The first few times you meet a backpacker, they’ll most likely astound you with expertise, stories, and experiences. By the 600th time you meet a backpacker, you’ll know there are certain codes ingrained in everything they say.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, here’s a basic dictionary that translates from Backpacker to English.
What they say: “I lived in Chile.”
What they mean: “I volunteered for two weeks in Chile.”
Visiting somewhere just isn’t cool anymore. We have to live everywhere we go, even if we have houseplants that have outlived our stays.
What they say: “I’m not hungry, I had a late lunch.”
What they mean: “I’m saving what little cash I have left for the bar tonight.”
Travelers are always hungry. The only time a traveler isn’t hungry is when they’re aching for a couple of pints and have to ration the currency they have left. Beer has calories, right?
What they say: “I’ve lost track of how many countries I’ve been to.”
What they mean: “I’ve been to fewer countries than you have.”
It’s a trite conversation to have, but everybody knows approximately how many countries they’ve visited. The only people who claim to have forgotten are those who know their number comes up short.
What they say: “Do you have free wifi?”
What they mean: “Will I be eating / sleeping here tonight?”
There are five basic needs of every traveler: food, shelter, water, sex, and wifi. The more we can satisfy simultaneously, the better.
What they say: “I’m just going with the flow.”
What they mean: “Can I hitch a ride to wherever you’re going next?”
Once you’ve been traveling solo for long enough, it can be incredibly refreshing to temporarily hitch up with a group. Plus, it’s cheaper than getting to Rome on the train.
What they say: “I’m just naturally good with languages.”
What they mean: “I have the google translate app on my iPhone.”
Nobody picks up Turkish from a half-day jaunt through Istanbul. Üzgünüm, dostum. There’s an app for that.
What they say: “We have to keep in touch!”
What they mean: “I want to stay with you next time I’m in your country.”
Yeah, you totally connected in the five hours you spent exploring Prague together, but let’s be serious — the beach house you mentioned in Sicily does NOT sound like a place they’d hate to stay in.
What they say: “I don’t do souvenirs.”
What they mean: “I don’t know how to pack a bag.”
Nobody can resist those witty souvenir shot glasses 100% of the time. The only people who have to pass them up are those who have their bag already stuffed to the brim and literally can’t take anything new home.
What they say: “I want to get the real cultural experience.”
What they mean: “I want to get a picture of myself hugging indigenous people.”
Everybody wants the real cultural experience, but it’s kind of hard to pinpoint what that is. The only way to truly immerse oneself is to learn the language, rent an apartment, and pay taxes to the local government. Not a lot of people seem interested in doing that, but many are interested in claiming they did.
What they say: “I’m a freelance travel writer.”
What they mean: “Please follow my blog.”
Sure it sounds low-key and cool, but there’s always a secret, nagging fear in the back of any freelancer’s mind that if their site goes under, so do they. Just throw them a bone and press “follow.” At the least it will get them to shut up.
What they say: “I’m a traveler, not a tourist.”
What they mean: “I am definitely a tourist.”
Yes, we all hate the loudmouthed tourists who crowd out major venues and blatantly ignore the local customs. But a strange sort of travel elitism has emerged among those who claim not to be tourists. Sorry buddy. If you can’t claim citizenship and don’t pay the government taxes, there’s not really much else to call yourself.
What they say: “I’m a citizen of the world.”
What they mean: “I’m a citizen of the United States of America.”
I’ve coincidentally only met “World Citizens” who were born and raised in America. I know that Americans get a lot of flack from other travelers while abroad. But seriously man, you’ve got a Bills cap on. You’re not fooling anyone.
What they say: “Does the room include free breakfast?”
What they mean: “I will be sneaking enough for lunch and dinner into my bag every day until I leave.”
There’s no such thing as free lunch. But there is such a thing as continental breakfast — which, let’s be serious, is essentially the same thing.