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100 Things I’ve Learnt While Backpacking

Written by 24 August 2013 25 Comments

We all love to travel. It inspires us, motivates us, improves us… and provides great tales that you can share and hold in your heart for decades. Whatever your trip brings you; good times or bad times, you can be sure that’ll leave a lasting impression on your and affect you more than you realise. So when you start scratching your head and thinking about what you’ve actually picked up over your journeys, it’s fun to compile a small list of what you’ve learnt. And here we are, ladies and gentlemen(?), my list of the 100 lessons that have been imposed on me throughout the years. Feel free to add anything that you think has been left out!


1. Where ever you go, Coca Cola has already been.

2. Never leave your handbag (with passport inside) on a balcony with monkeys around.

3. Always trust traveling destination rumours. That secret awesome place could really be awesome.

4. Take advice from strangers.

5. Traveling with a friend can leave amazing memories, but traveling alone is more eye-opening.

6. The kindness of strangers is invaluable.

7. Don’t fear the unknown. Take a chance! Take a risk!

8. If something’s rustling in the bushes, it will either be exciting or scary. But it will definitely be hairy.


9. Traveling on a budget isn’t a myth. Just don’t be squeamish about the quality of the guesthouse and man the fuck up.

10. When on a boat in rough waters, focus on the horizon to keep the vomit down. On a bouncing boat in the dark? Good luck.

11. Homesickness can strike at any point. So can diarrhoea.

12. Cocktails should be a treat or novelty. Not a daily occurrence.

13. Bus trips in Vietnam are guaranteed to not go smoothly.

14. A travel journal is priceless.

15. It will either be a good time, or a good story.

16. The hype of a destination can often set you up for disappointment. Take what people say with a pinch of salt but still check it out!

17. If the bus driver goes missing when broken down, check he’s not napping in the luggage compartment.

18. Don’t ignore your gut feeling if you find yourself in a sticky situation.

19. The world isn’t actually that big. You may very well bump into someone in Bali who served you pints at your University in England.

20. After traveling with a smart phone, you’ll never look back.

21. Only forward plan when dealing with visas.

22. If you find somewhere better than home, why ever leave?

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23. The beauty of traveling without a strict itinerary is that it’s impossible to guess what’s around the corner.

24. When snorkelling, don’t gasp in excitement at the sight of a turtle… you’re underwater don’t forget.

25. Hippy pants have a time and a place: exotic locations.

26. Slate Facebook as much as you want, but it’s the easiest and best way to keep in touch with loved ones while away.

27. When in a Buddhist temple, be sure to sit with your feet facing away from the Buddha statue or be prepared to get spanked by a monks bamboo stick.

28. Try to remember your Siestas. No matter how many times I travel, I’ll always accidentally end up walking for hours under the midday sun.

29. Book swapping is great, until you encounter two people in a row who have just finished Shanteram.

30. When dealing with mosquito repellent, go DEET. Or be eaten alive.

31. Pack light or be weighed down and cripple your shoulders. You don’t need 30 pairs of shorts.

32. If you feel the boy with the nose ring could be the love of your life… why not?

33. Companions and friends will appear along the way when traveling alone. Don’t sweat it and chill out with a beer. That’s when they will find you.


34. Everything is character building; whether it’s jumping out of a plane or putting your hand down a squat toilet to retrieve a room key.

35. Hikes sound great… but be prepared for a bit of hell if it’s in 40 degree heat.

36. The kindness of strangers demonstrates that people in general are genuine.

37. Your independence gets exercised to the extreme and with that, confidence in yourself and your decisions grows.

38. Keep an eye on your fuel tank when on a scooter incase you find yourself a loooong way from home. On a motorway. With an empty tank.

39. Traveling helps you discover exactly what you’re capable of.

40. Vietnam is the best and scariest place to learn how to ride a scooter.

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41. Avocados can be eaten with, on and in anything. And be delicious.

42. Wherever there are backpackers, it’s likely that there will be an Irish Bar… or it’ll be ‘Ladies night’

43. Attempt understanding the local languages and culture and roll with the inevitable cultural differences.

44. Cheap cocktails always begin as a fun novelty, but end in the worst hangovers in the world.

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45. Don’t be surprised with the amount of McDonalds that litter the world.

46. Share a taxi and you might meet your new favourite travel partner.

47. I can survive without my daily western lifestyle… roughing it is easy as everyone’s doing it.

48. Mosquito nets stop you from being bitten, and also stops that dead spider from falling into your snoring open mouth.

49. Everything will be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok then it’s not the end.

50. An elephant is not as comfortable to ride as it looks.

51. Always pack the right shoes for jungle treks as one slip in a river can lead to fractures of the arm.

52. Singapore is a great place to watch old locals ballroom dance in parks.

53. The best food to cure a hangover is a steaming bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup (Pho)

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54. The reason you don’t pay ‘local prices’ is because… you’re not a bloody local.

