19 signs you’ve been travelling too long

May 23, 2018

Think back to your first big adventure. When you got off the plane and hit the customs line in a cold sweat, did you notice some other backpacker gliding past like they owned the place? Their pack seemed lighter, their clothes better suited to the climate and they filled out their visa application before you’d even found a pen. Nowadays you’re the veteran helping rookies find their first hostel, and your passport is stamped full of memories. But you know that saying about “catching the travel bug?” Sometimes that bug turns into a full-blown fever, and the only cure is bedrest—back home. Check these 19 vital signs to see if your travel bug has gone sour.

1. When strangers approach, you automatically say “no thank you”

Taxi? No thank you. Hotel? Non merci. Sunglasses, you buy? Mai ao kha. Guided tour of the cathedral? No grazie. Greetings, I bought a ticket to an all-you-can-eat buffet and cultural performance but can no longer attend, would you like to go in my place, for free? No thank—wait. Can I take that back?

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2. You think you’ve actually been to Australia because of all the Aussies you’ve met

First there was that hottie you pashed outside the hostel. Then those three mates taught you the difference between a flat white and a long black. Soon you’re calling hicks bogans just because it sounds better, and can rattle off your three favourite cafes in Cairns. Never mind that you’ve never been to Australia, that you pronounce it “Caynes” and that you can’t find it on a map. The old you would’ve worried at these hallucinations, but the new you has a new mantra: She’ll be ’right.

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3. When a double feels small because you’re used to drinking alcohol out of a beach bucket

Maybe you’ve gotten used to drinking your beer out of glass boots. Maybe wine is so cheap you’ve been downing it by the bottle/box/bag. Every region has its signature drink, but if you ever get used to the idea of drinking three-litre mojitos out of plastic beach buckets—or worse, stealing sips off strangers because every bucket comes with ten straws—maybe it’s time to reassess.

4. Mondays feel like days off because all the museums are closed

Your friends at home will never understand, but we know it’s true—travelling is hard work. It’s a full-time job. That’s why it can feel like such a treat on those rare days when there’s nothing to do. If all the museums are closed and your train’s already booked for Wednesday, maybe Monday you can actually sleep in and catch up on correspondence. An added perk of discovering all the museums are closed? You’ll actually know what day it is for once.

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5. You don’t care how bad you smell, you only change your outfit to freshen up your Instagram feed

You never see the same people twice, so it doesn’t matter if you wear the same shirt six days straight. You don’t even care if the locals nickname you “Stinky” on the night bus—you’ll never see them again. But there’s a fatal flaw in your diabolical plan to save on laundry: social media. If your friends back home see you posing in that red t-shirt one more time, they might start to worry. Maybe if you cover your shoulders with a sarong, they won’t notice?

6. You can unlock a credit card, an email or a social media account in two minutes or less

It seems like every second time you try to use your credit card the company freezes your account due to “unusual activity.” No sweat. Not only is the card’s phone number at the top of your recent calls list, you can navigate their touch-tone menus without listening to the options. You rotate two different email addresses so when one locks down because “you’ve logged in from a strange location,” you can use the other to verify your account. Facebook is easy—when your account is suspended you just identify a few friends based on their profile pictures. You’ve even memorized the obscure avatars of all your recent travel buds. You got this.

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7. You fantasize about crisp, clean salad

Fears of Hepatitis A keep travellers away from fresh fruits and vegetables in many countries. If you aren’t positive those veggies have been safely peeled or washed in clean water, you can’t trust the salad. But even in countries with state-of-the-art sanitation, a good salad is hard to come by. If you’re spending money at a restaurant you want to be full. If you’re cooking for yourself you need the leftovers to fit in your bag. Lettuce and tomatoes don’t travel as well as ramen and peanut butter (nor do they taste as good together). Most people drool over burgers and ice cream, but you are not most people. Not anymore.

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8. You run into the one-night-stand who was exploring the country in the opposite direction

They were going north and you were going south. You met, you connected, you thought you’d never see each other again. How romantic. Since then you’ve happily toured six cities solo, but now you’re stuck in the capital, waiting for some bureaucrats to process your visa. It could take weeks, which is exactly enough time for your past to catch up to you. So you see them sipping coffee on a main street patio. Do you go say hi, or run the other way? First you’ve got to remember if you’re wearing the same outfit as that fateful night. Check Instagram.

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9. You bring plastic bags to breakfast to pocket snacks for lunch

Whether it’s free breakfast at the hostel or a table-for-two at the café down the street, you come to your morning meal prepared. Some might say a little too prepared. We get it—there’s no time for lunch when you’re cramming your days with adventure, but have a little tact. Slipping a second croissant into your bag isn’t too alarming, and no one will care if you take a hard-boiled egg for the road, but buddy, if you’re scooping fruit salad into a Ziploc with yogurt on top and sprinkling on granola you snagged from the just-vacated table next to you? Slow down.

