The Hobo Guide to Travelling in Your 30s
There’s a recurring line throughout the Lethal Weapon film series: “I’m getting too old for this shit.” Danny Glover says it at least once per film. If you’re old enough to remember and appreciate those OTT action films, then like me, you’re probably nearing or are in the throes of your dirty thirties.
When I was 22, I was physically much the same as I am now. I’ve always been lean, mostly fit, and looked a lot younger than I actually was. I boarded a plane from Perth International Airport in late April 2009 and landed in London about a day’s travel later. I checked straight into a pre-arranged hotel room to recover from the, up ‘til then, longest flight of my life. I remember feeling so out of place in my cheap clothes, lugging a massive backpack into that lobby.
While the single bed and bathroom were a welcome relief from the long-haul flight, I couldn’t wait to check out the next morning and check in to Piccadilly Backpackers, a sprawling tower of narrow corridors, communal bathrooms and bunk beds with more spring than mattress.
The next few months were much the same, drifting from country to country, backpackers to backpackers: St Christopher’s in Paris, Wombats in Berlin and a beach hut with camp stretchers in Mykonos, to name a few. I look back on these with immense fondness and an elusive feeling like I would die to do it all again. Then I think about it properly and decide probably not.
Why? As much as we don’t like to admit, we get older, and while my love for travel has only grown stronger with age, the way I approach it has changed almost as much as the greys that have started appearing over my ears.
So here’s a survival guide to trotting the globe at an age where you no longer think a tac-yack will see you through a boozy night out:
Where to Stay
The thought of having to sleep in a room that smells like Tony Abbott’s armpits whilst listening to your bunkmates fuck and rifle through plastic bags is now physically unbearable. Thankfully, some genius invented Air BnB, the Uber of hotelling, for a fraction of the cost. Its pretty simple to find an apartment in a decent location for around the same price as a good backpackers.
A funny thing happens when you’re over 30. A lot of us tend to be in relationships. Picture this: you and your gal/guy/sexbot have just had a romantic stroll along the Seine, complete with butterfly kisses under the lights of the Eiffel Tower and some lazy Kronenbourgs. With the passion ignited, you dance your way back to your room, only to find Dazza curled up on the bunk above yours, chunder dribbling out of his mouth and onto your bed. The fire is gone. The only person getting lucky tonight is the guy who checked out of the room earlier that day, just in time to avoid Backpacker Dazza’s epic vomfest. Yeah, nah.
What to Munch On
In Italy I was a little bit broke. It was the last few weeks of those crazy months in Europe, and to survive, I turned to cheap fruit and boiled noodles. But these days… just no. 30+ travellers, you CAN travel on a budget without having to eat like Oliver Twist. You CAN eat well and sava-da-money on street foods and small restaurants. A bowl of ramen in Tokyo, one of the world’s most expensive cities, will set you back approximately 6-10 AUD depending on the joint. Unless it’s bulking season, something like that will not have you going back to your cook with puppy dog eyes going, “Please sir, can I have some more?”
How to Booze
Clubbing overseas is always one of those activities that’s either uber expensive or a gauntlet run of chlamydia, MDMA or Rohypnol. I can barely stand Trvp/DnB/resurgent gangsta rap in Perth, let alone in *insert hip O/S destination here*. Every time I see someone rinsing, I lose a little more faith in humanity. So avoid it!
18-to-25 year olds, knock yourselves out. If you don’t, someone with a few roofies will. I’ll meet you in five or so years at the small bar down the road where I can hear myself think. Better yet, if street drinking is legal in your country of choice, grab a few and sit outside and peoplewatch or chat to the locals. You might learn a thing or two.
I’m going to ignore Europe here completely, as I’m aware of its amazing train system, Busabout, and shudder Contiki (seriously, if you consider Contiki your mid-20s travel experience, you’re on the wrong webpage, mate). Two of my friends recently travelled around America and they hired a car! What, you say!? But the hire costs, and fuel! But here’s why it’s such a good idea in somewhere like the USA/Canada, or New Zealand, or Indonesia, or anywhere that isn’t Australia. Its cheap(ish). You have complete control of your trip. You have the freedom to go literally anywhere. You don’t have to worry about sharing a row with some farting neckbeard on a Greyhound. You can stick your head out the window with the tunes up loud and feel the sweet breeze of independence blowing through your hair. ‘Nuff said.
Take Shorter Trips
I wish almost every day I could jump in my Delorean and Marty McFly back to my early 20s just so I could spend a long fucking time away from Australia. I don’t know when it happened, but one day I woke up in a home that I owned, working 40 hours a week and owning pets. My weekends suddenly consisted of gardening, gym and smashed avo. Fuckin’ smashed avo, the signifier of the troubled, lower-middle class millennial. I get six weeks annual leave a year, with an option to carry it over to the next so that I get 12. The days of the open-ended ticket are over, and I promise you, you can subscribe to as many wanderlust Thought Catalog articles as you like, but you’re still going to wind up having to do the adult job thing a great part of your life.
Consider Ditching Your Backpack
I utterly refuse to trade my trusty pack for a wheeled suitcase, until of course I need one. Mates, we’re not humping through Vietnam in ’68 here. We don’t need 25-40kg of shit piled onto our backs. Carrying a pack through 30-degree plus weather and 80 per cent humidity in a Japanese summer is not fun. I’m going back there very soon and I’m legitimately considering retiring the pack for something with wheels.
Avoid Shitty Beer
I shouldn’t have to explain this. You’re most likely going to be a bit more financially stable in your 30s, so Pabst Blue Ribbon can get fucked. So can Emu Export for that matter. It’s not going to dig that hole in your wallet much deeper if you spend that little extra for something that doesn’t taste like Bear Grylls’ piss. If you’re so worried about the price of drinks, hit up a liquor store and pre-drink. If university taught you anything, it should be how to get drunk before you head out.
Chill the Fuck Out
Dear Australian bogan, please stop doing stupid shit overseas after you hit 25+. Please stop doing drunken backflips off cliffs in Bali. Please stop jumping into the Dotonbori in the middle of winter. Please stop injecting steroids into your biceps in Thailand. Please stop doing keg stands in the USA. Please stop embarrassing us when we travel. I don’t want to have to put a New Zealand flag on my luggage so people don’t automatically judge me as “dickhead”.
This is the most important lesson and the one thing I’ve learned over a decade of international adventuring. You might get older, slower and less tolerant of bullshit, but that should never stop your thirst for seeking out the unknown. The way you travel might change, but it should never stop you from doing so, no matter how old you get.
Cover by Antoine Da cunha