55. The staple backpackers food is instant noodles, but go against the grain and cook healthier versions e.g. noodle soup or rice soup with veggies and a poached egg. Your waist line will thank you!

56. Melbourne does the best brunch and coffee in the world.

57. If traveling high speed on a scooter at day, wear sunnies. If traveling high speed on a scooter at night, wear SOMETHING or you’ll be blinded by the flies coming at you at a million miles an hour.

58. Traveling with a couple can be fine. Just get your own room if you can. Actually, get your own room no matter what.

59. Seeing a loved ones face waiting for you at arrivals instantly soothes the ‘home to reality’ feeling.

60. Nothing beats the feeling of excitement when you first step off the plane onto new soil. But culture shock always gets me on the first night!

61. You’ll meet people on the road who will be incredible…and leave you wondering if a) you’ll ever see them again b) if you’ll ever meet anyone like them again?


62. I can kill a cockroach with a single flip flop, without freaking out… too much

63. Always wear sunscreen, or you’ll end up in agony with skin as tight as a balloon.

64. Don’t stay in your comfort zone when eating in foreign lands. The more inexplicable the appearance is, it’s usually the most delicious.

65. When a leech sucks onto you, burn it off with a lighter or it’ll bleed like a m*therf*cker.

66. Markets will get me out of bed despite hangover, illness or fatigue.

67. Fruit shakes are amazing. Who cares how much sugar is ladled into them.

68. On a night out, always make sure you know how to (roughly) get home in case you find yourself abandoned  in an art gallery at 2am by your room-mate who’s had too much to drink.

69. Barcelona has the most romantic streets in the world

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70. Mojitos will never let you down.

71. When crossing a road in Vietnam, you can attempt to time it right but the traffic is endless. Just walk. Don’t stop.

72. Thailand will make even the most fearful and inexperienced traveler relax.

73. Prior to traveling in Australia, be prepared for your funds to go quickly. The rumours are right: it’s expensive.

74. Don’t trust a ‘magic’ shake in Laos. You will literally fly to the moon.

75. The Full Moon parties in Thailand are what you make of them. They’re ridiculous but with the right people, it’ll be a blast!

76. South Dakota may have amazing archaeology… but the only things to do in the evenings is go to Dairy Queen.

77. When faced with a March fly infested beach, don’t try and make the best of it. RUN. Run for your lives!

78. Mozzie coils are my saviour.

79. A sarong has multiple uses: towel, beach mat, shawl for temples, blanket for chilly trains, to beat an irritating boyfriend… you name it!

80. If you can travel with your boyfriend, and you don’t kill each other… then you know you’ve got something special.

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81. If you meet your man on the road, dont forget the small chance the traveling romance wont survive reality.

82. Some people you encounter in your travels, will really change the way you look at your life.

83. It is ok to poke someone who’s snoring and keeping the entire 12 person dorm awake… well, I think it’s ok!

84. Rustling plastic bags at 6am will definitely wake you up when sharing dorms.

85. Nothing beats the build up to a good ole tropical storm!

86. Chili, ginger and tequila cocktails are great easy road-trip cocktails… just wash your fingers as chili in the eye while in the wilderness is not pleasant. Erm, and be careful going to the toilet too.

87. Collect and keep all those maps that you come across. They make the best momentos.

88. Be wary of fireworks in asia. When they get lit, be prepared to run!

89. Raves in jungles are both random and amazing!

90. Chatuchak market is hands down one of the best vintage markets ive ever been to.. and it’s in Bangkok!


91. Sometimes you don’t realise how great a moment is until it’s a memory.

92. Staying with distant relatives whilst on the road, means the world  after long weeks in hostels.

93. Be prepared to fall in love; whether with a sun set, a beach, a beautiful person… it’ll happen!

94. Vaccinations are a pain in the butt. Literally.

95. With road-trips, learn how to change a tyre… who am I kidding, I don’t even know how to drive so try travel with someone who can change your tyre!


96. If someone offers to carry your bag, be prepared to pay them

97. Massages in asia: cheap as chips and usually craps all over any massage you’d get at home!

98. Slow down. Don’t try and pack too much into your trip in too little time. Relax!

99. Don’t make destinations places to just tick off your list. Revel in each place and soak it all up!

100. Incase you didn’t get the hint through this list: travel is a great teacher. It’s fun, hard, weird, cool: try it.


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all photographs by Sophie Saint

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  • Laura said:

    Love this list. Thanks for the giggles in amongst the inspiration! :)

  • Lori said:

    Love this list. My favorites are #1 and #15. Great pictures too!

  • Chad said:

    I totally agree with #99! I think you are better off taking the time to experience a place more than just rushing through to tick off every city, country and continent on the map!The more you rush, the less experiences you have and you end up not even remembering half of your trip!

  • Sophie said:

    Aw thanks guys!
    Haha @Lori, My boyfriend passed on those two lessons to me! theyre the only two that he contributed… he just did a lap of honour and victory when he saw your comment!

