Am I too old for this?

Dancing to cheesy pop and drinking free sangria on a Tuesday night? It's a young person's game ... isn't it?
Dancing to cheesy pop and drinking free sangria on a Tuesday night? It's a young person's game ... isn't it? Photo: Getty Images

Am I "too old for this s---"? The mere fact that I can quote the movie Lethal Weapon probably means that I am.

This was a while back, kids, back when Mel Gibson was cool. Geez, it was back when I was cool. Well, kind of.

Anyway, the most memorable quote from Lethal Weapon and its three successors was Danny Glover telling Gibson that he was "too old for this s---". And it's that phrase – in the form of a question – that I've had running through my head for the past month or so.

It's because I've become a student again. Not just a student, but a travelling, backpacking, partying, drinking student.

I've been doing a Spanish language course in Seville, and apparently only young people do Spanish language courses in Seville. I was the oldest person in my class, clearly – the second-oldest person was 25. The next oldest was 20. The rest of the students fell between the grand ages of 18 and 19.

Turns out I can still drink like an 18-year-old, I just can't recover like one.

Obviously I could have chosen to just go to my classes and then go back to my house and have nothing to do with the young 'uns. But that's not really my style.

So I've been hanging out in a dingy student flat in my spare time. I've been eating instant noodles. I've been drinking tallies of supermarket beer. I've been playing drinking games like flip cup and kings. (Actually, I've been instigating drinking games like flip-cup and kings.)

I like to think it's been a mutually beneficial relationship. The 18-year-olds have taught me about torrents and WhatsApp. I've taught them about risotto and how to get the cork out of a bottle of wine.

I've spent every Tuesday night at a cheesy nightclub drinking free sangria and dancing to crappy dance-pop tunes. I've spent every Wednesday morning tucked up in bed nursing a hangover when I should be at school studying Spanish. Turns out I can still drink like an 18-year-old, I just can't recover like one.

My Facebook photo feed has rapidly filled up with shots of drunken me in the middle of a dance floor somewhere, clutching glasses of sangria in each hand, surrounded by 18-year-olds, with playing cards stuck to my forehead (long story). It's not a good look.

Reactions from my proper, mature friends on Facebook have been split roughly 50-50 between envy and pity. Some wish they were still travelling around the world partying it up with people who could almost be their kids. Others think it's a bit sad that a bald guy in his 30s is still roaming foreign dance floors searching for his misplaced youth.

There have been times when I can see the latter group's point of view – a couple of moments when I thought that yes, I really am too old for this s---.

Once was at a house party when someone's iPhone, that was connected to the stereo, starting ringing. "Hey Raul," I yelled across the room. "Your phone's ringing."

He gave me a weird look. "This is part of the song, dude."

The other time was when I asked two of my teenage mates to open a bottle of wine for me. One couldn't even get the corkscrew into the cork. The other one didn't know how to use the lever to get it out.

Maybe, I thought, just maybe... I'm too old for this s---.

But those were just two moments of weakness. Looking back now, the dirty little secret about my time as a slightly less creepy version of a toolie in Seville is that I had a really, really good time. I made great friends; I had amazing experiences.

Fact is, I still like being a grungy backpacker. I don't mind hanging out with the kids. And hopefully, for the most part, they don't mind hanging out with me.

That's why it's OK to still be staying in hostels and sleeping in dorms (although I splash out on private rooms most often these days – I've got a job, after all). That's why it's OK to be out drinking free sangria on a Tuesday night. That's why it's OK to be aimlessly wandering around the world having fun.

Because the thing that seems to tie most backpackers together, regardless of their age, is the will to meet new people and have a good time. As long as you're still up for that, then you're not too old for this s--- at all.

Have you ever felt too old to be a backpacker? Or just too old to be doing a particular activity while travelling? Post a comment below and share your stories.

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