15 Things I Hate About Backpacking

By Nomadic Matt | Published August 15th, 2011

I’ve been backpacking for over five years now. That’s a long time to travel period, let alone staying in hostels, dorm rooms, living out of the same backpack, and traveling on the cheap. I really love this form of travel though, which is why I’ve continued to do it for so many years. I enjoy hostels, meeting people, light travel, the wild adventures, the youthful vibe, and not having guides and tours hold my hand the whole way. Plus, I honestly don’t see any need to spend lots of money on resorts and fancy rooms. But, even though I enjoy my travel style, it doesn’t mean that I always love it. In fact, sometimes I really, really, really hate backpacking.

Dorm Rooms

dorm rooms in a hostel
Hostel dorm rooms are cheap and are a great way to meet people, because you are shoved into the same room with them. You don’t have a choice but to get to know each other. (Well, you don’t have to talk but it’s a bit awkward then.) But sometimes you don’t want to meet new people, get the top bunk, or have to deal with three snorers in a 6 bed room. That’s when you really begin to hate hostels. I still use dorm rooms because they keep costs down, but I really dislike how often they get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

The Same Conversation

dorm rooms in a hostel
Whenever you arrive somewhere new, travelers ask the same five questions: Where are you from? Where are you going? Where have you been? How long are you traveling for? How long are you here? After 5 years…heck after 5 days, it’s pretty boring having the same conversation over and over again. They are the default, basic questions everyone (including me sometimes) asks. It becomes second nature. However, I mix it up now. When I get asked one of the five questions, I reply by asking their name and then something like what’s your favorite color or favorite book or least favorite place you have ever seen. It is far more interesting than “what do you do back home?”

The 5 Minute Friend

dorm rooms in a hostel
You meet great people, and then tomorrow they are gone. Maybe you will see each other again, maybe not. It’s great meeting so many amazing people on the road, but I hate how everyone is always leaving, especially just as you get to know someone. It’s a snowball of sadness. I’ve met countless amazing people on the road and sure, in that moment, and in that time, we had a blast. Maybe that was all that was meant to be. But it’s nice to have some consistency and have a friend for more than 5 minutes.

The Excessive Partying

dorm rooms in a hostel
In the backpacking world, it’s always someone’s first or last night and therefore a reason to go out – which means there’s a lot of drinking going on. (A LOT!) I’ve done my fair share of partying, and I’ll admit that it’s great when you are just starting out. You are excited about the road, everything is new, and it’s a good way to meet people. But after a few months, it gets boring and repetitive. You get weary of just drinking all the time as though that is the only activity in the world. Can’t we just go do something else? Does alcohol always have to be involved? Let’s go play mini golf, see a movie, go bowling, or see a concert. There are more to countries than their bars.

The Cheapness

dorm rooms in a hostel
I understand that long-term travelers have a fixed budget. When I first went overseas, I only had a limited amount of money and it had to last a long, long time. That being said, though, did you really come all the way to Spain to not have the paella? You flew to Japan and never once had sushi or anything more than cheap ramen noodles? Skipped skiing in the Alps because of the price of a lift ticket? Come on. You only live once. Do something more than a free guided tour, cook your own meals, complain about your lack of sleep though you slept in a hammock, and drink beer from 7-11. It’s great to be frugal, but it’s lame to be cheap.

Know-it-all Backpackers

dorm rooms in a hostel
There is always someone who has traveled more than you. Even after 5 years of backpacking the world, I know people who have spent 6, 7, 8 years with nothing but a backpack. However, what I hate is when people interject into other people’s conversations or plans and start to give their opinion about where they should or shouldn’t go. Or they will begin to tell you the history of a place (and most likely get it wrong) to try to “educate” you on how things really are. Don’t be a know it all. No one likes a show off. I often refrain from correcting people simply because I don’t want to be “that guy.”

The “Who’s a Better Traveler?” Game

dorm rooms in a hostel
Too many travelers like to talk themselves up by talking about how long they have traveled for or how many counties they have been to as though traveling is a competition. “You’ve been to 20 countries?” “Ohh, well I’ve been to 37!” Or you might hear “You didn’t really experience country X because you skipped activity Y.” Comments like that make the younger traveler feel bad about their own experience, which makes me come in and tell the one upper about my life or other travels I know to deflate some of their smugness because it doesn’t matter what activities you have done or if you have been to 4, 19, or 150 countries – everyone’s journey is their own and all are equal.

The Herd Mentality

dorm rooms in a hostel
I wanted to be a backpacker because they embodied a spirit of adventure and discovery. They were out to see the world, discover its hidden secrets, and meet new locals. Turns out, that’s often not the case. More often than not,  backpackers today follow the same well-laid travel route that thousands have tread before them. They simply follow the pack. Yes, popular places are popular for a reason and I would never, for example, suggest skipping Thailand, Paris, or Costa Rica just because there are other tourists there. But good lord, be a bit more curious and wander off somewhere random. Just once.

Always Being “On”

dorm rooms in a hostel
Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to everyone. Sometimes, I just want to read my book and stay in catching up on True Blood. But then I am the anti-social guy in the hostel and people look at me differently. I hate how you ALWAYS have to seem to be friendly and upbeat. People are social creatures but it is also good to have some alone time to decompress and relax. Always being on is simply too mentally exhausting for me, especially when you are asked the same questions every day. (see above!)

Goodbyes

dorm rooms in a hostel
I have said more goodbyes in the last 5 years than any human should ever have to. And despite the changes in technology and social media, you know the emails will slowly fade away despite the best of intentions. Life moves on and people go their separate ways. Sure, you will have that great moment in time together, but the more you travel, the more you realize the hard truth that you might never see that person again. And the more you hate having to say good bye.

