Things every traveller should have: 12 signs that say you're a real traveller

If you're a footy player, a badge of honour might be a broken bone, or a medical certificate for concussion. If you're a tradie it's dirt under the fingernails. If you're a guitarist it's calloused fingers. If you're an accountant it's … Actually I have no idea about accountants.

If you're a traveller, however, a dedicated wanderer of the world, then you have your own badges of honour. These are the items and traits that proclaim to everyone else that you've been around and you've seen the sights.

A "Thailand tattoo"

This isn't a proper tattoo, although there are a few people who come back from Southeast Asia with one of the traditional bamboo tattoos that look like they'd be extremely painful. A true "Thailand tattoo", however, is a burn mark on your lower leg that is usually earned after the inevitable scooter crash that you'll get into if you spend any long amount of time in that part of the world. Those exhaust pipes get hot.

Some sort of recurring stomach bug

Been to your share of developing countries? Got a thing for street food? Enjoy getting off the beaten track? Then there's a good chance that your stomach these days just ain't what it used to be. These intestinal issues are usually impossible to diagnose, they just hang around, and give long-term travellers something to complain about.

A full passport

This might just be the ultimate in travel nerdery, a trophy for those who enjoy going abroad. It's not an expired passport – it's a passport that needs replacing because it's chock full of visa stickers and immigration stamps. Sure, you could get a jumbo passport to avoid needing to replace it. But where's the fun in that?

A broken backpack

Again, this is not just an old backpack that you'd been meaning to replace with something that's got wheels. This is a backpack that's done so many kays that it's literally coming apart at the seams. The zips have jammed, the handles have come off, and the sides are beginning to split. That's a backpack that's seen the world.

An accent

I always get the feeling that plenty of these are put on for effect. But still, there are some people who've been away from home so long that they start to develop a foreign accent – usually American, for some reason. This is an affectation that doesn't last too long once they get back home.

A really obscure beer T-shirt

"Oh this? Yeah I got it in Togo. Really good beer eh?" The old beer T-shirt is a none-too-subtle way of letting everyone know you've been to a certain place without having to stoop to the level of an "I heart" slogan.

Foreign language skills

Given we're Australians who are renowned worldwide for our conviction that being able to speak one language is more than enough, thank you, anyone with command over another tongue will very easily mark themselves out as a long-term traveller. After all, to properly speak another language you have to immerse yourself in it. And that's hard to do in Australia.


A box of useless and/or ugly souvenirs

They seemed like a good idea at the time. The wood carving. The furry hat. The faux communist propaganda poster. And yet over the years they've gradually all been consigned to a cardboard box under the stairs, because much as you don't ever want to see these things on your household shelves again, you also can't bring yourself to chuck them out.

A grotty Buddhist wristband

Throughout Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, visitors to Buddhist temples are often blessed with a white cotton wristband that they're told not to cut off, lest they bring bad luck upon themselves. Hence these countries are full of tourists sporting increasingly grotty bits of cotton on their wrists, too afraid to invoke the wrath of gods they don't actually believe in to chop them off.

A property portfolio with a nice round number

If you're a dedicated traveller your property portfolio will be extremely easy to manage, because it will be empty. A lifelong travel addiction and a solid financial standing don't exactly go hand in hand.

An actual tattoo

Take a look around any hostel and you'll see plenty of ink work. Among the hardcore travellers there are plenty of "reminds me of somewhere else" tattoos – but it's the slap-you-in-the-face obvious ones like the city skylines, or the maps of the world (occasionally even with countries that the wearer has visited coloured in) that can come across as being a bit, er, lame.

A sarong

To travellers these are extremely versatile pieces of kit. To everyone else they're stupid. The fact you even own a sarong and will readily admit it is a sign that you're a hardcore traveller.

What do you think are the badges of honour for travellers?



See also: The 15 inescapable truths of travel
See also: How travel can change you for life
See: 10 travel experiences you should never stop doing