How Old Is Too Old To Backpack?
I recently read an article from Vice magazine which said something to the extent that backpacking is for 19 year olds and anybody doing it after that is a “douche bag”. The article was pretty facile, the writing mediocre and the author only seemed to have experience of backpacking in Thailand. Despite these flaws, it did start a little bit of an online debate about the appropriate age at which to to stop backpacking and caused me to reflect on exactly how old is too old to backpack?
Not 19 Forever
When I was 19, I had no desire whatsoever to see the world. I was in love with a girl from my hometown and my free time, money and creative energies where all been poured into making music. In short I was pretty content doing what I was doing so didn’t feel any need to go and vomit into a Bangkok gutter.
Fast forward 10 years though and I was in a very different place. I was bereaved, unemployed, homeless and creatively burned out; I had no particular place to be and so I hit the road. Since them I have been backpacking as much as possible returning to the UK purely to re-fill the travel coffers with short stabs at gainful employment.
Does this therefore make me a douche bag? Does my continued wanderlust make me dick head and my lack of a normal routine betray me as a proper tosspot? Should I now be settled with a wife, a big mortgage and a kid and the only reason I am not is because I am in fact, a total, total wanker?
The suggestion that travel is the preserve of the young is both patronising and age-ist. You would never get away with saying that disabled people, religious people or Welsh people shouldn’t backpack yet it seems that age is a legitimate target at which to direct ones prejudice and to even have it condoned by a major on-line magazine. Is age (along with height…) perhaps the last acceptable form of discrimination?
I’ll Be Your Mirror
In truth though, these prejudices said far more about the author than they did about backpackers over the age of 20. Why? Firstly because his ire at been surrounded by “19 year olds playing drinking games” made it pretty clear that he seems to limit his travels to Bali or Thailand lacking either the imagination or the guts to head to Venezuela or Russia. I mean, you don’t really get the drinking game culture in India and you don’t get either 19 year old tourists or alcohol in Iran or Pakistan…
It also suggested that like many people do, he has sadly reached his thirties and decided that he has had quite enough of new experiences and sensations. He has just gotten boring. It also suggests that he may be suffering from a nasty case of the “miserable bastard syndrome“.
Keep On Keeping On
It has recently been scientifically proven that the aging process is closely linked to how mentally and physically active we are and crucially, how much we move around. The more steps we take each day, keeps our bodies regenerating and travel therefore quite literally makes you younger! You don’t stop travelling because you are too old, you get old because you stopped travelling.
Continued travelling is reflective of a curious mind, one that seeks out new idea’s, experiences and one that is still seeking answers. People who stop travelling do not stop because they have found life’s answers but rather because they have given up searching for them.
And this is the crux of the matter. Travelling at the ripe old age of 30 does not make you a douche bag, it makes you alive and kicking. On the other hand, let me tell you what does make you a douche bag. Accepting a normal, nuclear 9 -5 life only to feel trapped by such an existence makes you douche bag. Relieving the tedium of this through extra marital affairs or any other kind of mid-life crisis’ makes you an ever bigger douche bag; in fact, that makes you not only a douche bag, it makes you a complete twat.
Escape From Reality
The writers’ position seemed to be that backpacking is some kind of escape from reality. I have in the past thought (and written) about this point myself. I have previously said that travel is addictive likening it to heroin. However, whereas h is addictive because it represents an escape from reality, travel is addictive because it is actually an intensifying of reality. Travelling is not living in a dream world but accepting the norm is going to sleep.
So how old is too old to backpack? The answer is keep going as long as you feel like it. Stop only if and when you are ready and want to stop and not because our fantastic planet has made one too many rotations around the sun.
Anyway, Nurse, its time for my bed bath.
See you on the road fellow d bags.
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