10. You miss vacuuming

There aren’t many homebodies who enjoy household chores, but when you’ve been on the road for too long, eating at restaurants and sleeping at hostels, chores can seem almost meditative. Walking the garbage out to the curb is like stepping out of yourself, just for a moment. Scrubbing a bathtub is like wiping the slate clean. Vacuuming a carpet is like raking a Zen rock garden. You’ve been travelling so long the mundane has become novel.

11. Wearing pants feels like dressing up

And we don’t mean Thai fisherman pants. The shabby chic of backpackers never seems to go out of style, and it’s easy to get used to flowing cotton or board shorts, accessorized with a pile of anklets of course. Remember all the product you used to put in your hair? Remember sacrificing comfort for a stylish pair of shoes? Remember shaving? Remember pants… with buttons? It all still exists.

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12. Five star means hooks to dry laundry, not AC or hot water

It’s funny how priorities shift. You can still remember the shock of your first cold shower, but these days it doesn’t faze you. Air conditioning now seems as luxurious as a diamond-studded watch. Even windows are unnecessary, since they raise the room price and make it harder to go to bed at 5 a.m. All that really matters now is having a solid lock on the door and somewhere to hang your hand-washed undies. Hooks, nails, bedposts or lampshades—you’re not picky. As long as you don’t have to stuff damp laundry in your bag come morning, you’re leaving a glowing review on TripAdvisor.

13. You expect to be treated like a celebrity

In rural Kenya a man asked to shake your hand because he’d never touched porcelain skin. At the Taj Mahal the Indian tourists wanted selfies with your afro—not the Taj. Locals assume you’re rich, and technically, you do have thousands in their currency, so it’s starting to go to your head. You carry chocolate and pens so admirers have a souvenir to remember you by, and you’ve gotten used to signing autographs. This is not normal.

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14. You know your dorm-mate’s travel history, dream job and most embarrassing vomit story, but not their first name

Travellers have a way of shooting past superficial small-talk and cutting straight to the heart. Maybe you allow yourself to be vulnerable because you know you’ll never see these people again. Maybe it’s the vivid worlds you’re exploring, which open your mind to new possibilities. Maybe you just found your soulmate. Before you know it, three hours (or three days) have gone by and you still don’t even know each other’s names. You might get by naming people by their nationalities, but you better circle back to those baseline pleasantries before you run out of countries. Hey Korea, hey Brazil, you wanna get some breakfast?

15. You can work wonders with instant noodles

It’s great to have a hostel kitchen, but when you’re moving twice a week it’s hard to amass the necessary ingredients for a proper meal. That’s why you wind up eating instant noodles twice a day. Not that every meal is exactly the same. Dinner with you is like a trip to the apothecary: you lay out a horde of tiny vials filled with mystery spices and sauces and dress those noodles a thousand different ways. And somehow every single time it tastes amazing...ish.

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16. Your hostel check-in is more aggressive than border security

Dawn is barely breaking and the night clerk at the hostel just wants to hand you a key and pass out. But you’re wired from an overnight bus trip and have just a few questions. Where’s the closest grocery store? What time is free breakfast? Wifi password? Vegan restaurant? Laundry? How much? Detergent?  ATM? They try to slow your roll by asking for your passport number, but please, you’ve had that baby memorized for months.

17. Locals tail you to cross streets

Remember the first time you tried to cross a busy street in a foreign land? After ten minutes of looking left, right, right, left, right, left, left, you were probably still waiting for a break in the scooters, mini-busses and donkey carts. An experienced traveller learns to duck into the wake of an old lady with a cane, because traffic seems to give her a wide berth. But when you’ve grown so confident (or gone so crazy?) that locals use you as a shield? Friend, you’ve been travelling a loooong time.

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18. You think you’re a turtle

Turtles carry their homes on their backs. So do you. But if you’re so attached to your backpack that you’re starting to feel naked without it, or if you’ve ever had a moment of panic when you thought your backpack had gone missing, only to realize all 25 lbs of it was actually affixed to your person? Maybe it’s time you took a break. You’re not a turtle, friend. Be free.

19. That toilet was gross, but you’ve seen grosser

Your bus-mate returns to her seat with a warning: the toilet is disgusting. You thank her for the tip and pass her your pocket-sized hand sanitizer, but you’re not scared. Oh, the toilets you’ve seen. High on mountains and deep behind bus stations, dirt floors, wet floors, questionably sticky floors, alongside all sorts of scary critters. Squat over a hole? No problem. Squat over a hole on a moving train? Cherished memories.

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