The Quick Romantic Relationships

dorm rooms in a hostel
You meet people, you leave people. It’s a sad cycle that means that just when you really start to like someone, you split up. It makes having a long term committed relationship on the road really hard. You are together while you are on the road, but then people go left while you go right. And then, as quickly as it began, it is over. It’s hard to always have to start and stop feelings and often since you never really “break up,” you never get any real closure. The road becomes a series of short relationships and that can get very tiring.

Backpack Flags

dorm rooms in a hostel
You can say it is a way to remember where you have gone, but what it really does is let people know how awesome you are for having been to so many places. It’s all part of the “who’s the more experienced traveler” one-upmanship that happens in hostels. And it annoys me. A lot. You have photos, memories, and passport stamps to remember where you have been. I doubt your bag really cares. Let’s call a spade a spade: sewing flags from every country you have been to is just a way to show the world that you are well traveled.

Dirty Kitchens

dorm rooms in a hostel
Despite all the signs that tell people to clean up their mess, they never do. Why? It’s not their kitchen and they are leaving soon. Someone else will do it. I really hate hostel kitchens for this reason, and it’s why I never cook in them. I didn’t travel around the world to clean up your mess. Do it yourself! What are you, 9? Your mother is not here to clean up after you and it’s inconsiderate leaving a dirty kitchen for the next person.

Missing the Gym

dorm rooms in a hostel
I like to work out. Traveling makes me unhealthy and fat and I don’t like it. It’s hard to keep a healthy lifestyle on the road and I wish I had the chance to go to the gym and work out more often.

Sex in Dorm Rooms

dorm rooms in a hostel
I do not want to hear you having sex. Ever. Go get a private room. We don’t believe her moans of pleasure, and we don’t want to see your white ass. For the price of two dorm beds, you can get a private room in almost any place in the world. And if it does cost more, it isn’t that much. Get some privacy, have better sex, and let everyone else sleep.

Don’t take this to mean that I really do hate backpacking. Most days, I love this style of travel and I love backpacking. It’s fun, social, and you get to meet amazing people. But sometimes, the little things just grind your gears, which is most often when people are rude and inconsiderate. Backpacking is a great lifestyle and like any lifestyle it has its ups and downs. I’m just lucky it has more ups than downs.

comments 142 Comments

One wonders why you both at all as it seems you hate everything that makes backpacking unique and fun!

Ian L

Oh dear. No matter how well articulated and compelling your opinions are, there is always someone like this person who will tell you your opinions are wrong!

Andrew

You need to get a life lizard

lol..this is great. It’s interesting how you seem to touch on a number of the same things they talked about in the film “A Map for Saturday”…which of course means that these are very valid points, and probably most backpackers feel this way eventually.

NomadicMatt

One of the best travel movies in the world. I show it to everyone I meet on the road who has not seen it.

Yes, I may have watched “A Map for Saturday” (as well as “The Art of Travel”) enough times already that I could recite them word for word…it’s bordering on addiction at this point. lol

NomadicMatt

I’m friends with Brook and I think he gets annoyed I always bring up that movie.

The same conversation! I’ve said this one myself a lot. On the one hand it’s fun to share your story and hear others’ but it does get so repetitive you want to say something different for once! I also stopped asking people for their facebook or email address unless I’ve spent a long enough time with them that I genuinely think we’ll remain friends. The likelihood of staying in touch is just so slim for those one or two-day friends unfortunately.. Good post Matt

NomadicMatt

I never give out my facebook now for the same reasons. I have enough people I have a hard time keeping up with already!

Jan

if i was to choose the life on the road, i would travel much slower, maybe 3 or 6 month at one place. maybe with a motorbike. i’d get out of the backpacker bubble and into the real world. it‘s a superficial life to live for me. people have nothing to talk about because they have no real experiences. traveler conversations always remind me of ppl reciting travel guides. super boring and of no meaning.

I always thought that all backpackers must have something “off” within them to enjoy all of these things. I guess they’re just the annoyances you put up with to let yourself continue on your travels. Thanks for showing me that maybe not all backpackers are insane, although I’m still reserving a final judgement until I’ve read a little more.

NomadicMatt

You put up with them because the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Great stuff. I’m with you on wanting some alone time every once in a while. But I’ve stopped caring if some people think I’m anti-social when I’m in these moods. Odds are I’ll never see them again…

As for missing the gym, that is easily fixed with an outdoor body-weight workout! A friend introduced me to “The Playground Workout” and I doubt I’ll ever go back. Every town has a playground or park, and it’s all you really need. You just have to go super early or late though, to avoid fighting with little kids over the swingset. :)

NomadicMatt

I don’t really do super early. I like my sleep. Does noon work? :)

Phoebe*

“does noon work?”…cute! either ur an insomniac como yo or too many roommates wake you up having sex in your dorm, or even worse: on the same bunk (different bed)–my experience first night in london. (shivers).
Matt I’m really enjoying your blog b/c you dont hold back; you tell it how it is. Anyways, I think it’s good when you overhear someone going somewhere you feel really passionate about be it positive (like thailand for you) or negative (vietnam for you as you did with your vietnam post). Friendly tips are nice and given with good intentions. That said, I also get peeved with the “i’m a better traveler than you game.” I think “STFU” Everyone is on a different path and we all have our journeys.

NomadicMatt

I’m just a late sleeper. I hate waking up early.

