Backpackers and their food

BackpackerWhen you’re on holiday, or just away from home, do you seek out the “authentic” local food, or look for a reassuringly familar logo? Backpackers, keen to distinguish themselves from the vulgar hordes who are merely on holiday, seek out the authentic, at least to begin with. Dr Emily Falconer has been studying women backpackers. That’s her in the photo, doing a little field research over a bowl of something exotic in Thailand. And she says that while they start out seeking the grottiest places to eat, after they’ve been on the road for a while, their thoughts stray guiltily to familiar, comforting foods. I know the feeling

kunming-sausagesEmily Falconer didn’t set out to study backpackers and food, but soon discovered that no matter what the subject, the people she was talking to sooner or later brought up food. I’m no exception, and although I’ve never been a great backpacker myself, I do prefer to seek out reasonably local eating places where I can, and I’ve had some memorable meals as a result. The most memorable of those was in Kunming, China, where I detached myself from the group I was with and went in search of something to eat. I didn’t find it at the food fair that was on at the same time, but in the end I fetched up in a place so authentic it didn’t even have photographs of the food. I indicated to the waiter that I was hungry and he brought me food. I had no idea what any of it was, and aside from one soupy dish that was almost too hot even for me, it was all delicious. Next time I might take with me a book, this book.


  1. Emily Falconer is a senior research assistant at the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research at London South Bank University.
  2. Her paper is Transformations of the backpacking food tourist: Emotions and conflicts.
  3. She also mentioned Food in tourism: Attraction and Impediment, by Erik Cohen and Nir Avieli.
  4. Intro music, as ever, by Dan-O at
  5. While Jimmy Buffet – and how appropriate is that? – provided the outro music.

One comment

  1. Arwen

    Love this one. So recognize myself from my backpacking days. Definitely on the try-everything-new end of the spectrum and the snobby not-a-tourist part. I remember being in Shanghai and not knowing what to order so pointing at the table next to us who were eating with great gusto to order the same as them. Duck feet soup… bit gristly.

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