13 surefire signs you’ve been travelling for a really, really long time

February 06, 2024

You’re a traveller at heart. If your next trip hasn’t been booked, you’re at least sure of where you’d like to go. You’ve made miracles happen in order to afford either the financial cost of a trip or the time needed to explore. You’re the kind of person who has coffee table books of the places you dream about and friends invite you to visit them or travel together. Backpacking and boarding planes are your passions, of course. But there are some things that separate the travel inclined from the diehard, travel-at-all-costs, sleep-at-the-gate nomad.

You know who you are. You might have a map with pins in it and you definitely have a travel-related tattoo (or several). Still unsure? Below, 13 surefire signs that you’ve been travelling for a very, very long time or have mastered the art of backpacking your way around the world.

1. You eat questionable street food

Street eats in unmarked containers warmed by the sun’s rays don’t phase you. Mystery sauces are your way of bonding with the world. You figure it’s none of your business to know when said food was made or how long it has been sitting out. “My immune system’s got this,” you say, as you spoon lukewarm seafood into your gullet.

2. You cheers with cheap beer

Look, artisanal beers (especially Canadian made) are a beautiful thing but when you’re on the road, it’s all about the national brew. Hey, almost every country has their good ol’ cheap(ish) national beers sold in every corner store—you’ve knocked back Singha in Thailand, Imperial in Costa Rica, VB in Australia, the classic Molson Canadian in Canada, and many, many other watered-down and (moderately) cold ones across this planet. When saving a buck, you’ve been known to stock up on the lowest forms of beer and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beer bottle

3. You’d sleep on a bus more than once on any given week

You’ve been known to conk out on a night bus without difficulty. The sound of traffic is your lullaby and you’re oblivious to other travellers' motion sickness and you sleep soundly through the journey. Be honest: Have you even bought night bus tickets to save on accommodation? Congratulations, you’re next-level nomad status.

4. You’ve made meals out of other backpackers' leftovers...

You've hit peak backpacker status when you've made meals out of other travellers' abandoned goodies. It's like a rite of passage, a testament to your resourcefulness, and let's be real, a little bit of a survival game too. No shame. You’ve seen the world and you’ve paid your dues. The world is your oyster when other travellers’ hand-me-down foods power your day. You know you’d eat the last of a new travel friend’s stir fry… all they have to do is offer.

5. And you can invent (questionable) recipes based on what you have

Dining out and sampling a region’s cuisine is undeniably one of the best ways to connect with a local culture. Throwing together any (and all) leftover ingredients that you have remaining in your cubby is your best way to connect with your financial reality. As far as you’re concerned, tuna, applesauce, and Cheerios are a meal if you say it is. Beans can be a topping on pasta and instant noodles mixed with peanut butter isn’t *that* far from a pad thai, is it?


6. You often forget what day it is

Is it Tuesday? Friday? Or Sunday morning? You have no idea and it doesn’t matter to you because as far as you’re concerned, they’re all the same. This is the life! You’ll face getting a real job later…

7. Sometimes you even forget where you are

It has happened on more than one occasion. After several days of flights and bus rides, you totally forget where you are. You wake up groggy and still adjusting to the time change and believe you’re in Lima when you are in fact just outside of Cusco. Classic backpacker. Time for coffee.

Robin williams

8. You forget what it’s like to cook without an audience

From easy peasy ramen noodles to your grandma’s bolognese recipe, you’ve prepared every morsel you’ve eaten in the past two-and-a-half months in a hostel kitchen. You forget what it’s like to cook not in a shared space and you haven’t even managed to slap together a PB&J without a few pairs of eyes on you as you maneuver around hungry backpackers doing the same.

9. You have a bunk bed preference…

The top bunk is the way to go because it’s closer to the ceiling fan, you won’t be woken up by your bunkmate climbing the ladder in the middle of the night, and you won’t risk a concussion by slamming your head against the top bunk when you wake up disoriented at 3 a.m. You’ve weighed the options and you know what you want.

10. And you’re able to fall asleep anywhere

After years of exploration and putting travel first, you’ve taught yourself to get a good night’s sleep no matter the environment. You can sleep on a bumpy bus ride, turbulent plane, bunk bed, tent, airport gate, van, or stranger’s floor.

Sleep luggagee

11. Classic backpacker talk brings on fatigue

Where are you from? Where have you been? How long are you travelling? Where are you going? These questions are the obvious ways to break the ice in a hostel common space but after so much time bouncing around the globe, you’re a little weary from the typical backpacker conversation starters. You crave connection but not the repetitive chit-chat.

12. You forgot what it’s like to use drawers or a real closet

Because crumpled t-shirts and athleticwear are your life now.

13. You’re a pro at washing underwear and t-shirts in the sink

If the bathroom sinks along your journey have become your laundry room, you’re a true backpacker. You’ve gotten used to washing underwear and t-shirts in the sinks and hanging them out to air dry. You’ve smell-tested your way around the world but if you want a word of advice, it might be time to haul your stinky butt to the laundromat.

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