Reverse backpacker culture shock, damn they are dirty

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ December 10th, 2009. Published in: Travel blog » Philippines.
The streets of Puerto Princesa Palawan

The streets of Puerto Princesa Palawan

I was staying at a pension who’s nosy owner was getting to me. My gut confirmed this to me one night when a young local man lurked around my flimsy room’s door while I showered in the shared bathroom. Not only that but the  fairly dire pension house smelled a little like the cross between a  genetically altered stale sock and a pre bird evacuated chicken coup.

When I walked into the new backpackers place I was really happy … for a short lived period. Namely, as far as the reception door.  They had a remove your shoes policy. If anyone has read my Tibet and India journals you’ll know how much I hate shoe removal.

I have boots, I have socks. If I remove boots and / or socks, the socks and inside of the boot get filthy from everyone’s dirt. Usually young backpackers dirt as they seem to have a problem with keeping clean. In a home carpets and wood floors are usually clean. In a hostel, it’s rarely the same. Too much human traffic.

In the Philippines this is the first time I’ve come across this at a hostel/guest house.  In India, Nepal and Tibet it was only in the Temples.  And even then I have suffered a loss of sock because of it due to dirt from others. (it’s not easy to find good quality socks in Asia.)

It’s a hostel / guesthouse, not a home nor holy place. Let me wear my shoes.

The second thing I noticed were the strung out hippies. My second annoyance. One half, chilled out on couches reading war and peace novels with dirty feet against the wall and a strange odor hovering around their personal space. The other half, pimple faced fresh on the trail geek’s with LP guidebooks at the ready.

Maybe my time in El Nido had ruined my ability to social integrate with other travelers let alone locals?!

Maybe I’ve become some sort of desert island hermit! … or, maybe I am seeing things with fresh eyes again …

This was all confirmed when one of said occupants started a conversation about what I was planning to do in the capital. I mentioned the stilt houses – he sounded interested. I mentioned where they were (around the corner) He frowned and reconfirmed.

“The slums?”

“Well …  the houses around the corner.” I shrugged.

“But there’s nothing to see there? And they look really shi … ”

“Have you been there?”

His eyes widened.

I left.

Coming soon:

The Butterfly effect

Liked this post?

Never miss a post!

Enter your email address:


6 Great responses to Reverse backpacker culture shock, damn they are dirty

  1. Hmm…I’m interested to see where it goes from here. I too experienced similar kinds of shock after living remotely for a while…and found that I could decide how best to adjust – in some cases my fresh perspective changed the way I think long-term; in other cases, the initial shock wore off and I just reintegrated (sometimes slowly though).

    • -Nora- Strange thing is … I’m also curious to see how I am going to react to being around more travelers again. At least the more touristy crowd, if that makes sense! I had a similar thing after Africa, but jumped straight into the overland trip. Now I’ve learned to slow things down a lot, so no doubt will come across more. At the moment though, I’ve moved out of that place :)

  2. Renny says:

    I’ve seen the scruffy backpackers too. Most I think are okay. But there’s a really young group that really stink. I think this group is from Europe and the UK mainly.

    • -Renny- I’ve seen, or rather smelled, backpackers from every corner of the world. I wouldn’t narrow it down so much. Teen’s generally seem not to notice their own body odor regardless of nationality!

  3. keira says:

    Don’t knock natural odour, though; at a hostel in Scotland one young lad used up nearly an entire bottle of deodorant spray in one go. I was choking on the fumes for a good ten minutes afterwards!

    Dave, I know what you mean about the socks thing. I still feel dirty from the Rat Temple . . .

    • -keira- Ha ha, that made me laugh. Yes, I thing the young lad was having what’s called an Italian shower!

      Wow, you did the Rat Temple. I’d still be rubbing Tea Tree oil on my feet after something like that :)