6 Things I Hate About Backpacking – with or without Kids

We’re two hours into a six hour minibus journey in the mountains of Northern Laos, on our way to Nong Kiaow, and I’m trying to take my mind off the smell of vomit by listing all the things I hate about backpacking.   Evan, our slightly travel sick nine year old, has thrown up twice.  It’s thirty degrees outside and the air con doesn’t work.  But worst of all, the bus driver is a Celine Dion fan with an eye on becoming Laos’ first rally car champ. The scenery is probably amazing.  But it’s difficult to concentrate on scenery when you’re frantically rummaging in your backpack for another of the sick bags acquired from the last airline company you used.  Right now, bus journeys and travel sickness are both up there at the top of my ‘Worst things about backpacking’ list.


Travelling.  It’s not all ballooning and beer o’clock.

It’s on days like this that travelling just doesn’t feel that glamorous anymore.  I’m dreaming of being back at home, with the heating on, sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a chocolate hobnob.

Asian toilets are one of the worst things about travellingThe view of family travelling that we present to the internet is universally positive.  And that’s easy because backpacking with kids is simply the best way that you can possibly find to fill your time. The range of experiences and emotions you get to share together, and the things that kids can teach you if you let them is just remarkable.  I love it with all of my heart.

But some days, it’s hard, it’s exhausting and it just sucks.  So, in the spirit of a problem shared being a problem halved, here’s my list of the things I hate about backpacking, the things that have got right on my tits over the last six months:

1. Bus journeys

Let’s just be clear, local buses in Asia are awesome. You always have an adventure on a local bus. Tourist buses however really are the devil’s work. They’re slow, cramped, uncomfortable hell holes that should banned under the UN Convention on Human Rights.

We’re lucky that our kids love reading and listening to audio books because a whinging child would push me over the edge.  All tourist buses should be turned into razor blades (see point 3 below) and tourist bus drivers should be retrained as toilet attendants, as that would sort out my next issue.

Indian bus

A local bus in India – windows with glass are over-rated

Local bus in Kathmandu Nepal

Nepali buses are the best, especially if they come with a few goat passengers

2. Toilets

Why is considered acceptable in any society to “plumb” in a toilet and then never clean the bloody thing?

We’ve found examples where it really would have been better to get everyone to just take a dump by the side of the road, in a field or perhaps on the petrol station forecourt. A truly terrible shitter makes a great photo and always gets a big reaction on Facebook, but oh my goodness, the smells that come from them are enough to burn your eyebrows.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve grimmaced our way into a crapper getting the kids to chant the mantra “Don’t touch anything except yourself”,, soon followed by “Find a happy place… find a happy place…”.  Makes me want to puke!

Toilets in Asia

This one does’t look too bad, does it? Wait till your nostril hairs melt….


I must admit to being part of the problem here.  I don’t know if it’s taken a sudden turn for the worse, if I’ve only just noticed, or it’s some peculiar clustering going on in Northern Laos, but every single westerner here has a beard.  Even the unfortunate gingers are sporting massive amounts of tragic facial hair.

If you can’t chop a tree down, then you don’t qualify for a beard. Fact.

I’ll be getting rid of mine as soon as it’s served its comedy purposes, which will be soon after we meet up with our friends in Vietnam.

Nepal bus

I can’t chop down a tree. Guilty.

4. Free WiFi

If you find a hotel or restaurant offering free WiFi you can be pretty sure that the place is actually WiFi free.  We’ve wasted literally days trying to post stuff on this bloody website with download speeds that are measured in individual bytes per second.  On the upside, I’ve yet to come across a router that hasn’t used the default user ID and password combination. It’s a happy job of seconds to kick everyone else off the network.  Then, while they’re all wondering what happened, you can have five minutes of exclusive internet access.  Ho ho ho.

Wifi Free sign

Nuff said.

5. Wildlife

It’s all very well being critically endangered and awesome, but if you don’t come close enough, or stay still enough to have your picture taken, then you might as well already be extinct.  Everyone knows that if it isn’t on Facebook then it didn’t happen.  Stop being selfish you feckers and let me get a good picture.  We’re trying to educate our children and we’ve paid good money for those wildlife tours you know!

No tigers here!

“Tiger Safari” in Ranthambore, India. No bloody tigers though.

OK, so Number 5 may be a bit unreasonable but I’m tired and grumpy and now Floss is throwing up behind me.  If I run out of these sick bags, we’re all going to drown.

6. Going home

I think that the worst thing though is the thought that at some point in the next five months, the money will run out, and we’ll have to return home and get back on the gravy train. That first coffee, hobnob and sofa combo will taste incredibly sweet, but I reckon that within the week, I’ll be longing for another six hour bus journey in a tourist bus full of beards busting to have a pee in a petrol station lavvy too filthy for even the roaches to go near.

Love travelling, even on the hard days.

Nepal travel


2 Comments on “6 Things I Hate About Backpacking – with or without Kids

  1. Hob nobs? Is that really the best thing you can miss? Not Jaffa cakes?

  2. Don’t come home, all the bloody hipsters here have beards too, it really is no better.
    However, I sincerely hope my toilet is cleaner.

    I reckon you have a week’s grace before Keith has you out job hunting too…..

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