Sio

Hahaha Matt, I love that you keep it real. Thank you!! People need to learn some humility and modesty in the world of travel. So many pass themselves off as wordly and open-minded, when they are really close minded 20-somethings having an unspoken competition with everyone else. Thanks for addressing this! The one thing you can really learn from travel is that people are people no matter where you go!

NomadicMatt

You are welcome and thanks for the compliment.

That’s so funny. I am the anti-social guy at the hostel. I don’t mind meeting people, but I deplore the know-it-all backpacker and the 5 minute friend (and the guy who sleeps all day so he can party all night). I have made some friends on the road but I have no problem being the loner either.

This is a great list. I’m an avid traveler, but never really got into the backpack thing. I like to travel, but I’m not in it to win.

I could not have said it any better!

Out of all of these, I’m gonna vote for “Always Being “On” as the most exhausting. Its the worst on your first night, after flying for however many hours and all you want to do is be alone and sleep.

NomadicMatt

The brain needs time to decompress. It’s just about being healthy. Everyone needs a few minutes to relax and breathe.

Michelle

I’ve only been on the road for 7 months, but I can relate to many of these. The gym one especially hits hard. I was in Dunedin for 3.5 months for an internship and thankfully one of the gyms did short term memberships. I was really out of shape.

NomadicMatt

I’m going home for 2 weeks and I’ll be at the gym every day!

While we’re airing out our pet peeves, I’ll say mine: that “backpacking” has an ambiguous meaning.

When people say I’m going to go “backpacking” for a seven months that can mean:

a) They’re going to travel like a tourist on a budget.

b) They’re going to walk through wilderness with a shelter, sleeping bag, sleep outside, drink out of streams, and dig a hole when you need to take a sh*t.

Although both are traveling, as a outdoors backpacker who has done (b) for seven months, I feel the travel community has usurped the “backpacking” term. Meanwhile, tourists probably feel the same way about those smelly outdoors people who call themselves backpackers…… ;)

Very true, but that’s what makes it fun at the beginning, After a while tastes change and it’s either time to travel-up or pick places to live in instead of backpack them. I’m amazed that some people litterally backpack their entire life, but many do. Depends how you like to roll, I much prefer living abroad to backpacking, it’s like dating a country instead of going on a first date.

NomadicMatt

That is a great, great last line. Very well said.

Miguel

agree!, that line is gonna stick in the back of my head for years to come, nice article too matt :)

shannon

Well I haven’t traveled as a backpacker just yet, (I’ve tried!)

I won’t say I know it all cuz I don’t, but I would say this just from my observation that relates to backpacking and people in general. One thing is for sure, people really need to step up their humility as one reader commented… the displeasure is because of others who bring their own bubble with them.

If you were to meet me I’d ask you what’s your name and then I’d say my name or you’d ask me my name and I’d ask you what’s yours and then I’d ask where you just came from (not necessarily where you’re from (home) and how your last destination was, how long you stayed, etc).

I am not a partier type of person so you won’t see me at the parties, I’d rather go play mini golf or go to the movies.

My point is you WILL find people who don’t carry their home bubbles with them, who will go out of their way to make it a point instead of no pointers. Take a short break, go somewhere away from the backpacker scene for awhile… we ALL need a break from civilization sometimes! I know I would.

Greg

Would doing homestays instead of hostels relieve many of these problems?

NomadicMatt

Probably but it would get boring being alone all the time!

Laura

Yes to so many, although I have no problem being the anti-social one at the hostel when I’m tired either… it kills two birds with one stone at least: the constant “on”ness and the excessive partying :). I also kind of like the competitive backpack flags (my own and others’)… I can’t help it. Sometimes I like seeing the cool places people have been without having to ask them about it (sooo anti-social).

The most unexpected item on my own list was always wearing the same 4 or 5 outfits. It made me crazy after about a month, and I really didn’t think I’d have a problem with that.

NomadicMatt

I don’t care about being anti-social either. I do what I want. I’m too old to care if you don’t like it.

Amy

I can relate to sooo many of these! I get tired of those same five questions too. It’s the same when you’re an expat and meet other expats. Snore. While living in Argentina, I started avoiding Couchsurfing events and expat hangouts for a while just to get away from the same boring conversations. And yet… some of those random conversations have led to really good friendships over the years!

Like you said, there’s a lot to like, even within the list above, but we all have our limits.

Lisa

I would think the constant socializing when you want to be alone would be wearing. I’m with a couple of the others, take the quiet time alone. Everyone realizes that eventually we all need downtime where we can read a book and decompress. I agree on the dirty kitchens, that sucks what slobs. Having respect for others is important.

Oh my, this is all tooo true! Thanks for sharing, makes me feel ‘normal’ to sometimes get annoyed by stuff. Plus, motivates me to splurge every now and then :)

Hey Matt,

I agree with pretty much most of your list. I hate the herd mentality and do my best to avoid that collective follow the leader shtick. Much better to found the sound as a pound guy or gal at the back of the room and go find your own fun especially away from the holier than thou ‘I’ve been everywhere, check out my passport’ guy. It’s all so damn fickle and phoney. I’m in it to experience not to write a book.

I’ve only got into this blogging thing late in my travel life. I think back to where I’ve been and it all melds and blends into one big fug. I have mental snapshots of so many images but I didn’t have a digital camera for a lot of my travels and the hard copies I have are either covered in blue tak or stuck somewhere in the garage. Do I care? Not an iota. I had a great time, know I’ve been to some amazing places and am happy with my lot. I’m a better person for it, more chilled, more enlightened and appreciative of everything I have so don’t play the ‘who’s a better traveller’ game with me as life’s too short to listen to you witter and ruin this nice place.

