10 small things that make a backpacker’s day

November 18, 2018

When you’re backpacking around the world, you’re bound to meet at least one person carrying the talisman of Saint Christopher, patron saint of travel. Maybe you’re wearing one yourself. The dime-sized medallion is meant to keep travellers safe and is sometimes gifted by a worried loved-one back home. No word yet on whether Saint Chris has any real powers, but there are definitely times when you’re alone on the road and it feels like someone’s got your back. It’s not just for big things like avoiding a car accident or escaping a mugging, but the little things non-travellers don’t even notice. Here’s a list of game-changers that can make all the difference in a backpacker’s day.

1. You get a seat near a power outlet

The airport lounge is packed, and it looks like you’ll be pulling up a corner of carpet while you wait for your flight. Then, as if shocked from above, a man vacates his seat—right next to an electrical outlet. You sit down, plug in and re-charge, wondering all the while if Saint Christopher threw a lightning bolt to launch that guy out of his chair.

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2. You find your book’s sequel at the hostel "free" library

Why did that German girl get you hooked on the Twilight series? You’ve been milking the last chapter for three days, but you can’t hold out much longer. It’s hard enough to find a decent selection of books in a language you understand. But if your next hostel has the Twilight sequel on the shelf, you’ll know for sure Saint Christopher put it there.

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3. You encounter snack angels

Travel takes energy, and fuel seems to disappear when you’re desperate. Maybe Saint Christopher can send one of these angels? You’re belted in for the long drive on a Kenyan safari when a teenager climbs on the bus tire selling corn through the window. Or perhaps, you’re fighting exhaustion on an Indian train when a man with a thermos slides down the aisle singing “Chai, chai.” Or it could be that you’re sailing on a junk boat in the middle of Ha Long Bay, convinced no angel can reach this corner of Vietnam, when a lady rows up in a boat filled with salty snacks—nothing short of a Saint Chris miracle.

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4. You get an extra blanket

If you’re travelling on a budget, you’re likely avoiding high season, which means you’re missing the best weather. But even with chilly nights, there’s no way you’re hauling a wool blanket along the Camino de Santiago. Sure, you can survive by sleeping in all the clothes from your backpack, but three T-shirts and a pair of jeans aren’t nearly as effective as an extra blanket snagged from the top bunk. It was left there by Saint Christopher, of course.

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5. You’re gifted a gently-used day pass

While in line for a transit pass, the person in front of you is paying in pennies, scraped from the bottom of her bag. It’s taking forever. If only you’d beat her to the kiosk, you wouldn’t have waited at all. But then a sweet stranger, who paid for a day pass but is quitting early, appears out of nowhere. Little Miss Pennies has just put in her final coin, meaning you get first dibs. Maybe it was Saint Christopher who made you wait.

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6. You score wifi and it’s free

Temporary Sim cards are increasingly common, and wifi is pretty much expected at even the most basic hostels, but a true cheapskate will still check for a signal any chance they get. Maybe the museum has an unencrypted system, and you can send a few messages from the comfy chairs in the lobby. Perhaps you hit a mall with unlimited bandwidth, and you can post a quick status to let the world know you’re alive. Yes, you’ll still do the bulk of your communicating in ultra-focused chunks, but a sprinkling of internet connectivity when you least expect it can be the hug from afar that gets you through the day.

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7. You get a double seat

Everyone else on this flight has their elbows tucked in for a miserable ride, but you arrive at your row to find two free seats side by side—time to put your feet up. This 14-hour haul just turned into a five-star spa, complete with room service. It must be because Saint Christopher knows you can’t afford first class.

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8. You’re gifted free food

One day, a wealthy retired couple pays for lunch because your crazy stories are more entertaining than their tour group. Another day, you stumble on some picnicking locals and they offer you mysterious regional delicacies. Then, there’s the day a drunk guy abandons his plate without finishing his fries. Maybe it was Saint Christopher who distracted him?

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9. Your train is delayed until you catch it

You might think you want trains to run on time, but what you really need is for trains to run on your schedule. On the morning your bag rips, your sandal breaks, your passport plays hide-and-seek and 100 old ladies clog the sidewalk, you’ll actually be begging Saint Christopher to make the train as late as you.

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10. You snag a roll of TP

Yes, sometimes it’s that simple. World travellers know that toilet paper is a luxury, and though we do our best to come prepared, everyone runs out eventually. If the stall’s blessed with some three-ply when you’re on the brink of a Delhi-Belly breakdown, you can only assume the roll had saintly beginnings.

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