OK so I hit the 12 year mark last year of being away from my hometown (Bangor, Northern Ireland), and whilst I have had a few bases (such as Bournemouth, Bishkek, Hong Kong and Parramatta), I have been backpacking for most of it, and somehow this is my lifestyle now and I’m used to it. However, as backpackers we live in our own world sometimes and I’m aware of that. There is no routine in being a long term backpacker. You don’t own a flat or a car. Or even a wardrobe. Or a bed.
People that don’t go backpacking sometimes don’t understand our philosophies and reasonings. They think we’re crazy, sometimes even rude and ridiculously sometimes even thieves: I remember an ex girlfriend accused me of “stealing” bread and yoghurt from the breakfast table of a hotel I had paid for, just because I was taking it with me, to use as lunch. That made me cringe – I had even paid for her room – clearly that girl wasn’t a backpacker. She didn’t seem to see things from a backpacking perspective.
With all this in mind, here are my personal 20 Tell Tale Signs Youve Been Backpacking Too Long. I could have added a lot more, and maybe sometime I will do a sequel, these are 20 quick ones today.
1. Your wallet always contains 4 types of currencies, one of which is obviously US Dollars.
2. You avoid passport stamps as much as you can otherwise your passport is full and your backpacking days are over until you get a new passport (or you could travel on TWO passports like me).
3. Every week at least one mate will Facebook you to ask “where r u now?” They’ve all lost track of what country or city you are really in.
4. Your travel photos alone wont fit onto a 1TB hard drive. You’ve taken too many. You even take photos of food, bus journeys, match tickets, toilets and maps.
5. When you look back at photos of the last year you are wearing the same top in almost all of them. You don’t really care about fashion. It’s one of the most annoying aspects to modern society.
6. You can’t remember the last time you paid a bill. I was thinking about the last time I actually paid a regular bill or contract and it was 2008, when I signed a 12 month rent contract for a flat in Bournemouth. Never again – you really don’t want to get tied down as a backpacker. It’s not healthy on the wallet or the wanderings. We don’t pay bills – hostels charge us nightly 😉
7. You hate having to pay for Wi-Fi anywhere! I try to avoid ever paying for Wi Fi, you might have read my post on free internet or wifi tips before. I do a lot of my travel writing and e-mails offline too, to save time, then just copy and paste when I get online.
8. Random people e-mail you all the time asking if they can interview you for their travel site or blog. This does happen a lot to me these days, but in the early days of backpacking it never did. My first travel interview on another site was actually only in 2010, which appeared on No Place To Be. I did one recently too for the Curious Nomad.
9. You haven’t bought shower gel during the current decade. As long term backpackers the idea of wasting money and space in a backpack with a tub of shower gel makes us cringe. Considering we can fit a bar of soap in our pockets and it lasts for months! You might have read my soap v. shower gel debate before.
10. You know the best hostels to stay in in cities you’ve never even been to (i.e. You met others who stayed there or you read up about it). Incidentally I’m off to Dili in East Timor in a few weeks – any tips on hostels for me?
11. You always know the current exchange rates for the US dollar, British pound and Euro to the country you’re in.
12. You have seen your parents on Skype more than in real life. Sadly. I do aim to make it up to my family and friends at some point though. Sorry Mum, Dad and siblings – my recent travel dreams involve seeing you more often.
13. A bed without bed bugs is a luxury. Well not quite – but you are less likely to complain about it than other less travelled backpackers. You might ask for discount though 😉 You’ll also have your insect spray with you at all times!
14. You even find McDonalds is expensive but justify spending the money as it has free Wi-Fi and includes a drink with all meals.
15. You don’t care if you’re eating “local food” or not anymore – as you have had enough local food to last a lifetime. You also don’t mind eating “generic travel food” one bit and hate it when other travellers claim “you’re not really seeing the culture” just because you only eat bread and a plate of rice!
16. When someone asks you what the latest book you read was, you can’t remember if it was the Berlitz Guide to China or the Lonely Planet Iran (Travel Guide)
17. When you get FREE breakfast in a hotel or hostel, you double it up as lunch – you bring your tupperware box into the dining room and fill it up. I’ve no shame in doing this. My girlfriend and I love it! I’ve written on this type of thing before in my Tuesday’s Travel Essentials and Monday’s Money Saving Tips series.
18. You know both your passport numbers off by heart. You’ve filled them in so many times how could you forget them. It saves a hell of a lot of time at immigration.
19. You forgot which football team won the Rumbelows Cup last season. In fact you assumed it was still called the Rumbelows Cup. As you’re always on the move you only really follow your own teams scores! Watching football on the move.
20. You have no idea what the number one single in your home country is. These days I haven’t a clue. You mean it’s not the Beatles or Elvis? Madonna? Oasis have split up? OK I give up!
Safe travels one and all and don’t work too hard!