Can you ever be too old to backpack?

The Sydney Morning Herald’s recent blog made me cringe—“When you’re too old to be a backpacker.”

Maybe it’s just the reminder of the growing number of years that’ve passed since I first backpacked, but my first instinct was to get defensive. So okay, the facts are I do feel older than some travelers at the hostels and occasionally appreciate a few more niceties than I once needed while traveling. But I resent the insinuation that I’d lose my low-maintenance, ‘up for anything’ attitude that I take with me on the road. I’d like to hope that I’ll be backpacking in my own way for decades more.

Apparently the blog struck a chord for a lot of others, too. The thread of comments—98 total—raises the issues of money, convenience, and attitude, and makes for an interesting read.

For me and others who wrote in, what it comes down to is the definition of “backpacking.” If your definition follows the stereotype of a party-by-night, sleep-by-day backpacker right out of college, then sure, it only takes a few flips of the calendar and the passing of time to end your days as a backpacker.

But that’s not what I think. I agree with Ali, who comments on the SMH blog:

“If “backpacking” means being an independent traveler, without anything but a rough itinerary that can change at a second’s notice, avoiding package tours like the plague, booking absolutely nothing but flights in advance, and getting off the beaten track a bit, I can’t see myself giving that up anywhere in the near future.”

Well said, Ali.

Posted by | Comments (6)  | November 20, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

6 Responses to “Can you ever be too old to backpack?”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    The annoying part is that for me at least, I came out of school with so much debt, I can’t just backpack – I have to pay people back.

    I hope that you’re never too old for it, because I would love to do it.

  2. Scribetrotter Says:

    I belong to the school that says you can never be too old to backpack, as long as you are physically able to do so.

    I’m no spring chicken – at 54 I’m going backpacking for a month in Panama in January. And I was 43 when I took off for a three-year round-the-world backpacking trip.

    One morning I woke up in a dorm in Durban to a man getting changed in the room – he was 80 years old, and going strong. That’s how I want to be when I grow up.

  3. Erik Says:

    As my wife said to me when I told her about this article, “Backpackers never quit, they just become flash-packers”. I think that was what happened to me, in fact.

  4. James Clark Says:

    I have been booking some hostels online this week and I see that some hostels don’t accept people over 35. I am 35 so I have been asking the same question as well this week.

    I prefer staying in hostels when travelling alone as it is a good way to meet people, and I have met fellow urban nomads who are doing interesting and unusual things in their life.

  5. betty mcintosh/60ish Says:

    I have been browsing “your”blog?wondering if perhaps I am to (old)to do backpacking in Australia,I went on an escorted trip in April 2008 and have met some lovely (ozzies) who have invited me back for a holiday?, I was hoping to do some INDEPENDent,tours myself I would be eternally cratful for some advice.

    ps I am a single traveller