Great stuff Matt. Definitely getting sense from your recent posts that it’s time to settle for a while to get your travel love back. It worked for me both with travel and the guitar. Gave them up for 3 years and it was the best decision I ever made when I went back to both.

Cheers
Josh

Betti

What I find really tiresome is packing and unpacking. Whatever I need is always on the very bottom, no matter what. Also hate washing underwear by hand but there is no way I’m sending that off to a laundry. The worst thing of all for me is the constant worry about my valuables and passport.
I’m a loner and the longest I’ve ever travelled in one stretch was about 3 months.

NomadicMatt

You need to get a backpack that opens on the side. It’s such a time saver. I just unzip and everything in my bag is accessible all at once.

maddie

My husband and I used to hop around a lot before we had kids. Although it was fun, it really wasn’t our thing. Once we had kids, we slowed down and started getting short term rentals. (3 to 6 months) It’s actually nicer for us to travel that way.

We both got tired of the parties. They’re fun once in a while but we wouldn’t do that if we had normal lives.

And you’re right. It’s not a competition.

Aisleen

omg – WE hid away in a hotel for a whole night to catch up on True Blood :-) hee, hee

NomadicMatt

Are you caught up on the new season? How good is it? I love it except for this whole Chucky doll story line.

You missed COLD SHOWERS… That’s what I hate the most!!!

Umm as for the rest on your list I agree with all of them.

I am with you on all of these. At times I thrive on them and at times I find they drive me nuts. During those times I tend to stay put somewhere, get out of a dorm and into a room. Although that was easy in South America where rooms are cheap, I am sure I will really hate dorms when I am done with Europe.

NomadicMatt

I stay in small dorms now unless there is really nothing available. 4 or 6 beds at most.

Dan

Hello Matt,
Superb article, I’m creasing up reading it! Maybe you can offer me some advice. I’ve been travelling for 3 months and I’m now sick of dorm rooms so doing private rooms in the rest of South East Asia. I’m not the most sociable person but would like some company now and again! Any advice?!
Another thing to add to your list is the ‘travelling hippie’…. basically the sort of person who when they travel, dress and act totally different to how they would back home. I.e stripey trousers, peace necklace, Che-Guevara t-shirt, long hair and beard who preach peace and anti-capitalism.

Hey, Matt – First off, I love the use of pictures. Second, you do not make me want to run out and backpack :)

As someone who has done his fair share of backpacking (and getting too old for it far too quickly), I had to say I entirely agree with your assessment. The turning point for me was when I realise everyone in the bar is way younger than me, and the older folks have already returned to their room. It’s time for fancier stuff. Or if my better half (who is younger) starts to travel with me. A man can dream.

NomadicMatt

The worst is when you make a joke and people are like “who is bill joel?”

Oooh I can totally relate to the “conversation.” Without fail every time somebody hears what I do for a living, it’s “how did you get into that?” followed by “what’s your favorite country?” That’s like asking me to pick my favorite cookie…or ice cream flavor…it just isn’t possible!

NomadicMatt

That’s pretty much the same conversation I have. I just move on to a different subject.

This is why I no longer consider myself a “backpacker.” I never was a fan of dorms, but since I’ve almost always traveled with someone else, it’s just been easier, and cheaper, to get a private room.
We (my husband and I) still manage to meet people while traveling and it’s the “traveler vs tourist” debate and the travel oneupsmanship which really does me in now. I have no patience for all that.
The other one is the “cheapness” issue. What is the point of traveling around the world if you don’t enjoy the very things you came to see? There is no award for suffering a horrible room night after night either.

NomadicMatt

The cheapness issue gets me the most. I get it that we all are budget travelers but I’d rather be home than be in Japan and never try the sushi. Go to experience the place.

If there is any sort of Best Traveler Competition out there, I am surely not winning any awards. I’m a picky eater, I overpack, and I’m horrible at picking up languages. Goooooo me!

NomadicMatt

But you make me mean graphics so that’s why we love you!

Dude, I could not love you more right now for posting this.

I’m on my second long-term backpacking adventure right now (my first in 4 years) and I’m not loving it this time around. After 4 days in two different Australian hostels, I called it quits on the whole backpacking thing. Instead, I’m trying my hand at couchsurfing and doing it a little more low key. I couldn’t stand the 14-bed dorms and the constant hitting of the snooze buttons and the shitty bathrooms and the couple having sex in the ensuit bathroom. Honestly, I am so over it and it’s refreshing to see a travel blogger NOT bragging about their 37 countries for once ;-)

Not that backpacking is all bad, but I’m tired of hearing about the amazing people and experiences and “oh-my-god-life-is-amazing” from every backpacking in every hostel. Sometimes you just wanna have a real shower or watch a movie by yourself.

NomadicMatt

I would kill for a shower with water pressure. Like peel off my skin water pressure.

Great blog post, it’s totally normal to occasionally hate what you enjoy the most! I started backpacking more than 20 years ago, loved it then and still do some of my travels that way – although I’m far more likely to take a private room than a dorm room these days! I also think I’m a whole lot less judgemental about my fellow travellers now than when I first set out, I don’t care if they are there just to party or prefer to get to know a place in depth, they pretty much all are full of excitement and enthusiasm for what they are doing and how can that be bad?
Totally disagree about the flags tho – I was so excited when I got my first few flags and lovingly sewed them on – they are just a momento, not a brag – a bit like a fridge magnet. Stopped adding them after the first year or so, moved on to other daggy souvenirs instead :)

NomadicMatt

Ahh but why not put them on your wall or some place more permanent?

