5 common misconceptions about backpackers

Backpackers and budget travellers these days seem to be getting wrong kinds of impressions from locals and vacationers. The typical backpacker stereotype is a dirty, scruffy, cheap, booze-craving party animal, but not everyone is the same and it bugs me when people don’t seem to recognise how much it takes to actually try and travel on a shoestring, experiencing culture and living like a local. So I thought it might be fun to come up with a short list of common misconceptions that people have about backpackers 🙂


1. Backpackers are poor
When you walk into a fancier place dressed in casual clothes and they think you can’t afford it. Backpacker or tourist, I think these both fall under the same category when it comes to business. After all, backpackers and budget travellers contribute to the country’s tourism industry, doesn’t it? Being thrifty and seeing the world on a budget doesn’t mean someone is so poor they can’t even afford to have a decent meal. After all, backpackers always seem to be able to afford alcohol 😉

2. You have to be rich to travel around the world
The more places you’ve seen or visited in your life, the richer people think you are. “Since you travel so much you must be well to do, right?” WRONG. You don’t have to be rich to travel, and it annoys me that people think that. It is possible to travel on a shoe-string based on how much you’re willing to rough it out, or compromise and accommodate to. A person who has only visited 10 countries could have spent the same amount of money as compared to a person who has seen 40 countries, the difference is with the type of traveling they do and the expectations they have.

3. Backpackers are dirty and smelly and they don’t shower
This misconception is such a classic. People seem to think backpackers have no sense of hygiene. Try exploring a city on foot all day and going for short hikes to experience more and save money on air conditioned transportations, and tell me if it’s possible to not perspire. There are showers in hostels and backpackers DO actually use those. Sometimes there are places in the villages that don’t have water source or a bathroom, but that also means experiencing some sort of local cultural lifestyle and I’m happy to not shower in exchange for that. And just because our backpacks aren’t sparkly and clean from being tossed around at the back of a truck doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t shower or do laundry on a regular basis. Also, we carry deodorant.

4. The typical Gap Year misconception
When locals ask if you’re a student or if you’re working and your reply is “none”, they immediately think you’re loaded. I mean, how else are you possibly traveling for months or doing a gap year and yet doing nothing at the same time? These people have obviously never heard of SAVINGS, or voluntary work exchange, or communities like couch surfing.

5. Quit your job to travel = lack of future
Since you can decide to throw away the only thing that people seem to survive on, you must have no future in what you do. Bullshit. Some people actually know what to prioritise in life, and as JR Tolkien said, “not all who wander are lost”. It doesn’t mean that people who take a break in their lives to see the world have no future. In fact, these are the people who have and will experience more things in life than those who sit in a cubicle 5 days a week for the next 10 years.

Feel free to share any other stereotypes or misconceptions of backpackers if you have any! 🙂


Wanderer of lands, searcher of souls. Last seen tree hugging and running wild into the mountains. Might have eaten all the ice cream in the tub.

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