Before you set off on your backpacking trip, you’re probably gonna be nervous and spend countless days, weeks and months researching the culture of where you’re going; how to be respectful and how to abide by local customs. You’ll have those crazy butterflies running into the sides of your belly in anticipation of this new adventure into the unknown. You’ll probably miss some much needed sleep, as you lay awake at night wondering if you’re fully prepared.
On your way back home however, you’re not gonna do any of these things. Going home is NBD. What they don’t tell you and what we’re here to break the news about, is that you should probably also prepare for a little known disorder called Reverse Culture Shock. As a backpacker, you’re automatically 98%* more at risk for contracting this misunderstood condition. When you are away from your routine, friends and well… normal life, you don’t realize how easy it is to learn new habits, and make them your own. So beware, here are eight weird-ass things you’re probably gonna pick up along the way.
1. Bargaining everything.
In some countries it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate and haggle the price before buying a little something-something. In fact, it is expected and part of the culture. You not only get used to having to negotiate everything, but you start to like pulling out all the stops for a good deal. Why pay full price, when you can work your way down to half of what they’re asking? #deal. The problem is that when you’re home and life is a hell of a lot more pricey, you may accidentally find yourself bargaining with just about everyone for everything. We’re talkin’ everything from getting a smog inspection for your car, to dentist appointments to the price of beer. Say what? We got our way with all 3 of those, for the record.
2. Saying every word not once, but twice!
As you walk down the dirt roads of southern Cambodia, you will hear travel agents calling out after you, “snorkel, snorkel?” As you walk down Koh San Road in Bangkok checking out new tanks and trinkets, you’ll hear vendors trying to sell you on “cheap, cheap.” And no matter where you are in Asia, you’re gonna hear someone, somewhere utter the famous words, “same same, but different.” Oh how this will come to haunt you. You might not notice it at first, but you will eventually find yourself saying things like, “nice, nice!” or “coffee, coffee,” and then form a puzzled look on your face as you think, “did I really just say that?” Yes you did, but it’s ok, ok.
3. Saying hello to complete strangers.
Sure, you may do this anyways, because you are a friendly person (we think). However, you’ll most definitely find yourself saying “hi” to every Bob, Nick, and Nelly when you’re back home. When you are traveling, you are on this natural high, life is good and you are freakin’ feeling it. You’re open to meeting new people and you’re disconnected from your damn iPhone. So what do you do? You talk to everyone around you, from the guy sitting next to you in a coffee shop to the crew passing by on their remote village trek. When you come home it’s really tough to break this habit, which we happen to think is an awesome one.
Warning: People may show signs of confusion and/or delay in response.
4. Speaking in caveman.
When you are in a foreign country, you may or may not speak the language fluently. Chances are, you don’t. During those moments when you can’t fully communicate with someone [they happen often], you will revert to speaking in what we like to call, “caveman.” This is where you chop up your sentences into bad English, eliminating unnecessary words in hopes that the person you are talking to will pick up the key phrases. More often than not, it works (with a side of hand signals). The problem is that you will get so used to speaking like this, that when you get back home, people will either a) wonder what the hell is wrong with you or b) think you are rude because you walk into a place yelling, “toilet?!” with an excited look on your face.
5. Not throwing toilet paper in the toilet.
Speaking of toilets… plumbing is a luxury, let us tell you. That magical silver handle you push down after a sit on the porcelain throne is a god damn privilege. In many countries, this does not exist, and if it does, you’re in luck, amigo. More often than not, you will find a squatty potty with a bucket flush. Pop, squat and drop it. This means no toilet paper or foreign objects down the hole, unless you want to clog that bad boy. Obviously you get used to throwing your TP into the rubbish bin [what are we British?] in order to avoid the unwanted clogg-age. Oddly enough, this is not a cool habit to have at home. Your friends and family may or may not frown upon this new stinky bathroom ritual.
6. Avoiding commitment.
One of the amazing benefits about traveling is that you do what you want, when you want. You have no plans, no commitments, no nothing. You might meet some cool people and decide in that moment you are going to travel with them for the next week, or you find a sweet little beach town that you absolutely love and stay for two weeks instead of one. You get used to the ultimate freedom without commitments, and are living for the spontaneity that comes without ‘em. This is a habit that’s hard to kick, because it just feels so damn good to be fun and fancy free. You’re gonna come home and when your friend asks what you’re doing next Friday, you’ll find yourself saying “I don’t know yet, let’s see how we feel on Friday.” When someone asks if you want sushi for lunch, you’re going to tell them you don’t know what you’ll be in the mood for yet. And that’s just the little stuff. God, backpackers are annoying!
7. Forgetting how to clean.
Alright. Let’s get real for a second. When you’re on the road for so long, you reeeeally aren’t practicing those home-ec duties because you don’t have a HOME. We’re talkin’ laundry, cooking, and those things people call “house chores.” Instead, you pay other people to do that fun stuff for you and in turn, get super lazy in this department. When you get home your room might look like a hot mess because you’ve become so used to housekeeping [said in Peter Griffin voice] changing your sheets on the reg. You also may not cook as much as you used to, because you are in the super-duper healthy habit of eating out every meal. Word of advice? Try to kick this one, it’s not attractive.
8. Talking travel all the freakin’ time!
Oh, this may be the biggest problem of them all [or is it?]. Everyone you meet traveling is on a similar path as you, so you can talk for hours with a complete stranger swapping travel stories left and right. You have to realize though that your friends at home [you know the ones that you left behind] aren’t experiencing what you’re going through. When you get back, it might seem like all you can seem to talk about are your crazy travel mishaps and adventures. To be honest with you… people don’t care as much as you do, because last night’s party is way more juicy to recap and much easier for everyone to relate to. Soooo, good luck with that. We still haven’t managed to break this habit, but that’s probably because we’re not even trying!