24 Things Backpackers Know That You Don’t

1. Luxembourg has a royal family, and you should probably try to marry into it.

2. Someone once played a practical joke and taught people in Southeast Asia that the Playboy bunny is an innocent little friend of Hello Kitty’s. Therefore, the Thai government decided to decorate public buildings with it. This will result in welcome comic relief when you’re in, say, a hospital bathroom (after they’ve misdiagnosed your food poisoning with appendicitis).

3. When in Prague, thou shalt remember that there is a fine line between trying Absinthe (as a cultural experience, of course) and Death.

4. You fancy, huh? Well, best of luck, because in Thailand rat’s meat is considered a delicacy (the upper-middle class deigns to eat hawk’s meat… scoff) and in the Philippines you’ll be eating monkey’s brain with your silver spoon.

5. Thus, you will come home from abroad a vegan.

6. (This is why we can’t have nice things.)

7. No one in Asia actually wears the Aladdin pants that every shop seems to sell. But hey, if you want to relive your childhood, those pants could show you A Whole New World (sorry, couldn’t resist).

8. Ruining your GPA with five semesters of Arabic will be completely worth it the moment you see your Bahraini cab driver’s face when he realizes that the green-eyed blonde in his backseat is speaking to him, and he is understanding. It will be considerably less worth it when he subsequently almost crashes the cab.

9. Public hospitals in rural parts of the developing world are to be avoided at all costs. Pay the extra money; go to a private hospital. Better yet, make someone airlift you to the capital city (or hop on the next bus, that works too). Do not question me, just do it. You’re welcome.

10. Asian food is terrible for an upset stomach (mostly because papaya salad kind of tastes like vomit). All of the sudden globalization and the 7/11s that come with it are your very best friends. So you should really stop complaining about it.

11. The Answer is Always Yes. Unless you have a very, very good reason why you shouldn’t try something/ go somewhere/ jump off a cliff, you probably should.

12. Speaking of jumping off of cliffs, Queenstown, New Zealand is like Disney World for adrenaline junkies. No one is going to judge you if you walk around with your autograph book. (Okay, I lied. They totally will).

13. In a year of living in Australia, I never once saw anyone actually drink Foster’s (just in case there was any doubt in your mind as to whether or not the media lies to you).

14. Packed? Great. Now go dump out your suitcase, pick out four outfits, and leave the rest. Assume that you will buy things (read: clothes) and that the things you buy, in say, Myanmar, are going to be considerably cooler than whatever you bought at Urban Outfitters.

15. Walk into a drugstore in Manila and you’ll find that Dior has a cream promising to immediately transform you into Snow White. Walk into a drugstore in London and L’oreal has you and the bronzed (orange’d… consider yourself warned) beauty you aspire to be covered. Apparently the grass is always greener… (or whiter, or browner…)

16. Remember that ice cubes in Mexico are, in fact, made of water. (Am I the only one who didn’t realize that?) Fail to heed this reminder and instead of having a foursome with that Turkish guy you will be bowing to the Porcelain Queen (please, if only for the sake of the story, choose the former. We’re all rooting for you).

17. If you’re in Malaysia and someone tries to send you to a seaport about an hour north of Kuala Lumpur, don’t go unless you would like to be put (against your will) on a three-week slow boat to Indonesia. Just saying.

18. If you’re on a global scavenger hunt for passport stamps (it’s okay, you can admit it) go visit Vegas’ little sister, the island nation of Macau, while you’re in Hong Kong. It’s only an hour away by boat and I hear they’re filming The Hangover Part IV there.

19. Always check the expiration dates of imported products before you buy them (lest you should end up with three-year-old cheese).

20. Because you will eat said three-year-old cheese and you will hate yourself for the rest of time.

21. And then you will return home a vegan. See? I told you.

22. For the artsier among you (I’d call you out by name, hipsters, but I know how you hate that), nothing rivals the annual Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Flock there in August and you can see Shakespeare by morning and learn how to play the ukulele by night. Looking to redecorate your bathroom? Steal a few (a few… dozen) show posters off of any building in the entire city… they’ll each be plastered with them an inch thick. Now you don’t have to buy wallpaper AND you won’t even have to brag about how international you are. Everyone who uses your toilet will know that you’re that. cool.

23. A great way to rack up your dental bill is to mistake a Canadian for an American. “Where are you from?” is always the safer question.

24. For every clogged squat toilet, there’s probably a stunning temple. For every cockroach you’re forced to eat, Buddha blesses you with a bowl of homemade Pad Thai. For every un-air conditioned bus ride, a new cover photo for people to be jealous of. Kidding, of course. (Mostly.) You very well might not come back with some romanticized idea of “yourself.” Point is, there are trade-offs, there are setbacks, and traveler’s diarrhea is a very real thing. Get out there anyway. TC Mark

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