There are rules for life at home, and then there are rules for life on the road. It seems that for many of us normal standards go out the window as soon as we sling on a backpack and enter a foreign country. Here are a few of those embarrassing moments we’ve all had, but will never admit to when we get back.
1. Buying those baggy trousers that only backpackers wear
When you lose yourself in another culture, it’s all too easy to lose your dress sense at the same time. With a stretchy waistband, garish design and an MC Hammer level of bagginess, these trousers are the garment-of-choice for the lesser-spotted first-time backpacker. See also the Thai fisherman pant: a close second in the traveller catwalk of shame.
2. Answering the call of nature… behind a bush
You drink a litre of water and regret it instantly. Whether you’re stuck squirming, cross-legged on a bus, or you’re hiking in the wilderness with a group of strangers you only met that morning, you know will finally scramble shamelessly behind a spindly bush to do your business. It’s natural, right?
3. Wearing a money belt every day
It’s sensible to wear a money belt (but please god not a fanny pack/bum bag) in busy, more dangerous cities. But pick your moments. It’s never a good look when you strip off on the beach and reveal a bulging, sweat-drenched accessory to the world (not to mention discovering your passport turned to mush inside).
4. Washing your underwear in the shower/sink
It’s only been three days since you did your laundry but you’ve already run out of clean undies, and there’s no way you’re paying the extortionate prices in your latest hostel. The only option is to wash your smalls while you wash yourself – in those tepid communal showers. We’ve all done it, just don’t tell anyone at home.
5. Speaking slowly to a local only to find English is their first language
Slowly and clearly, you say to the local “por favor, do you know where the bus station eez?” – your hands doing the “driving the bus” motion while you smile and nod. “Yeah, it’s just around the corner” they reply in flawless English, confused. You walk away to avoid any further embarrassment.
6. Not showering for [insert your number] of days
Maybe the water was cold, or perhaps there was no running water at all. We’ve all resorted to the wet-wipe wash at some point during our travels. And of course, it’s essential to document how many days unwashed you are, if only as a disclaimer for the smell.
7. Using an English word abroad that means something else entirely
Don’t get romantic about a low-lying “mist” in France – this means “manure” to the locals and could make for some awkward conversation. If you ask for the “bill” in the Netherlands you may be shown somebody’s buttocks. And whatever you do, don’t ask a Norwegian lady to show you where the “bus” is…
8. Making a cultural faux pas
If you don’t do your research before you go, chances are you’ll make a faux pas or two while you’re away. Give a two-fingered peace sign (palm facing yourself) in the UK and you’re effectively telling someone to *!&- off. Finishing a meal in parts of Asia is considered a great insult, and PDAs (public displays of affection) can get you into all kinds of trouble in more orthodox countries.
9. Seeking out home comforts
You’ve only been away for a couple of weeks, and you’re already in dire need for some home comforts. Whether it be a pint of lager in a grotty Irish pub while watching Premiership or NBA, a good old cup of tea, or hunting for somewhere that serves a proper breakfast that doesn’t involve dried fish or refried beans.
10. Posting social media clichés
Urgh. Angela on Facebook has posted another picture of her fingers shaped like a heart. Jamie has taken another selfie with a load of people with their arses out on the top of a mountain. Ah well, at least Hollie’s hot dog legs are suitably browned. By all means post while you’re away, but stay from the holiday social media clichés.
11. Accidentally drinking the tap water and then…
It’s in salads. It’s in juices. It’s in the shower. That dreaded tap water is everywhere. Even if you brush your teeth with bottled water, it’ll still get onto your tongue when you least expect it. The results can be explosive and potentially, if sharing a bathroom, relationship ending. Coax yourself back to life with flat cola and rehydration salts and if things get really bad, man up and see a doctor.
12. Running out of money
Your card has been cancelled for “unusual activity” overseas, or maybe you just budgeted poorly. Whatever happened, you are thousands of miles away from home and you don’t have a penny to your name. Calling home for cash is always embarrassing – but that’s what parents are for, eh?