Category Archives: Just For Fun

Backpacker spotting

So let’s play a game called backpacker spotting! They’re very easy to spot in major cities and hippie havens in most travel countries.  Easy clues are that they’re carrying a backpack but there’s also a subculture associated with it and with every culture, there’s a certain way that people talk and dress to show that they are “hardcore” backpackers.  I’m in no way bashing backpackers in any way, as I too rather carry a backpack than a suitcase any day but rather, this is based on observations and meeting some of the nicest people backpacking.

There are also some more subtle clues of a backpacker that I’m sure we’ve all encountered here and there:

  1. fisherman/parachute/linen pants
  2. dreads
  3. scruffy beard and scraggly hair
  4. leather or string bracelets/necklaces/anklets
  5. tanned
  6. either neutral or colourfully-patterned clothing (either ends of the extreme)
  7. Birkenstocks or Merrell shoes
  8. bandanas around their neck or on their head for guys and handkerchiefs/scarves for girls
  9. constantly dirty feet (not smelly but black bottomed)
  10. hanging around train/bus stations or hostels
  11. travel book in hand or readily available
  12. have either a DSLR camera or a lomography camera (again another extreme)
  13. and finally, a thin layer of grime/dirt that covers their skin all the time (even after showering)

If you have any more clues, please feel free to add in the comments section.  So go out there and find your own backpackers and chat them up because they can be the nicest people you’ll ever meet!

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Macgyver backpacking

You’ll find that there’s always a competition between backpackers on who can live the most scarcely while traveling.  And with this comes a fine art called “Macgyvering“.   Those people who find themselves jamming an Allen key into a piece of IKEA press-board out of frustration at home will all of a sudden be able to rig up intricate clothes lines, fix iPods and patch up backbacks while traveling.  All they usually need, and you should bring, is duct tape and rope.

  • Duct tape – this is the universal fixer of everything! Your camera’s battery cover is lose? Duct tape.  Your shoe is ripping? Duct tape.  Need to water proof your wallet? Duct tape.  This is also very handy in conjunction with the next item when taping up a clothes line.
  • Rope – used to hold up clothes, mosquito nets, pants if necessary.  I find that yellow plastic rope is the best since it is waterproof and very durable.  You won’t need much rope (enough to hang across a room so around 3 metres).
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How to spot Canadian backpackers

HABF02_2Let’s face it, we all need to entertain ourselves during 4 hour layovers, delayed buses, and chilling time on the beach/hostel/restaurant/anywhere you can sit for awhile! To kill some time, let’s see if you can spot a Canadian backpacker! And no, we don’t all say “eh?!” at the end of every other sentence.

Tell-tale signs of a travelling Canadian:

  1. Canadian flag sewn on the backpack. But watch out for those Americans who pretend by having the maple leaf on their bag. A good way to find out whether they’re from north or south of the border is to ask them what flavour poutine they like the best. If it’s anything else other than pure cheese curds and gravy, then they’re lying. Canadians are poutine purists.
  2. Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack and gear
  3. Roots, lululemon or Arc’teryx clothing
  4. Sports team clothing with any of the following teams: Canucks, Leafs, Habs/Canadiens, Sens/Senators, Oilers, Flames, Jets, Jays, Raptors, Lions, Argos/Argonauts, Stampeders, Eskimos, Ti-Cats/Tiger-Cats, Als/Alouettes, Roughriders, Blue Bombers, TFC, Whitecaps, Impact
  5. Saying “sorry” even if you bumped into them
  6. Zed, not zee
  7. The nicest people in the entire world!

What have you noticed about Canadian backpackers? Or what’s unique about backpackers from your home country? Post your comments below and let’s get a global backpacker spotting game started!

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The wonderful world of showers

Away with the Fairies Hostel, Hogsback, South Africa

I’ll be the first to admit, although I’m not a dirty-hippie, dreadlocked and black-footed typical backpacker, my hygiene level does significantly decrease while travelling.  Frolics in the ocean become relaxing baths and baby wipes become a must-needed 2 minute shower.  Running water and private bathrooms are luxury amenities and for some, backpacker showering may be horribly unappealing.  But for those of us who can turn a blind eye (or for those of us who don’t wear our glasses or contact lenses while showering), bath time becomes a novelty item much like kitschy souvenirs. So in order to navigate the path to cleanliness, here is a guide to showers across the world! Feel free to leave your experiences or advice in the comments below.

