To the Friend Who Travels Differently


Dear friend,

The other night, you asked me how I travel more than you do and longer than you usually do. You always seem to ask me this same question and to be honest, it’s slowly creeping into my nerves every time you do. So now, I would like to answer this question once and for all.

Here’s why:

While you made your reservations on a 4 or 5-star hotel, I was walking up and down some dark, sketchy alleys for hours looking for a 3-dollar-a-night dorm;

While you checked in and went straight to bed from your red-eye flight, I waited outside a guesthouse fresh from a night bus at 3 in the morning in the company of mosquitoes because the guesthouse doesn’t open till 8;

and while you had the convenience of airport transfers, I had to walk 30 minutes to the nearest bus station and wait for another hour for the bus just to save $2 in transportation expenses;

and while you were enjoying the your breakfast of pancakes, bacon and omelettes, I was eating the bean buns that came free with the night bus;

and while you had a relaxing bubble bath at the tub in your suite, I was having a quick shower with a pail of water I personally fetched from the public well;

and while you were sipping your cocktails by the pool enjoying the view of other tourists trying to get their selfies right, I was having local rum by the roadside with some locals who speak five words of English;

and while you were sitting comfortably in your tour bus, I was trying to figure out where my stop is in a 30-seater minibus with 100 other passengers;

and while you were dining at that famous restaurant you read on the guidebook, I was at a stall down the street eating my 1-dollar noodle so I can still have that Banana-Nutella roti dessert after dinner;

and while you were tucked in your thick comforter at an 18-degree airconditioned room, I was sleeping shirtless beside a mosquito coil and an open window.

while you were busy choosing OOTD for your photo op at the train station ticket machine, I was wearing the same pants I wore for the past 5 days and a shirt that I had worn in another city 3 days ago because no one will even notice(hopefully);

while you and 24 other tourists were following the neon-colored flag your guide is constantly holding up, I was lost in some other temple with 2 other lost travellers;

while you were having a dose of the fastfood that you sorely missed after 3 days and 2 nights away from our country, I was eating in knee-high tables trying to figure out what kind of meat was in my food;

while you have every detail of your trip figured out long before you even boarded the plane, I decided to take another night bus to the much cheaper countryside because staying one night more in that famous city just costs a little too much;

while you spent every penny you had left from the trip to buy souvenirs at the airport shop, I kept my spare cash just in case I get a chance to come back to that beautiful country. But you weren’t thinking about that, right? Because the dozens of photos you took in each of the attractions listed in the guidebook is enough reason for you not to come back;

and lastly, while you were dropping all 3 of your luggages at the counter, I checked in at the kiosk and walked straight to the boarding gate hoping they wouldn’t “intercept” my 10-kilogram backpack which is 3kgs over the limit.


I know we travel differently but please cut me some slack and stop asking me the same question over and over again because obviously, you never believed me from the start. 

Now let’s draw the line…I saw your eyes light up when another friend uttered the words “all in” and “package” in the same sentence. You just enjoy your package tours the way you want it while I continue to give up my comfort and luxury for simple pleasures that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

One more thing, please do me a favor and stop insisting that I’m some filthy rich brat because we both know that you make more money than I do. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but the only riches I have is the wonderful souls I have met along the way who share the same hardships I did, the same wonderful souls that became my lifelong friends – the real treasures of my journey. And no, we are not bound by some fancy bracelet that would remind us of that place. Instead, we are bound by the experiences we share and that’s something we will still be laughing about, 20, 30 or even 50 years from now. I know I sound like a condescending a**hole but trust me, It’s not about having more in order to do more, it’s all about being able to do with less and still enjoy it.

Do let me know once you figure that one out.



Your friend and his backpack


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  1. Kat says:

    I guess this is a scenario backpackers can easily relate to. I get the same questions, usually from friends who, funnily, are earning more than me and have more office leaves to spare. For me it’s just a matter of prioritization. You choose where and how you spend your money, and that makes all the difference.

    • Nurse-issistic Traveller says:

      That’s right! The thing is, they’d ask how much we spent on a trip but would never believe it. Even the $20 a day southeast asia budget would still get an “impossible!” reaction.

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