The Perfect Backpacker

Over the past months I’ve had moments of ‘sweet that I randomly am good at this/know this’ and many moments of ‘wish I took the time to figure this out at a less embarrassing age’…
 A second…or better yet third language. [If going to Australia you definitely want this to be German] I’ve had some great times talking to people in French or attempting to get by with my minimal Spanish. It’s also extremely resourceful to not tell anybody you speak the language so you can whip out ninja eavesdropping skills to find out what they [think they] are ‘secretly’ discussing. My looks may have some people suspicious of linguistic knowledge…but not the French. They are too arrogant to believe anybody missing a chimney of cigarette smoke and a tight bun on top of their head can speak their language.
 The ability to swim. Level 6 Aquaquest drop-out has nearly held me back from snorkeling in the reef or swimming in parts of Fraser and the Whitsundays. So much socialization is around water…the ability to swim well is essential. I can get by because my fitness is decent enough to doggie paddle half competently for a while….even still I got caught in a current at the Whitsundays and had to be picked up…embarrassment at its best.
 Ability to play soccer/football/American football at least to a social level. At least I have this going for me. My above average soccer skills continue to be a delightful [or not so] surprise to boys as my French skills are to the Francais…a little bitter sweet upon discovery….bitter for them, sweet for me.
 Knowledge of at least 3 drinking games. A combination of: 1 that is super easy so foreigners can understand the instructions, one that gets you drunk fast, one that’s good for nursing drinks. AND one that’s clean and one that is wildly inappropriate.
 Basic geographical knowledge and understanding of basic global politics, cultures, and rivalries. i.e. I am not American…don’t back pedal and say you meant North America, not all British are English, the UK isn’t ‘’European’’, Germans probably won’t speak to you anyway, Americans expect you to know their town of 250 people in Wyomming even if they are confused about what country Paris is in, Romans have a superiority complex over other Italians, the Swedish guy probably isn’t gay even though he just asked for an iron (for his clothes and hair), and nobody in the world except for half of the united states would ever support a moron like Romney [I said moron…bot Mormon works too] so be pro-Obama, everybody has seen Twilight and the Titanic.
 A sense of creativity in the kitchen. Not to impress people…but to not develop type 2 diabetes from rice, ramen, and pasta…and not to waste anything when all you have is free rice, spinach, peanuts, and rice cakes. Also general competency for rationing food (Reference: Germans eating 3 sandwiches each at lunch on day one of camping). On that note, an ability to cook virtually anything with a microwave: Ovens are hard to come by and stoves involve communal cooking appliances with rust and peeling Teflon. And for those days where you don’t have the $10 cash deposit for a cooking set, the ability to make food without a dish or piece of cutlery. Why not just eat out? ….
 The ability to budget. It has been a brutal realization that buying my lunch and 3 coffees/shift for the past 2 years has probably been the equivalent to a small home. If budgeting is difficult for you at the mall initially, worry not, the in the moment decision of Shirt v. Hostel will get easier, and if you need more help, the thought of carrying said shirt usually tips you in the right direction.
 Bargaining skills and a suspicion of people in general. I’m great at this, mostly because I trust nobody ever. The only slip up was the travel agent in Cairns but I’ve vowed to ‘never speak of it again’. Travel agents always have 2-3 prices lower than the first one they give you, and markets always start at double. In the same boat, any backpacker could win extreme couponers by then end of their adventure, why not get a head start?
 Both knowledge and tolerance of music. English/American Top 40 hits are the same around the world it would seem, so the general knowledge of pop culture is good for conversation, and general wasted dance floor sing along…however tolerance is also equally as important, because the one time you forget ear plugs will be the time that there is german trance playing while you’re trying to sleep for your weirdly timed bus.
 A liking for animals…or at least not the same disgust I tend to have for them. Part of the fun of travelling is seeing different animals…I feel like I’m missing an entire part of Oz because I don’t care about Kangaroos, Koalas, Wallabees….and go in early when there is a hostel pet because the thought of drunkenly befriending it is highly alarming.
 Obvious, but the ability to make friends with anyone. You don’t have to like them, but you have to have them not want to steal any of your few valuable possessions….or worse your food. Also, I can’t count the number of times the creepy Dutch guy had a hot friend….just saying.
 A skeletal system well accustomed to sleeping in…not beds. I could over elaborate this one, but I’ll keep it PG. From crammed buses to terrible hostels to camping, if you are the person who needs a 3.5 inch pillow-not 3, 3.5- maybe save until you can afford to travel sans—backpack.
 Drop the ego. Yes, I was sat outside Peterpans travel at 7 in the morning getting free wifi while the people from the posh café next door drinking $5 espressos (my daily food allowance) judged me…but I got free internet and a quieter than usual place to skype…or [true story] taste testing for lunch and saving the spork for the [at said point unknown] ‘priced to clear’ dinner you will be having…handwashing ‘delicates’ and hanging them around your entire bunk to skip paying $8 in washing/drying…
 Somebody that can clean up after themselves. When you are sharing rooms with 7+ other people you not only need to be able to contain your belongings, but also keep common areas clean. I can’t count the number of times I’ve scraped of burnt rice from pots in the kitchen because even Asians only know how to cook rice in rice cookers.
 Generally decent photography skill. I don’t care if your photos suck…but a)know when I’m taking a photo and get out of the way/don’t walk right in front. b) in the chance I’m getting you to take my photo it’s because it’s a nice enough place that I want more than a selfie….don’t screw up.
 Restart. Electronics are a bitch anywhere in the world. Know in general how to turn whatever you’ve brought with you off and on…or how to access the battery. Sounds basic, but a German [without fail, always a German] girl was freaking out that she’d lost her camera instructions and couldn’t figure out where to find the battery…
 Driving a manual vehicle. I completely missed out on Fraser Island because I couldn’t drive stick and didn’t want to learn that + be on the right side of the car + left side of the road + driving on sand. It wouldn’t have helped the last few but I might have given it a try (being half Asian didn’t help my confidence to learn in the moment) had I tried a manual transmission on an actual road first. It would seem that the rest of the world learns to drive a stick then an automatic as opposed to only driving a stick if you utterly have to which is good to know for rental cars…and my potential future as a star on the Amazing Race.

There is plenty more, but I’ll leave it at that…I wouldn’t want to let you in on all the secrets at once. On that note, as I sit in my dorm in Brisbane typing this there is an Asian girl trying to go to the bathroom in the ensuite without me knowing she’s taking a crap and the amount of water running, fake coughing, and sprays of perfume seeping from the door are quite entertaining…

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