The term backpacker can be used to refer to a few things. For example in North America, it may refer to anyone going on a camping trip into the woods or for an extended hiking trip and wearing a back pack. However across the pond as well as in Europe in can and most often refers to a person who chooses to travel extensively in an independent way, on a limited budget and with the all of their travel necessities packed up in their trusty backpack. For some it can become a way of life, even if for only a relatively short time.
With the increasing popularity of this subculture it is no surprise that a certain phraseology has developed and anyone wishing to participate in this adventurous lifestyle should be familiar with a few key words and phrases.
An area of any given city or country that has an abundance of cheap hostels, a touristy market, a lot of bars and a heavy traveller infrastructure and is full of first time backpackers for this very reason. Khao San Road in Bangkok is an infamous example.
Very often people will take a break between high school and university to go into the world for a year of travel, you know, in order to „find themselves”. It has to be done on the cheap – meaning the backpacker lifestyle is the perfect solution.
This describes a situation where a backpacker needs to jump quickly outside the country they are visiting in order to get/extend a visitor visa-the administrative permission to be in a country. Also sometimes referred to as a Border Run. VISAs are typically issued ONLY outside of the country they pertain to because having it means that you are allowed to enter the country. Strangely situations often arise where your VISA can run out while you’re actually IN the country in question meaning you have to jump OUT of the country simply for this irritating bureaucracy and then return right away.
Culture shock is the disorientating feeling some travellers get 12 – 24 hours after arriving in a new destination and experiencing a range of sights, sounds, smells and new surroundings that are completely unfamiliar and outside of their comfort zone. It can affect individual travellers very differently with symptoms ranging from disorientation and homesickness to full on panic attacks. Be forewarned! This is a very real phenomenon, especially for new/inexperienced travellers.
Not a YouTube video of a prank resulting in a painful and hilarious injury, couchsurfing is a method for backpackers to gain free accommodation in a host’s home, and in turn hosting other backpackers in their own house when they aren’t travelling. Everything is arranged via the internet using various websites and forums. This has fallen in popularity in recent years.
Reverse Culture Shock:
Pretty much the same thing as culture shock, but this happens when a backpacker returns home from a long trip and finds it difficult to fit back in to old routines and western society again. Symptoms can include trying to barter for a bottle of water in the supermarket or accusing the bus driver of ripping you off.
Tourist Traps / Tourist Trail:
Simply describes places or things that most tourists and backpackers head to see, the major tourist draws like the Pyramids or the Statue of Liberty. Although many adherents of the backpacker lifestyle choose to shun such places as they are too trendy and tend to be expensive. A true blue backpacker prefers to stay off the beaten path.
So, hopefully these few, main expressions will help along the way with any chance encounters with English speaker backpackers. You’re ready to set off. Be safe, try new things and remember the wise words of Robert Louis Stevenson “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
On the cheap – done at low cost
To barter/haggle – to have to “passionately” negotitate for the price of something to be cheaper. NB In many countries of the world especially in open markets there are NO set prices but are rather established spontaneously on an individual basis.
Off the beaten track – away from main streets and busy areas. Lesser known and hidden away spots.