9 signs you’re too old to be a backpacker

Lets be real, there is no magic age at which you officially become too old for backpacking. The lure of cheap stays and new friends will stay with you well into middle age and beyond, but at some point you will come to realise that it might be time to retire your dusty backpack for a lightweight wheelie case.

You could be 20 when it happens. You could be 65. There are entire families who are still backpacking, so it could be a while. But there are warning signs, and these are the ten big ones to watch for. As soon as you notice these, I dare you to upgrade yourself at least to a private room.


Hostels are noisy places. That’s just a fact of traveling. Often set on noisy streets, right in the middle of the party zone of whatever major city you happen to be in. Your dorm mates will probably be the kind who stay up late, wandering in at some ungodly hour of the morning. Or on the flip side, they’ll be the ones rustling endless plastic bags at 5am. When sleeping through the night becomes your biggest priority, it might be time to give up the cheap sleeps.


I know, I know. I said that there was no age at which you become officially too old for this crap. Still, when you’re swapping life stories and the best they’ve got is “I just finished my uni entrance exams” it might be time to consider moving on. I find it difficult to maintain conversations with kids who think Nirvana is retro.



If you do it right, backpacking is as much about the people you meet as it is about the places you explore. However, if you’re like me and find yourself getting more and more introverted as you get older the constant swapping of stories with new people is plain exhausting. Now that I have quit hostels and traded dorm beds for guest houses and luxury hotels I find myself just wanting to be left alone to enjoy my surroundings in peace.


There are varying degrees of dread when it comes to the overnight bus ride. When I was 20 and broke, I faced it with disdain and the knowledge that one day I wouldn’t have to do it. Now that I’m in my 30s and can afford the alternative, I face them with an feeling of actual death. I would rather die than take an overnight anything, but especially a bus. The heat, the clanking, the squishiness, the smells. No thanks.


Things are bound to go wrong when you’re traveling. I have lost count of the things that have gone wrong for me; from getting dengue fever in Vietnam, to losing my passport in Thailand. When you travel on a budget, those things seem to happen more often. When this ceases to be fun, it might be time to invest in an upgrade.



I remember when I was in my 20s, and some weeks looked like I was drinking for Australia. There are years where I can count on one hand the number of alcohol free days I had. It got so bad my friends almost staged an intervention. Or they would have if they had sobered up for long enough. Every now and then though, I would go drink free for a day just to prove I could. When it started taking me two days to get over a hangover I decided it was time to cut back, and with that decision I also upgrade my travel stays. Ten years later, and I think the last hostel bar I was in was in Scotland in 2014. And that was only because I knew the bartender.


If you can’t turn your undies inside out and re-wear them, you’re too old for backpacking.



If you have ever pulled out a spreadsheet to map out your travel plans orΒ  booked every hostel and every transfer and even a few meals weeks before your trip then maybe backpacking isn’t your thing. And if you’re this person, then maybe it never was.


You know the rule. On any given night, there is always a creepy old guy in every dorm in the the world. If there isn’t one in yours… Well, sorry.

16 thoughts on “9 signs you’re too old to be a backpacker

  1. The Vagabond Baker says:

    Tee hee! I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I have traded my backpack in for a wheelie but I still dorm it as my budget does’t stretch to hotels, plus I prefer the company of hostels. Having said that, I go for female dorms where I can and find the non-party hostels. I avoid overnight buses where possible, because as you say, they’re hideous! Overnight trains and ferries are way more preferable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Barefoot Backpacker says:

    LOL I refuse to read or acknowledge this! :p

    To be fair, I’ve always been introverted so I’ve never been one for too much hostel socialising. What’s interesting is that the older I’ve got, the *more* social I’ve become; you wouldn’t have caught me anywhere near a backpacker hostel in my 20s!

    That said, I do plot some of my hostels carefully – I will shy away from the ‘party party’ places, but then I always would have done.

    Also, interestingly, the more I travel solo now, the less I pre-book; I used to be such a control freak and need to have anything booked at least three days in advance, but now I’m more than happy to just rock-up and see what’s around every now and then. It’s only ever failed me once, but that just opens out even more experiences. πŸ™‚

    “On any given night, there is always a creepy old guy in every dorm in the the world.”

    :p Even at the age of 41, I’m often not the oldest man lurking around. Or maybe that’s just an impression; I feel younger than I really am, and I think that keeps me acting young. Hopefully. Er, now you’ve got me worried … πŸ˜€


    Liked by 1 person

    • Emma Mann says:

      “I refuse to read or ackowledge this” *goes on to post the longest comment on the post*

      It’s funny you pre-book less as you travel solo more. I am spreadsheet girl, and if I’m traveling alone I am even more over-prepared. It’s like the having of someone else there means I can relax a bit more about things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Barefoot Backpacker says:

        I talk a lot … :p

        Yes, it’s very much to do with an increase in self-confidence too – that because I’m travelling alone, everything’s up to me to sort out, but the more self-confident I am the more I’m prepared to just ‘go with the flow’, whereas because I previously had difficulty in saying “boo” to the proverbial goose, I had to make sure everything was pre-booked, online (no telephones!), so that my need to physically speak to people was as low as possible.

        (I’m a data insight analyst by career; I do spreadsheets. My budget spreadsheet is a fascinating and indepth analytical tool that breaks everything down into seven or so categories, calculates everything individually then gives me a daily total in GBP. I write notes on every purchase I make, even down to small change to use pubic toilets. It would be an incredibly useful and revealing tool if I could ever be mythered to type the notes up and fill it in …)


  3. av9901 says:

    haha, you hit the nail on the head with your post there, i have been traveling around the world for the last 5 years and my last trip i thought i had reached that wall, thinking i was too old to backpack ..but being home for 5 months now, all i want to do is get my backpack down and head off again. So as a aged backpacker, i don’t think we will ever lose that feeling of being a backpacker haha


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