Jeff

I think that question nearly answers itself. If you are backpacking around, how would your wall be permanent? It would seem to me your backpack might be the most permanent fixture in your life where you would actually see them. I don’t backpack now, but even in my current life I wouldn’t call my wall permanent. My guitar case, car, or computer would be the most permanent things from the last 2 years, all metaphorical backpacks in their own right.

The thing I hate about backpacking is when I’m trying to find the hostel and the directions they gave me (via the booking site) are really unhelpful. Especially when it’s pouring with rain and I’m tired. But then, this presents me with a challenge – I’m lost, and I need to solve this problem. And that’s what I love about backpacking! Finding myself in new situations where I have to use my wit and cunning to “survive”!

The thing I REALLY hate about backpacking is when you stay at a supposedly newky-fitted-out hostel but you go in the showers and there’s permanently 3 inches of dirty water on the floor. Surely they could have designed the showers with basic drainage taken into consideration?

NomadicMatt

All the hostel directions I’ve gotten recently in Eastern Europe have been awful. Been lost a million times.

I can definitely agree with you on hating the excessive partying, dirty kitchens, and having the same conversation. That is why I chose to stop 5 months into backpacking in Buenos Aires. But I will start up again soon, and I hope I can last longer this time before having to settle somewhere :-)

NomadicMatt

Avoid party destinations!

NomadicMatt

That’s in Cairns, Australia at a bar called “The Woolshed.”

NomadicMatt

I can’t stand the smugness of the people who are like “Well, you can really do it for half the price” but then tell you that you have to camp, cook your food, and see no attractions.

NomadicMatt

But see there is my point. You can go “Wow! You’ve been to X.” and the person can go “Yes I have. Let me tell you all about.”

shaneg

Oh c’mon dude, I find it hard to believe you’ve never told people about where you’ve been during the 5 years you’ve travelled…

I super agree with your “always being on” part. That’s definitely true! I haven’t travel a lot, but I love backpacking style as it offers more adventurous things, but seems like it’s better if u can chill and relax when you travel than should care about being everyone’s talk-companion.. It sometimes silly, cos yes, I prefer to keep silence while enjoying my traveling.

Great post! Love it!

Weird, I was going to ask you if you had a post or any thoughts on the “Goodbyes” and “5 Minute Friend” thing because I kept experiencing that in Ireland. 4 dorms, 10 days, only a couple of days with new friends and then having to say goodbye after having so much fun together. Also, these people were like, “insta-friends”. We were going to dinners and off to sight-see together before even knowing each others names at some points.

How do you do it!?

NomadicMatt

It gets easier as time goes on. You just get used to it.

Brooklyn Kari

Wow! How you’ve grown since…last year! Fat?! I can never imagine you being fat. And, weren’t you the one who just a few months ago was advising people to have sex in hostel bathrooms? You’re so much more mature now. You’re getting all jaded like my fellow eurocheapos. Warning: No one else wants to hear venting except other travel writers. Finally, love the ‘bored’ picture!

Matt – dug this post. Hostels are difficult places to judge, because they keep us going. The brilliant ones are inspiring. The terrible ones are road markers. I’d love to do a trip with you sometime, hostel-only. Two perspectives. I’ve been staying at places on the West Coast (live here now. sigh.) and have been trying to make heads or tails of a “scene” here. Not the same as the rest of the world – labor laws, insurance, etc. I wrote something similar once and came off way to snarky and judgemental. I love these places. I love that their faults are entirely acceptable. I agree on the sec. I wrote , “There is no Invisibility Cloak for sex. You’re going to make The Noise and we’re all going to mock that noise for the rest of the week.”

Daniel

If you want to know West Coast USA, visit East Coast.

It seems this article was written at one of those moments when “the little things just grind your gears…”. It’s way too emotional, yet so real. It made me think whether you think may be it’s time to stop backpacking? Or slow down a little bit, change your lifestyle? I’m sure although you’re well-travelled there are a lot more to see and do, may be it doesn’t feed your soul anymore… I’ve only recently found out about your blog / website so I don’t know much about you but that’s the impression I got from some of your articles including this one. Well, whichever path you choose, all the best!

NomadicMatt

Nope, just thought it would be a good topic to cover because in 3 years, I never talked about it! I still love what I do.

Dana

It was going well until the “Your mother is not here to clean up after you” … that’s when I removed the bookmark. Gender role stereotypes should definitely make your list of things you hate while backpacking!

NomadicMatt

It’s just an expression. I’m not out to subjugate women.

Daniel

Glad you were not in my doroomm r

weg

Really? Sigh.

Haha I love this post. Maybe I’m still really young since I do love about half the things on the list…I definitely about the sad good-byes and the short term relationships. I suck at good-byes :(

Ahaha, hit it right on the head with these points. I think the worst are the know-it-all-backpackers. Always thinking they are so high and mighty. The same conversation gets pretty annoying too, especially after a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine what you must feel like after 5 years on the road.

I once visited a Thailand national park (Khao Yai) in order to dry out from drinking so much. I thought going camping and getting away from other travelers and seeing nature would lead to less drinking opportunities. There was more drinking going on in the campgrounds there then in any bar on Kho San Road. Some things you just cannot escape on the road.

NomadicMatt

Where did you stay in Khao Yai? I went there and found it the opposite. I stayed at The Greenhouse

He he, so glad you mentioned the flags! What is it with them anyway?
I wonder do the flag family realise what eejits they look.
And do you ever notice they’re always pristinely clean. Must polish them every morning.

