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How to not be THAT clichéd backpacker - Six Stereotypes To Avoid At All Costs

I hate to tell you this but you already are THAT tourist. Now don’t get all offended and close the blog - hear me out. It has come to my attention that backpackers in particular get a bum rap; hell let’s face it, if you've spent a lot of time on the road, there are times even you can’t stand other travellers. So I started a list of the backpacker stereotypes that get up most people’s noses. I guarantee you that one of these phrases has passed your lips at some point - hell I am guilty of half of them.

how to not be that backpacker, six steriotypes to avoid at all costs

Fortunately I have an easy answer for you. Below is a list of traveller stereotypes and key phrases to avoid. Simply read through, take note and never ever speak these sentences again. Sometimes it will be damn near impossible, but have a cold shower, a shot of tequila, count to ten backwards in Swahili, whatever works and just keep your mouth shut. As hard as it is to admit, the world doesn’t need another one of THOSE tourists.

The Authentic or Die Gang

You know the type. That traveller who scorns the beaten path to the point of insanity. This is the traveller who doesn’t believe you haven’t seen the real XYZ until you've slept rough, lived with the locals, or spent 5 years barefoot in the Alps absorbing the vibrations of the place.

This traveller believes there is only one “authentic” way to travel and you’re not doing it. They were there 10 years before it was popular and probably hasn’t showered since then.

Phrases to avoid:

“You're such a tourist.”

“It's not the same as it was five years ago.”

“I just want to get off the tourist track.”

“I'm a traveller, not a tourist.”

“You didn’t see the “real” India.”

The Competitive Traveller

This traveller needs to know they are better at travelling than you. They have been to more places, seen more things and definitely had more fun than you. Easily exposed during the traditional 5 question greeting phase (Where are you from? Where are you going? Where have you been? How long are you travelling for? How long are you here?), they will have a story to share on every location you can think of.

This traveller will pack better than you, pay less than you and travel longer than you. You may as well give up and go home now.

Phrases to avoid:

“It’s the new [insert destination here].”

“You only spent a month in India?”

“Why do you have such a big bag? I only travel with ten kgs.”

“But how many countries have you been to?”

“Have you been to (insert obscure town)”

“Did you see XYZ when you were in Kenya? Oh that’s sad, it was the best part”

Cheap acomidation

The Cheap-Ass

Cheap-ass travellers are easily distinguished by their hungry expressions and inability to act until they have compared at least four cheaper alternatives. A cheap-ass traveller has taken budget travel to an art form, and will happily give up seeing the main attraction to maintain their travel lifestyle for another month or two.

Despite living more or less constantly in poverty, a cheap-ass traveller shares the importance and benefits of travel at every opportunity. Though they may nick the occasional roll of toilet paper, they are comfortable with their superiority to the dreaded feral backpacker

(Confession time, I am totally a cheap-ass traveller. There are many seventeen-hour bus rides and ‘we haven’t cleaned this in 6 months’ hostel discounts in my sordid travel past)

Phrases to avoid:

“Wow you got ripped off, my ticket was half that.”

“I only take local buses.”

“I know sixteen different recipes for Raman, they never get old.”

“No thanks, I had a big lunch.”

“I don’t see why the tourist price is so much higher than the local price.”

The Privileged Partier

These scorned travellers congregate together in certain “party destinations” often on a gap year paid for by dear old mummy and daddy. They will spend the next few years telling anyone who will listen about their transformative experience, drinking mojitos while tubing and being hung over for a week straight with no decent coffee.

Luckily, unless you prove to be a “good time”, these travellers will mostly leave you alone - unless you are unfortunate enough to share a dorm room. In which case it's generally advisable to leave for the nearest place without western toilets immediately.

Phrases to avoid:

“Meet you at the Wombat bar at eight. (Said by an Aussie)”

“Have you tried the magic milkshake?”

“That jet sky ride was unbelievable, you have to do it man it was life changing.”

“8 a.m., no problem, it’s always a good time for a beer.”

“YOLO (usually while jumping off a cliff while drunk)”


The Feral Backpacker

Historically referred to as a hobo, feral backpackers have a deep guiding spirituality that assures them that the road will provide. Their religion forbids proper hygiene and dictates that they must deck themselves in dreads and fisherman pants, carrying only minimal baggage beyond a guitar.

The curious thing about these free spirited creatures is that though they will happily borrow your gear, any food foolishly left in the communal kitchen and anything else they can get their hands on, they are unlikely to contribute to the cleaning of said kitchen, communal alcohol pool or much of anything beyond fire building and music making.

Phrases to avoid:

“Do you mind if I borrow XYZ?”

“Happiness is the journey.”

“I am a student of the road, man". (when asked what they do for a living)"

“I stopped the night on my friend's couch and ended up staying six months. It was destiny for me to be here.”

The Tactless Tourist

Probably the most feared of the travellers, many of the previous traveller types have stemmed from the fear of being misidentified as a tactless tourist. Whether American, Pom or Aussie, the tactless tourist shares several common traits. They are loud, equipped to observe but not participate in foreign life, and unendingly unaware of the fact that things done differently in other parts of the world are not in fact wrong.

This traveller will be heard loudly declaring their opinion on various local practices while failing to comply to even the most basic cultural practices and courtesies.

Phrases to avoid:

“I read about it in the Lonely Planet.”

“No one understands English in this place.”

“Why is everyone staring at me? They're so rude." (When wearing short shorts in Pakistan)

“This is ridiculous - in America we wouldn’t have to wait for a table.”

Hippy Pants

Armed with a new awareness of these clichés, you are now equipped to be a considerably less annoying traveller. Don’t worry, I know these sentences creep into the vocabulary of even the most well-meaning traveller. Just remember next time you open your mouth and feel a predictable phrase coming on, try giving your companion a compliment instead. Ask if they wear socks to bed or listen to Elton John - anything but what you were going to say. Trust me, the world will thank you for your originality


If you enjoyed this post check out this one on funny travel quotes that better reflect the realities of travel or click here to sign up for my FREE travel budget calculator and monthly tips on saving money on your travel.

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