There's no actual age. You can't put a number on this stuff. There's no birthday you'll have that will signify it's time to retire your backpack and switch to being a regular old tourist.
You could be 20 when that happens. You might be 60. There are entire families out there who are still backpacking. There are old-age pensioners doing this stuff. And that's great.
But still, for most people there will come a time when you're just too old to be a backpacker. If you recognise any of the following signs, it might be happening to you.
The noise is bothering you
Backpacking is a noisy pastime. Hostels are often set next to noisy streets. The people you're sharing a room with will probably enjoy a late-night party, or they'll enjoy inexplicably rustling through plastic bags at 5 o'clock in the morning. There will always be someone making some sort of noise when you're backpacking, and when the frustrations of that noise start to outweigh the affordability of the bed, you're got yourself a problem.
People think you're joking when you try to book things
You announce you're going on the hostel pub crawl and everyone laughs and stares at you for a while and then suddenly realises you're serious. That's also a problem.
You realise your dorm buddies were born after you left high school
This does go against what I was saying about there being no age limit to backpacking, but still, it's a bit of a wake-up call when you're chatting to the people you're sharing a hostel with and you realise they weren't even born when Nirvana's "Nevermind" came out. And you were just listening to that on your iPod a few minutes ago.
You keep telling everyone to be careful
Be careful! Watch out out there! Make sure you take care of your stuff! That sounds dangerous! These are all caring, thoughtful sentiments to pass on to your fellow travellers as they head out for the day. Unfortunately though, they don't want to feel like they're travelling with their parents.
You're "over" talking to people
Backpacking done right is as much about meeting and getting to know fellow travellers as it is experiencing the place you happen to be in. If, however, you've got to the point where you've met all the people you want to meet, where you just want to be left alone to enjoy the world in peace, then you probably shouldn't be with the backpacking crowd.
Long bus rides sound like the worst thing in the world
No one loves a long bus ride. But there are varying degrees of dread. If you're fearing it like a stint in prison, if you're worried about your aching lower back, and the frequency of the toilet stops, and the fact it will take you a few days just to recover… Then don't do it. It's not worth it.
You're sweating the small stuff
An ability to roll with the punches is one of the most important weapons in any backpacker's arsenal. Things go wrong for everyone, but the stuff-ups seem to be especially frequent for those travellers who haven't paid a lot of money. Once those issues start to bother you, backpacking won't be fun anymore.
You're having more "off" days than "on"
It used to be that an AFD – an alcohol-free day – was a rarity. You'd schedule one in every now and then just to reassure yourself you weren't a borderline alcoholic. But then the hangovers started getting worse, and all the other drinkers started getting younger, and you suddenly realised you hadn't even been to a hostel bar in weeks.
You're obsessed with booking everything in advance
Ever started a spreadsheet to map out your travel plans? Ever booked every hostel and every transfer and even a few meals weeks before your trip? Ever become agitated when you realised your carefully made plans were going awry? Then maybe backpacking isn't your gig.
You keep talking about what this place was like last time you were here
No one wants to know that it used to be better last time you were here. No one wants to hear about that bar that used to be great. No one likes stories about how nice it used to be without all the tourists. You have to be happy with now.
You've become obsessed with doing laundry
There's a certain level of scunge you have to become used to to enjoy the backpacking experience. You have to be able to re-wear shirts a few times. You have to be comfortable with turning your underwear inside out and calling it clean. You have to wear jeans for months without washing them. Once these things become impossible, it's time to get out.
You just want a decent night's sleep. Every night.
Everyone wants a decent kip every now and then. But hostels are not conducive to that sort of experience. And if you find yourself wanting a decent kip every single night, then you're going to have to look outside of the standard backpacker accommodation.
There's no "creepy old guy" in your dorm room
It's a golden rule of hostels that there's always at least one creepy old guy in your dorm room. If there isn't one in yours… Ah, sorry.
Podcast - When are you too old to travel as a backpacker?
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What do you think are the signs that you're too old to be a backpacker?