The Insider: The Backpacker17 Jun 2016
It’s tough being a backpacker. I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain. It was my choice to carry a 7kg backpack for three months and live off USD15 a day. To date, I have travelled 10,000 kilometres by air, water and land. I have crossed mountains and seas through seven different countries and my back is killing me.
I think I must have pulled a muscle somewhere between Vietnam and Cambodia while getting off a bullock cart. I knew I shouldn’t have strapped on the backpack before jumping off. Note to self: always remove backpack before hurtling oneself off moving vehicles. I really need a good massage but I can’t afford one so I have resigned myself to applying Tiger balm (a great invention unknown yet to the Western world) on my back daily. Not that I can reach the parts that ache the most.
On top of that, my feet are killing me. You really need to buy good footwear if you’re going backpacking. Seriously, each time I see a fellow backpacker with flip flops or sandals, I feel like throwing something at them. Either they know something I don’t to prevent blisters and twisted ankles or they have soles made of elephant hide. I don’t even want to look at my feet, afraid as I am of catching gangrene from exposing it to all kinds of crap. It’s a good thing I had some extra money put aside to buy myself a pair of hiking boots. I won’t have survived if not for my Timberlands.
I am also bloody starving all the time. It seems that USD15 won’t get you very far in Southeast Asia despite all the hype about how cheap it is. It’s only cheap if you eat absolutely nothing every day. After taking off USD10 for accommodation, I am left with USD5 for food.
I know, you’re going to say USD5 is enough to buy a bowl of noodles or to buy other local foods. But you’re not taking into account the USD2.50 I need to buy a beer. Ok, I don’t drink every day. It’s too expensive. But an ice cold draught beer can sometimes mean no food for the day. I am no teetotaling, nature-loving vegan. I need my alcohol fix every once in a while. Daily is preferable.
And mind you, USD10 doesn’t get you very far when it comes to a soft bed and clean sheets. I have found some good deals, particularly in Bali where USD10 comes with breakfast included. Oh, I can still taste the sweet mangos and juicy watermelons served in the mornings. But in countries like Malaysia, I get a mouldy shower, curly hairs under my pillow and a roommate that stinks.
I had the worst roommate ever in Phuket. An ‘Eric’, from Germany. He was large, hairy and smelly. By the time I had the ‘honour’ of being holed up in the room with him, he hadn’t showered in weeks and had worn the same wifebeater for six days straight. Ok, ok, maybe I exaggerate; but still, it hasn’t been easy sharing rooms with strangers.
Another time, I had to bunk in with Mr Casanova himself and for a week, I saw a different woman every night in his bed. It was fun for the first two nights, watching their antics and various positions, but after a week of broken sleep, it just got too much. Particularly as Mr Romeo was a grunter. I sighed with relief myself when I checked out of there.
Public toilets are the worst. For god’s sake, doesn’t anyone flush? And why is the floor always wet? What about toilet paper? No? No need of it? It’s no surprise that I caught a urinary tract infection. It hurt to pee for days and the doctor’s bill ate into my budget as well. The good news is that medicine is much cheaper in Southeast Asia compared to the West. It cost me US15 for a consultation and medication. Thank god for the small blessings in life.
I’m glad that I’ll be going home next week. It’s not as if I haven’t had an adventure of a lifetime. I have and it’s an experience I will never forget. But next time I’ll skip the selftorture and opt for some pampering instead, like checking in my luggage, sleeping in a bugfree bed and not sharing a room with a German named Eric.