Mandi

Found in: Indonesia and Malaysia
What the?! (a.k.a. how to use):
 A mandi is a traditional bathing technique involving 2 containers of water – a large bucket and a smaller scoop.  Simply scoop water from the large bucket using the smaller scoop, pour the water on yourself and voilà,  a shower! Make sure you don’t contaminate the large bucket with any dirty body run-off water because that may be the only water you’ll get that day.  Typical drainage is a hole in the ground and if you’re in a more modern facility, instead of a large bucket, you may find a spigot to fill your scoop with fresh water.
Tips:

  • Wash your hands first, that’s your sponge/loofah and no one likes a dirty sponge.
  • Girls, wash your hair by flipping your head over, it’s easier this way to get shampoo out with the small scoops of water.
  • If you’re using a mandi with freezing cold water in freezing cold weather (like half way up the 2329m Mount Bromo in Indonesia), don’t worry the shivering and shaking will stop eventually after wrapping yourself in layers of blankets and curling into the fetal position.

Shower Over Toilet
Found in: 
cramped bathrooms and fancy train bathrooms. I’ve encountered it mostly in South East Asia.
What the?! (a.k.a. how to use):
A shower over the toilet is similar to regular western showers except that the shower head is directly over or very near to the toilet.  There is no separate area or bathtub so drainage is again probably just a hole in the ground.
Tips:

  • Water will go everywhere so put your towels, clothes and toiletries far away from your shower area.
  • Put the toilet seat cover down, there’s something gross and uncomfortable about sitting down on a wet toilet seat the next time you need to go.
  • Remove the toilet paper from the showering vicinity.  What’s worse than a wet toilet seat? Wet toilet paper.

Electric Hot Water Shower Heater
Found in: 
anywhere without a hot water tank.  This is one shower that doesn’t discriminate based on geography  – I’ve encountered these in India, Japan, Europe, Hong Kong and South Africa.
What the?! (a.k.a. how to use):
An electric hot water shower heater looks like an electrical fuse box mounted on the wall of the shower near the shower head with pipes coming in and out of it.  It normally has a switch, knob or dial (depending on how fancy the heater is) and/or indicator lights to show that the water is sufficiently heated. Simply flip on the switch/turn the knob or dial to your preferred temperature and wait until the electrical coils inside the panel heat up the water to a lukewarm or scaling hot temperature (for you hot water shower sadists).
Tips:

  • Planning and preparation is key here! Make sure you turn on the heater in advance of your shower or else the water may not be heated until you’re halfway through the “repeat” of lather, rinse, repeat.

Nature’s Shower
Found in: approximately 75% of the Earth’s surface in the form of oceans, lakes, seas, rivers, ponds, creeks etc.
What the?! (a.k.a. how to use): Jump in and enjoy! Don’t do one of those teeter by the edge gently splashing water on your body with your hand moves.  Most likely, you’ll either fall in or some jerk friend will push you in.  Then you’ll just get mad and ruin your showering experience.
Tips:

  • Make sure you’re aware of what’s around you and the local customs before you strip down to your birthday suit.  You don’t want to be perved-on or worse, offend anyone with your pasty body.
  • Try to not use any soap at all but if you must, use environmentally-friendly soap.  You’re already contaminating the water with your grime, the fish don’t need the sodium laureth sulfate, citric acid and methylchloroisothiazolinone also.

Baby/Travel/Make-up Wipes
Found in: your bag.  Baby wipes or travel wipes or make-up wipes (or cloths) can be purchased at grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores etc.
What the?! (a.k.a. how to use): Wipes can be used if there is no source of clean-ish water nearby.  This often occurs after long bus/train/plane rides or in remote locations.  A showipe (see how I did that? clever, right?) may seem gross but when you’ve been sitting in an 8-hour bus ride in front of a man holding a live chicken with the windows down on a dirt road in 35C, 95% humidity weather (yes, that actually happened in Kenya), a refreshing, slightly moist, cloth is your saviour! Usually, I can get away with using 2-3 wipes before I feel comfortably clean.  Note, you can’t possibly clean every spot on your dirty body with just wipes but all you need to target are the essentials – face, armpits, hands, neck, nether regions.
Tips: 

  • If you’re not allergic, use scented wipes which can mask BO and act as a nice perfume/cologne.
  • Save costs on buying bulk and keep things light in your day pack/bag by separating a few into ziplock bags to keep in your day pack.

So there it is! A starter’s guide to the wonderful world of showers.  Happy showering!

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