  • Kayli Schattner said:

    Awesome mega list and pictures!!

  • Chantal said:

    Absolutely wonderful list! Now I can’t wait for my next backpacking trip!

  • Anna @ eatseedoblog said:

    This is a great list, funny and informative and so true. Pho IS the best hangover cure and Australia will destroy your budget! Love it.

  • Ruth said:

    You lie! #70 Mojito’s will never let you down!

    HUGE lover of a good Mojito but it seems so hard for some bar staff to get right! Like the time in Thailand there was just a mass of shredded mint leaves floating in a watery, bland, couldn’t even finish Mojito. And the UK’s top cocktail bar couldn’t even get it right with lumps of brunch sugar to crunch through every time you took a sip.

    Mojito’s do let you down, but they’re awesome when your bartender gets them right!

  • Bi-weekly Travel Inspiration - foodandphotosrtw.com said:

    […] 100 Things I’ve Learnt While Backpacking by Travelettes: Please read these 100 things Sophie learned while travelling, I guarantee you, you will laugh a lot and sympathize with a lot of the described situations(in case you backpacked a while as well ) […]

  • Travel Carousel: September 2013 | Travel on a Budget said:

    […] Altijd leuk dit soort lijstjes: 100 things I’ve learnt while backpacking. […]

  • Pete R. said:

    These are all very true. I can always get a coca cola where ever I went.

    I love this though: “You’ll meet people on the road who will be incredible…and leave you wondering if a) you’ll ever see them again b) if you’ll ever meet anyone like them again?”

    The people I met during my travels are always incredibly fun to talk to, and I just got to wonder if we will ever meet again. It would be a miracle if we do though. :)

    I’m sure if you continue to travel, you will have another 100 of these to teach us. If that’s the case, I can’t wait for more. :)

    Thanks for writing this up Sophie.

  • Natalia | Always Trekking said:

    Definitely agree with number 15. There is no bad experience, just a really great story to tell. Awesome list!

  • Lindy said:

    Great list, I’ll have to go back to Melbourne though to check if that brunch & coffee tale is true ;-) and I’ll need to hire you as a personal kill-a-cockroach-teacher. I just run.

  • SnarkyNomad said:

    For a blog called Travelettes, maybe it should be “woman up” instead of “man up.” Besides, I’ve noticed female solo travelers tend to be more adventurous than plenty of the so-called “men.” There’s nothing more adventurous than a 50 year old lady traveling solo in a hostel, particularly compared to the groups of men who travel in packs just to play Xbox in the hostel all day.

  • 100 Things I’ve Learnt While Backpacking | Cities and Palm Trees said:

    […] photographs by Sophie Saint. Taken from my travelettes […]

  • Sam said:

    1. Don’t wake up the snorer. I snore. Can’t help it (mild physical deformity). AND, the more poorly a snorer sleeps, the more tired they become. The more tired they are, the louder they snore. 2. Any good traveller should have earplugs. That’s basic. :) 3. “Man up”? Let’s not be sexist now. I’m a woman and have travelled extensively and I’ve been braver or calmer in a weird situation than many men. 4. Other than these points, this is a really good list.

  • Anne-Laure said:

    Lovely post, Sophie! Especially this hopeful statement “Everything will be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok then it’s not the end”!
    Please keep writing :)

  • Caro said:

    you are my sister travelling twin travel buddy. Thanks for the laughs after a night of travel frustration!!

  • Bin said:

    The noodles soup in pthe picture of “Pho” is actually called “hu tieu”. Pho have bigger noodle size and often mix with beef, chicken, not pork :D

  • mike said:

    I very much disagree with nr 30 and 65. Deet is very toxic to the environment, it kills a lot of wild-life, big and small, especially in an aquatic system. There are plenty of alternatives without deet that work just as well if you get the kind with enough dosage. Most non-toxic stuff is much more eXpenxive to produce, that’s why deet gets used so much. So for mosquitoes, use mosquito nets, alternative expensive sprays, cover up, or just vaccinate and man the fuck up.
    you don’t need to burn leeches, they only take what they need and then fall off by themselves and it won’t bleed much. It may seem icky the first time but once it happens a few times you won’t care too much anymore. I also can’t imagine burning leeches would be very good to the “wound” either.

  • De'Jav said:

    Great list most of them I can relate to while others were funny from your experiences. Good post to promote the joys of travel.

  • Jenny said:

    Coca cola is everywhere. I’m more the Fanta person and it never tastes the same and they have all different kind of Fantas :)

  • megan said:

    love this

  • Erik said:

    While travelling there are no strangers, only friends you yet have to meet!

  • Leah said:

    “85. Nothing beats the build up to a good ole tropical storm!”

    I’m an Australian living in the UK. I’m from tropical northern Australia too, and do I ever miss the build up before a tropical storm.

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