keeps me interested and eager to explore.

    But I get your point, and again, my admiration for you guys is huge;-). A toe nail…..really!!!

  8. You’re absolutely right, it’s very important and you’re extremely lucky if you can still be amazed by 6 people on a bike or other things like that. In a way, we have become desensitized by certain things and we don’t like that 🙁 On the other hand, we we still get excited and enjoy the wonder of finding a place of our own, visiting a new city or country and having cultural experiences!

    And yes…a toe nail! It was way to large to be a fingernail, that was in a fruit shake in India!


  9. TOTALLY agree with #5 – I NEVER thought I would ever say it, but squat toilets are just so much better.

  10. HAHAHA… I have never traveled that long, but I guess I know how it felt. And yes, I have slept in that airport in KL too for a couple times.

  11. This post definitely had me laughing. I’ve still never sat on a roof of a bus out in Asia. I’ll have to try that out sometime!

  12. Haha, so true! It reminded me a few hard moments of the trip that ended up becoming some of the best ones or at least special ones that make us smile 🙂

  13. Haha, so funny!! I have never tried having a cockroach eating my food, but otherwise I think I have done the most of it 😛 I have not only slept in airports, I have also spent 26 hours in Johannesburg airport and it is not that exciting….well, what to do when there is only one bus that will get you to the airport from Nelspruit to the airport and the plane later gets delayed 😉

  14. Oh it’s good times for sure…just watch out for low-lying branches 🙂

  15. Ah yes, travelling in Africa is always quite a journey! 26 hours in an airport is epic!

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