Posted March 4, 2013 by Steve McDonald in Backpackology 101

Club Rat: A Penny-Pincher’s Deplorable Guide to Partying Big While Spending Little

I once read in the book of life that if you sleuce enough alcohol at a problem, it will go away. I’ve recently tested this theory with trials because I am a strong advocate of the scientific method, and also an alcoholic.

By midnight, walking down Itaewon’s main strip was already becoming a game of extreme puke hopscotch. This was Seoul’s pleasure district for foreigners, a hilly, nocturnal tangle of lanes that flashed and pulsed with neon, K-Pop, and sin. I ducked into a shop labeled ‘Foreign Exotic Foods’ and made my way past the shelves of peanut butter and Kraft Mac & Cheese to a rattling, old beer fridge.

Three days had passed since the robbery—three days of playing sad charades at the police station, threatening my insurance company with jihad, and staring vacantly at the floor. I needed a diversion. I knew if I spent one more night at home sulking in the fetal position, I would probably throw myself into the Han River, or see how many metal chopsticks I can jam into my eyes.

The mugger had stolen my debit card and my anorexic emergency funds weren’t conducive to hedonism. But still, I had $8—which is more than enough for a wild night out…

At least with the help of a few tradecraft tricks.

For this week’s tidbit of Backpackology, let it be known that when it comes to saving money and drinking heavily, you can have your rum cake and eat it too. With a few simple tips, even those on the tightest of budgets can find sweet, sweet respite in the sloppy embrace of booze.

Power to the Pre-game. The most crucial (and obvious) step to saving money on nightlife is to thoroughly pre-game. Before you set a foot out the door, you need to drink like Ernest Hemingway in a plunge tank of whiskey.

If you’re drinking with friends who don’t care to pre-game, fear not—simply stop at a liquor store en route to the bar and scope out something cheap and lethal.

In the beer fridge of ‘Foreign Exotic Foods,’ I spotted a bottle of soju calling my name—Korean rice wine, strong enough to gas a small car; a cheap escape from the sadness of the world. I also scooped up a liter of soda to soften its blow—plus the bottle will come in handy later.

If the country you’re in allows public drinking, then swig away as you walk to the bar. If there are laws prohibiting that, ask for a paper bag and then guzzle it down in a dark alleyway near to the bar. Don’t drink all of it though! When your soda gets to about half empty, top up the bottle with your cheap liquor. You’re now ready for…

The Designated Driver Tactic. When you’re irresponsibly wasted and walking begins to prove an issue, you’re finally ready to go out in public. Stumble past the venues with cover charges and avoid the main tourist drags (local bars are usually cheaper). While your friends order their drinks, put on your most convincing sober face. Wipe the drool off your chin, inform the bartender that you’re the designated driver tonight, and that you’d like a tall glass of ice water.

Do you really need to be the designated driver? No. This is just part of “The Designated Driver Tactic,” a tried and proven method of drinking for ‘free,’ while embarrassing yourself and everyone else associated with you.

First, take that tall glass of ice water and chug it. Now make your way to a bathroom stall. This is where your smuggled soda bottle comes in handy—you’re going to pour your mixed drink into the glass of ice, et voila! You now have an official looking cocktail and you’re ready to mingle.

Whenever you finish your glass, order another ice water, hit the bathroom again, lather, rinse, and repeat. Eventually you’ll finish your bottle. If you’re not already vomiting and still possess basic hand-eye coordination, it’s time to bite the bullet and move on to step three…

The Mysterious Art of Drinking Wounded Soldiers.  If you’re drunk enough at this point, try hunting around for wounded soldiers—unfinished drinks that have been left unattended. Nearly full drinks are optimal, but you’re in no position to be picky at this point, Shameface McStumblepants. If you’re worried about the health risk, let me assure you that oral herpes aren’t nearly as bad as people say. I am a scientist.

Have I mentioned that this website is for entertainment purposes only? Because it’s not. It’s a hard place of learning and I am your knowing sensei. If you’re still not convinced, maybe you need to…


Reassess your priorities. How important is dignity to you? Would you rather spend the night all alone at home? It’s cheaper to eat ice cream in bed. Crying is free. If that’s not your idea of good nightlife though, it’s time to take yourself down a few notches, Sir Galahad, until your self-worth is as depleted as your savings account. Try to think like a hobo. If that doesn’t work, maybe you should just…


Tell everyone that it’s your birthday. I once had a friend who wore a birthday hat to a bar. It wasn’t really his birthday—he just found the hat on a subway and thought it was funny. To our surprise, he was lavished with free drinks the whole night. He ended up getting over-served, passing out, and smacking his head against the bar on his way to the floor, but I think an important lesson was learned. When heavy drinking and birthdays collide, drunk homeboys turn into slurring philanthropists. Everybody wins.

If you find this morally challenging, then you can always resort to the classic method…


Hitting on the Bartender. Sure, he or she may be a little old for your taste and psoriasis might not be one of your turn-ons, but your blood alcohol content is only .19 at the moment and you’re looking to set a high score. It’s time to hit on the wise and noble Keepers-Of-The-Liquor. This only works if the bartender isn’t busy.

Make some small talk. Compliment her quirky lazy-eye. If you can lay on the charm thick enough, there might be a free shot in your future. Or perhaps a slap in the face.

For more useful tips and tricks on the shameless, denigrate pastime of budget travel, click on the “Backpackology 101” tab at the top of the page, or just look elsewhere, because clearly I have no idea what I’m talking about.


I just want to take a minute to say that I have the best friends, followers, and family in the world. You guys are the best! I am so shocked, humbled, and moved by the amount of generosity and kindness everyone has showed that I am completely and utterly speechless. You guys helped me reach my Kickstarter goal in only two days–and the donations just keep coming. So I’m putting up some new stretch goals and rewards for those who still want to help my project. Find out more on Backpackology’s Kickstarter Page.

Once again, thank you all so, so much! I love you madly.

Now it’s time for me to work my ass off and make your contributions worth your while. Adventure ho.


Sorry for not writing over the last two months. To hear my chaotic excuse, check out the story, “A Dream Deferred: The End of Backpackology?

Or if you’re tired of my panhandling and just want to read some more silly shit, check out the budget travel series, “The Top 10 Free Vacations.”

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Steve McDonald

Writer and photographer. Adventurer and didactic prick. Guru of globetrotting, sensei of savings. PhD in ADHD. Staunch opponent of the mundane. Avid fan of sunrises, playing with fire, and pretending to know what I’m talking about. Casual existentialist. Bus stop gypsy. Dirty jeans, plastic sunglasses, whimsical death wish. Rudyard Kipling on mushrooms. Smells of goat.