Photo: Jacob T. Meltzer

1. Have someone wait for them at the arrivals area with an embarrassingly large sign.

When Jeff and I arrived via train to Chiang Mai, we had someone from our guesthouse waiting for us with a very large, very white sign saying “Ms. A.” As we walked with the driver to the car with the very large sign in tow, I spotted a group of backpackers scoffing at us. I was offended until I realized I used to be one of them.

2. Spend more time updating LinkedIn than Facebook.

Because I need to work again someday and those pictures of me doing shots in a hostel weren’t doing me any favors.

3. Fly. Direct. With upgrades to economy plus.

I just can’t do three-day, five-connection bus trips anymore. In May, Jeff and I had two options from getting from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

  • Fly direct in 2 hours
  • Take a 23-hour voyage by train, bus, and tuk-tuk for 25% less
  • Guess which option I picked.

    4. Not speak to anyone for days.

    There are stretches of weeks when Jeff and I only talk to each other because we’re staying in a hotel or apartment instead of living communally in a hostel.

    5. Look up #YOLO.

    Yup, I had no idea what that meant until earlier this year.

    6. Check out how clean a restaurant is before eating.

    When I was a younger, dirtier-looking restaurants seemed more “authentic” to me. In what universe did I think that was a good idea?

    7. Stay in a hostel dorm bed, but only to see if they’ve “still got it.”

    Grabbing the top bunk seemed like a good idea at time…until I realized I had to climb back down that ladder.

    8. Buy travel insurance.

    I didn’t own anything of value (including my Honda Civic) until I was 30, so the idea of buying travel insurance never occurred to me until last year.

    9. Pose for photos at the same site in the same way as when they were 25.

    Pinching the Eiffel Tower never gets old. Right?

    10. Take one look at a crappy room for rent and walk away versus walking right in.

    The internet in 2014 has thousands of options compared to my travel book in 2004.

    11. Travel in groups of one or two, not 10.

    I’ve noticed that unless it’s a tour group, herd-like traveling seems to dissipate for people in their 30s. Unless you count those stray cats I put in my backpack.

    12. Bring a pharmacy.

    This might be better filed under “Anxious Traveler,” but I’m now prepared for a medical apocalypse. My World Health Organization immunization card has more words than Anna Karenina and my toiletries bag has more prescriptions than Walgreens. When I traveled in my 20s, “well prepared” meant remembering to bring a band-aid.

    13. Scoff at groups of young backpackers.

    Whenever I pass younger backpackers heading out to party at 10 pm, I think “THANK GOD I’m going to bed now.”

    14. Secretly admire groups of young backpackers.

    Upon overhearing said backpackers regale their stories the next morning, I reminisce over my own days of partying with complete strangers whose name I never knew in cities I can barely remember.

    15. Take hot water for granted.

    While researching places to stay in Morocco, I found accommodations where hot water was a feature. I laughed until I remembered that the only hot water I used in India 15 years ago was from inserting a live metal coil into a pail of water. God knows how I never electrocuted myself.

    16. Show up in a new city with hotel reservations.

    Over ten years ago, I backpacked around Brazil for three months via bus. Every week or so, my traveling partner and I would hop on a bus and head to a new city. Then we’d walk around town until we found a guesthouse or hostel in our budget. I’ve cut it close on this trip, but we’ve always showed up in a city with somewhere to stay.

    17. Handshakes before hugs.

    What?!? You want to press your entire body up against mine before I even know your name?!

    18. Book a first-class train / bus ticket instead of “roughing” it in second class.

    My friend Marisa and I traveled in Europe and India together in our 20s. We were cheap and broke, so we’d always get around in the cheapest way possible.

    We used to take turns sleeping on 2nd or 3rd class overnight trains so one of could serve watch against over-excited men and wily thieves. Once, when some men tried getting a little too personal on an overnight train, we sang “We are the World” at the top of our lungs until we scared off everyone, including the train attendant.

    Now I’m willing to pay a little bit more to upgrade, because my lungs don’t work like they used to.

    19. Sleep in a bed.

    Gone are the days when I’ll sleep in the corner of a random bus station. Overnight.

    20. Only drink from bottles with hermetically-sealed caps.

    I could pull out the water sterilizer I still haven’t used, but what would I do without my daily liter of sparkling water?

    21. Wear a blazer instead of a fleece jacket.

    There was a time when looking like a backpacker was a source of pride. Today, I try to dress stylish by wearing the same clothes I’d wear at home. Wait a minute…that means I should be dressed like a backpacker.

    22. Go to Starbucks.

    There was also a time when I wouldn’t be caught dead in a multinational chain abroad. Today, I squeal with delight when I can order a double-tall, extra-hot soy latté. With extra foam.

    23. Start their day at 6 am instead of 6 pm.

    See #14

    24. Replace Lonely Planet with Rick Steve’s.

    Sorry LP, there’s a new sheriff guide in town.

    25. Unpack the hair dryer from their suitcase…and then repack it.

    I tried going without a hair dryer. However, after six weeks of looking like I’d touched a loose wire in Cambodia, I broke down and bought a hair dryer and hair iron.

    26. Bring a suitcase.

    I wish my backpack could grow wheels and a handle to give my aging back some rest.

    27. Return home with money.

    Since living with my parents is no longer an option, I need to budget during and after the trip.

    28. Call home. And not just to ask for a loan.

    I’m still going to pay you back someday, Mom!

    29. Take a vacation from their vacation.

    If you understand this, you’re probably over 30.

    30. Dream about quitting their jobs to travel.

    #YOLO

    This article originally appeared on Expositions: Stories about the road (less) traveled. It has been adapted and republished here with permission.

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