Then there’s the sex thing. I once was in a shared dorm and the chick below brought a new found friend back to do it half the night. As I was on the top bunk, I almost had whip lash and a head injury from the experience. They couldn’t hear my suggestions to “get a room” over the panting and gettin on. What was worse, the chick involved had been so pissed she couldn’t even remember ‘doin’ it’! Oh the slagging she got!

Calli

You forgot number 16, “Having a grand total of 4 sets of clothes, all of which have a certain stiffness to them that comes from wearing them 3 days straight, then sink washing them with bar soap, not entirely rinsing them well enough, and drying them from some random hook/bunk for 1 hr less than they really need to be entirely dry”. Unpacking from any lengthy backpacking trip doesn’t require much: “locate trash can, open pack, turn upside down into can, shake and repeat”.

And number 17, “Blisters”.

Good post, I’ve written it in my head for years now and I’m glad you finally put it out there!

the hipsy

this all rings so true. and as someone said earlier, I like how you keep it real. ‘Always being ‘on’ ‘ is the most difficult for me too.. after being assaulted and then robbed in Finland, I genuinely had no interest in people yet had to keep being ‘nice’ as not to be the anti-social bitch of the hostel..that was exhausting! After a month of doing that, I finally had to take a week out to do nothing and lock myself away. It’s necessary to keep one’s sanity!

I mostly hate saying goodbyes, quick relationships, 5 min friends and not being able to have some time for myself without everyone talking to me.

This post is funny but so true. I have not backpacked anywhere close to five years, but in the time that I have I have definitely encountered a couple of these things: the limited budget to be one such roadblock. I wouldn’t change the backpacking adventures I have had, but can definitely see how after five years some things get old.

diyantouchable

the that struck me the most is ‘traveling is not a competition’…
i’m still in the “who travel the most” phase…

thanks for the kick in the nut Matt… *cheers

Nat

Coming back from an extended trip you also get into the “same conversations” and find yourself answering the same questions:
How long were you gone? Where did you go? and my favourite… What are you doing now?

deniz

great stuff, i can put my signature under all of you write nat. i am 57 years old Turkish woman and start backpacking 4 years ago on and off on my own, i really enjoy every minute of hostels, meeting people and seeing different places, different cultures. europe nearly finish now and starting far east next month. your website is very helpful and full of information, i would like to congratulate you, and hope i can see more and more countries which i miss out on my youth.
thanks..

Putting the flags on a backpack is not always to boast about where you have been. I was talking to a Duke student in a “resort” in Tanzania and his reason was because of the memories. He said every time he looks at the flag it reminds him of an adventure he had there or a favorite moment. Not everyone is as egoistic as you assume.

izzy

Unrequited love on the road, Isnt that another thing to both love and hate about backpacking. you miss the opportunity when its there, you both move on or go home, and then you think…Shit! Why didnt I……..
Do you all realte to what I’m saying/

You are absolutely right.. I myself as a experienced bag-packer have lived through the things you say. The thing I regret the most is the relationship part .. Goodbyes are hard :(

I agree with this post completely. Wonderful post.
I’m going to check out that movie for sure.

Andre Guerra

I would like to add another thing: Those you want to add you as a friend in Facebook.

le goff

Its time to stop, you re getting mad !

Tyree

Love this article, came across your site today while browsing the web and think I’m hooked now. You write great articles :)

jroe

aaaaaawwwweeeessssoooommmmeeeeee .. cracks me up … , but its soo good!!!

A-MEN to the comment about sex in dorm rooms. I have not backpacked all that much (I’ve stayed in maybe 10 or 12 hostels in the short time I’ve traveled) but this has happened to me twice. TWICE! It’s just one of those things I will never understand.

Ha, true story… all of it.

Hilarious post! Loved it. Did the hostel-budget travel, worked my way up to the occasional luxury hotel vacation and haven’t looked back. However, we do go on the rough and cheap now and then, like we did in Galapagos with our three-year-old, and we have had our share of cold showers outdoors, like when we camp. I blog about our family trips at katrinawoznicki.com.

Awesome post!

I absolutely agree with those, though haven’t really experienced the last 2 ones. But, for me the excitement and freedom of being a backpacker much outweigh the negative points..or maybe I haven’t yet backpacked long enough!!!

Natasha

I came across your blog and I loved this entry because as a backpacker you were… honest.I wrote pretty much the same stuff in my diary about a year ago. It seems to me like you were going through that rough part of your travels when you are simply tired. Not to sound like one of those people who “know-it-all” that we hate, in my experience it helps when you stop for a bit. It doesn’t have to be for long – only enough time to make you go back on the road with that eagerness for the “wooww” feeling. Happy travels x

I think the reason that you hate some facts is backpacking has became your lifestyle. In the very beginning the reason of being on the road is doing different everyday. but if you do something different everyday it’s a routine.

NomadicMatt

It’s just a funny tongue and cheek article!

Kato

Oh I agree Matt… especially the endless goodbyes!! Can I add another one? Getting off overnight trains/planes/buses and wandering around tired and delirious until 2pm check-in. But I wouldn’t change it for the world :)

VicM

I have stayed in hundreds of dorm rooms and never in a room where people are getting it on. How have i lucked out all this time?

Grant Lingel

I´m gonna go ahead and agree with everything. Great post. Very true.

Hadas

couldn’t agree more! :)

Kru

Pretty accurate list!

