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Top Ten Ways You Know You Are No Longer a 20-Year-Old Backpacker

Jenni and I recently stayed at a backpacker’s hostel where all guests had to log in their name, cheap country, more about and age. We had a rude awakening when we scanned the list and realized that we were the oldest guests at the hostel. We’ve both backpacked extensively in our 20’s, and we’ve noticed some significant differences traveling in this decade. Here is our Top Ten list…

#10: You notice that people start to address you as “Madam”. Whatever happened to “Miss, do you want tuk tuk?” or “Sister, do you want to buy?” Now, I just get “Madam.” Of course, its a bit 50/50, because the other half of the time I get “Sir.” Sometimes, so as not to offend me, the vendors just call me both – “Sir, Madam, Sir, do you need taxi?”

#9: You have a wish list of prescription medications that you want to buy overseas. I’m sure this is cause for a strong reprimand from any medical professional reading this post, but the fact is that its cheaper to buy many medicines overseas, plus you can get medicines over-the-counter that would otherwise require a prescription in the States. Currently on our wish list: sleeping medicine and retinol.

#8: Your medical kit and toiletry bag could almost be considered an additional piece of luggage. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that our medical kit consists of five separate packs of pills, ointments and bandages. In my 20’s, I didn’t bother much with precautions like malaria medication or even sunblock (I can see the cringe on all of our dermatologist friends). But this time around, we are not being so careless. And as for our toiletry bags? Well, we just can’t well leave home without our anti-aging cremes and hair dye.

#7: You have to train for adventure sports. In Indonesia, we met a couple of young 20-something backpackers who raved about climbing the Mt. Merapi volcano. The hike would require us to climb through the middle of the night in order to summit at sunrise, but we figured if these two skinny girlie girls could do it, so could we. Well, we never made it to the top. The 12-hour grueling climb in the pitch black of night on no sleep through volcanic ash and high winds seriously kicked our asses. We could barely walk for at least three days.

#6: You start thinking about adoption. Everywhere in Cambodia, we encountered kids on the streets in bare feet and ragged clothes trying to sell us little trinkets or begging for money. Cambodia breaks our hearts with its widespread poverty and need. We visited an orphanage where Jenni had previously volunteered years ago, and we started (half seriously) talking about bringing a kid home. Maybe we’ll start with sponsoring a kid’s education…

#5: You consider relocating to Southeast Asia for the domestic help. Somehow in the past couple of years, I’ve developed some bourgeois habits. In my 20’s, I lived in Chile as a volunteer social worker, living on $50 a month. But since earning a real salary, I’ve begun outsourcing some of the domestic chores at home. In the Philippines, we got a taste of life where a cook, a maid, and a driver attended to our every need. I have to admit, its really pretty nice. Plus, you know, if we adopted that Cambodian kid, it would be nice to have a nanny…

#4: You realize that you cannot live without air conditioning and hot water. We’ve moved from the “budget” to the “mid-range” accommodation category in the Lonely Planet guide. The reality is, we’re just not able to rough-it quite like we used to. Six years ago as a volunteer worker in Asia, Jenni managed to get along fine sleeping on gymnasium floors with ten other girls and taking baths in a river. Now, we cannot imagine sleeping in a dorm room with other people, and we can’t even deal with cold water let alone no shower.

#3: Your ideal night out is a spa treatment instead of bar hopping. I admit it. I am a massage addict. Who cares about drinks and late-night socializing. Luckily, massages can be gotten on the cheap in Southeast Asia. I happily skip the $5 on beers and go to the spa instead.

#2: You easily sneak into luxury hotels without being noticed. Jenni and I recently had a breakdown after killing a gigantic cockroach in the smothering humid heat of our budget hotel in the Philippine island of Cebu. To regain our sanity, we took a cab into the five star Shangri-La Resort. While as foreigners we stick out in the streets, the Shangri-La resort turned out to be the one place we went unnoticed in Cebu. We spent the entire afternoon in their pool and beach facilities without paying a dime.

#1: You wonder if you should have ditched the backpack thing altogether Carrying these packs on your backs can be heavy! We left home with them weighing 12.5 kilograms each, and somehow they’ve grown a kilogram every two weeks. We find ourselves asking each other if we should have just brought a suitcase instead.

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5 Responses

  1. How true ALL of the above are! Like they used to say, “You’re all grown up now!” How charming. NOT! LOL! Yes, we get older, our bodies change and we have to adapt. Hang in there. You are truly doing exceptionally well. Hmmm . . . . that Cambodian adoption came up a few too many time . . . .



  2. Awesome list – we felt each of those things on our trip too. It’s crazy when you realize a) you’re not a backpacker, and b) you’re totally OK with that. 🙂

  3. my sister very well said. Make no kitsame he perhaps kill her physically but the man was standing at the wrong place and the wrong time because she’s more alive spiritually living breathing through all of us. Powerful woman like yourself make me believe “I can fly” ..Thank you for bringing peace to my soul.

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