Joe

I am now 35 and pretty much have to travel to cheap enough countries that I can afford a private room, or I don’t go at all. Why

1. I can’t stand the modern backpacking crowd, their iphones laptops on in the social room.

2. Pretty much what you said about the one up man ship- I also seem to get accused of it when some clueless person of 20 years old is telling me what the whole world is about and I forget to walk away.

3. Country comparisons, your country vs there country…. I get sick of that crap in 2 seconds.

4. the Lack of musicians jamming that used to happen in some hostels, or the family vibe, that is hard to find at regular hostels I have visited lately, people want quiet when facebooking.

5. They have raised their prices in hostels, added bars and candy machines, and are now owned by real estate developers, some anyways.

6. I understand how bad I need my sleep now, I don’t function as well if I don’t sleep well, sleeping in my own room is the least I can do for myself.

7. Many of the small indy hostels are gone – hostel used to mean refuge for a traveller, most time at some older backpacker that settled downs place they made, now they are part of the whole industry. There is still some good ones. Now some demand a credit card ! who wants to use credit cards when they have cash ?

I have grown into 35 year old geezer that now goes to places for a few months at a time, I love finding a nice little apt or shared house, having all my music gear with me, having small parties at my house, getting a way better deal per month than a door, meeting people of all ages and economic backgrounds breads better options .. now not to say I don’t go hang out at a hostel when I get somewhere new just because it is easy to meet people but I am that guy that has a nice room across the street, and as soon as I can meet some real friends that are sticking around a bit I have no need for them.

Sadly I still can’t afford the hundreds a night to stay somewhere in say Vancouver so I have to suffer a $30 a night dorm room with a bunch of unhappy Australians that spend more per month for their stinky bedbug infested room than they could rent an apartment.

Hostels have no place to make music, make art or stay quiet..

But I had my fun in them.

Joe

ps, one thing I do like is the sex in the dorms, sorry but I have never complained when a hot couple is getting it on 3 feet from me, or when I woke up to a hottie dropping her drawers on her last morning and smiling at me…

Daniel

Joe, okay but I dont want to see you dropping your draws. Have some class, or rent some.

Alexandra

Maybe we just all reach a point, not based on age so much as on previous experience and current desires, where we no longer want the hostelling experience. Plus, in my personal experience with 25 years of solo chic travel, a lot of travelers are extremely emotionally needy and can’t handle it if you are not also looking to attach yourself to or be attached to by one of them. In fact, the happier you are alone and the busier you are doing your thing, the harder staying in a hostel is. I don’t have time to be social. I’m not there to be social. I’m sleeping there, getting out and doing my thing. I’m there because it’s cheaper than paying $80 a night in some of the world’s prettiest, but most costly, places. And, seriously, I’m not a walking travel manual. No one handed me a manual on how to do single chic travel before it was the thing and I’m not really interested in providing free travel lessons, free cooking lessons (on how to eat healthy on the road), free language lessons or any other kind of free lesson to a newbie traveler who can’t stand to be by herself. Sound negative? Well, get enough people trying to leech off of your personal experience which you paid greatly for in time, effort, energy and money and you do end up getting irritated, especially when they don’t offer you anything of equal value in return. Then again, there are always those baby boomer hostellers who would love to sit and lecture the newbies on everything. I’m Generation X and, yes, that does make a difference. We aren’t herd mentality people and when there were more of us hostelling, I had fewer problems with people demanding attention and expecting instant information and lessons. So, yeah, age does matter. In a way.

Sal

Hello Matt, looks like your an avid traveller too – I’m 30 now and laughed when I stumbled across your blog as its all true! the reality are the short term relationships and I suppose thats what I’d have to expect from travelling as you can’t be emotionally dependent on people as you’ll just set yourself up for disappointment. Being a butterfly I call it. Yeah it so true. I do agree with you in hostels – when I was travelling 2 years in Australia I stayed in many hostels and they do have the same crowd and I find that people who are living there coz they’re working in the city or town are so territorial that they forget its a communal home and they are not owning it ha! makes me laugh and cringe when I see them. Also yeah if you want to be alone and not into company you do get some hostility coz people expect you to be social all the time, but its like being at home, would you be social 24/7 no of course you wouldn’t. But thats the price you pay for getting a cheap room to share with other people, they will be inconsiderate and loud and turning the lights on – you suffer for cheap accommodation. They are good ways to meet you people but I sometimes found, some people really hard to meet and talk to coz they either hang out in their own group/couple speaking their own language or are so absorbed in their laptop, facebook, internet constantly – I mean whats the point of leaving home if you keep constantly checking whats going on back there? I went off and worked on farms coz i wanted the genuine experience of a place and not a ‘manufactured, all laid out backpacker experience’ which is perfect for some people but not for me, theres not much of a story to tell there. Good post. Are you still travelling and working on route?

Sal

I was also told that if you are carrying more that 3 electrical items with you travelling you are a ‘Flash Packer’ ha I just avoided it with my Ipod, Mobile Phone and Digital Camera

NomadicMatt

Pretty sure everyone is a flashpacker these days!

Daniel

How about stolen goods? I have had more food and incidentals stolen from me. I had my passport stolen from me at a hostel in San Diego. Yeh, you, the Bulgarian guy who works on a cruise ship. Living with 20 somethings who are letting it hang out before they start real life is sometimes exhausting. Hostels are a double edge sword you meet interesting people, but you meet your share of morons. I try to be the former, but occasionally find myself in the latter. One more thing, the USA is not the cause of every evil on the planet, just most of them. DAN Boston/USA

Pretty awesome list. I totally agree with the partying. I had someone once tell me that they didn’t like the place I suggested in Vietnam because there was not enough partying (despite it being an island paradise).

Peter

Always being on.

Yeah good point. ALthough I am known to be social and talkative and like to meet new people, it also depends on my mood and energy. If I am tired or do not have that much energy, I like to chill and relax. After all regardless, we all like alone or time to relax at some point.

Los Gigantes

These are genuinely impressive ideas in about blogging.
You have touched some pleasant points here.
Any way keep up wrinting.

Annie

I completly understand the part about missing working out, but with a good pair of running shoes, you can easily go for jogs in the morning. I find jogging in an unknown city is the best way to take roads you wouldn’t normally take and spot things you might want to check out later. Just a tought.

Hi Matt, that is a quite good article. There are definately some things one can hate about backpacking. The same conversation is one thing that I hate too – boooooring ;)

Great list Matt, can really relate to them – especially the always having to be upbeat and social part.

You made me feel a little less guilty; however as you said backpacking is always great fun :)

Hi Matt, couldn’t agree more about the hostel situation. After several attempts to not despise the dirty kitchen and the hostel mates, now I always travel with a partner and get a private room. Have you tried capsule hotel before? It’s a nice change once in a while.

lol so true! i LOVE to travel but as much as possible i try to not stay in hostels for the said reasons: repetitive convos, have to be social always – i like some peace and quiet as once i do decide to go out and explore, i’m a very social person. i need my quiet time to recharge. and though i wanna budget – it doesn’t mean i wanna be (unreasonably) cheap that I can’t treat myself. oh, and i’m so trying to avoid the name (country) dropping thing because it just like you’re just trying to boast. and probably the main reason i avoid hostels is because it feels like most of the people i’ve met were more interested in partying and drinking instead of getting to know the place’s history and culture. am i too boring for hostels? hehehe

This article is on point. You did an excellent job covering every corner of the backpacking lifestyle. I’m not as experienced as you are in the field of nomadic living, but I know that I agree with you about backpacking. I recently posted a very similar article. When I read yours during a quick search for similar articles, I must admit that I prefer your analysis of today’s ever-traveler over my own. My hat is off to you!
Kevin

Kevin

Hear hear. Love this article and love traveling. Related to every single one of these the most… When I’d become antisocial for periods of time it was usually because of the ‘leavings’ and everyone would say ‘but you meet so many people in your travels’ to which my reply was ‘yes, but every single wonderful hello there is an equally unwonderful goodbye’… and after a time it became the most difficult thing to continue to deal with. and i was only on the road for a bit under two years.
cheers man. good words.

I read this post so I could avoid all the things that long term travelers dislike. I haven’t been traveling long so I can easily fall into these traps. Thanks for the post. And I can already see how the constant partying can become a bother

Hey man, not everywhere is a party zone. I travel to change my life, not to change my bar.

Peter

Also another thing I hate to do is finding my hostel I have booked online. Sometimes its out there or not clearly marked, makes my job harder. Especially when the trip itself can be tiring already.

Love it. Great honesty and very relatable!

I am feeling every single on of these after three days in a hostel (except for the sex thing, that hasn’t happened to me yet). I can’t imagine doing it for so many years.

I literally “LOL-ed”. Especially at “backpacking flags”. I have thought every single one of these thoughts! 10 points Mr Nomad.

Hilarious! Many of the problems here are the same annoyances I experience while traveling. Especially know-it-alls. It’s supposed to be about exploring, discovering, and doing something amazing for yourself, not a competition to see who’s a more ‘genuine’ traveler!

These same people so harshly criticize the ‘materialists’ back home with their 9-5s and competition to get the bigger suburban house, more modern luxury SUV, latest gadgets, and don’t realize all their bragging about how many more things they’ve done and seen and how they’re more ‘real’ travelers than the rest of us, is the same exact mentality as the one they’re mocking, only applied to something else.

IrresistablyCharming

I love your writing Matt! Wish we traveled together and I appreciate your humor and humility.

Also, one to add. #16. DebbieDowners – I’m talking about you Debbie! The reply gal or guy with an opinion on other travelers. If you are asking yourself, why do people travel thousands of miles just to Facebook when they could FB at home, I am asking myself, why are you traveling thousands of miles just to complain about other people when you could do that at home. I enjoy staying connected Debra, let me be! And if I tell you that I am boozing it up tonight in Koh Phangan, don’t ask “why do you want to do that!?” I just do Debra. I just do! “Don’t you want to experience culture?” Yes. Yes I do. Which is why I am traveling Debra. Because you sound like my mother back home. Stop ruining my cultural experience. Nothing is worse than having a fun group of roommates next door and realizing that you got stuck bunking with Debra! The person that complains that you are enjoying a beer out of a bottle instead of a reusable cup since the country you are in won’t recycle your bottle. Let me be Debbie. And I don’t understand all the complaining about people shagging. This has only happened a handful of times and I usually videotape it on my iPhone and upload it to YouTube. It helps to listen to these videos at night in the months leading up to travel.

Spot on. Great post Matt. Keep em comin’.

Lou

I’ve been backpacking many years & can recognise all your frustrations at some time or another.. the times I start to go down this road I take myself off &get lost as I know my head needs a break and some peace &solitude. That said though it all the experiences you look back on & live through & the friendships that make it amazing. I have met so many truly lovely people I would never have met (&continue to do so)..In my mind if you have placed a stitch in the tapestry of my life I’m grateful & you will hold some memory there. Good luck on your continued travels & if our paths ever meet in this life’s journey I abide by the hostel rules & hopefully leave some positive memory…x

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