1. Form a deep, intimate connection with a person they’ll never see again
Maybe it’s the guy they sat next to on the train, or the girl they stumbled on at a hostel party. They’ll travel together a bit, share everything, and then within two years will have forgotten each other’s names.
2. Stay in shared hostel rooms
“How could we afford not to?”
3. Have sex in shared hostel rooms
And totally think that no one noticed.
4. Fall in love with a place
And not in a hyperbolic “Oh, I love pita chips!” sense, but in a legitimate, deeply felt, heartache-y, head-over-heels, totally-in-love sense.
5. Bore the shit out of friends at home talking about their travels
Every sentence starts with, “Well, when I was in India…”
6. Overestimate how much they can do in a day
No, you probably shouldn’t walk 20 miles. No, you probably can’t see all of Paris in a day. No, there’s not enough time between those two flights for you to go ziplining.
7. Get a little too adventurous with street food
And pay for it dearly the next day.
8. Learn a single word in a language they’re spending weeks immersed in
And that word is inevitably “beer.”
9. Participate in the Tourist vs. Traveler debate
“Of course I’m a traveler and not a tourist,” they’ll say, sipping their Señor Frog’s margarita.
10. Puke at at least one internationally famous site
Your 20s is an era where hangovers don’t yet have the power to keep you in bed all day. I’ve personally puked on South Africa’s Table Mountain, and I have friends who have puked at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the United States Supreme Court, and Beijing’s Forbidden City.
11. Work a horrible job with the sole purpose of saving for travel
And then quit in an excessively flamboyant manner when they’ve finally saved enough.
12. Learn to skimp on such non-essentials as food and clothing in order to save for travel expenses
Also, gain an otherworldly ability to convince their parents that they’ll only be home “for a month or two.”
13. Get robbed, scammed, pickpocketed, or mugged abroad by being too irresistible of a target
And, in retrospect, be a little upset about the money/camera/passport lost, but mostly psyched about the amazing story they got out of it.
14. Post at least one horribly cliched quote in their Facebook profile
“Not all who wander are lost,” is a popular one, or the Mark Twain bit about throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from safe harbor.
15. Ask at least one foreigner a horribly cliched question about where they’re from
To Australians: “Have you ever eaten a Kangaroo?”
To Brits: “Do you know Prince William?”
To Kazakhs: “So what did you think of Borat?”
16. Take at least one horribly cliched self-portrait at a famous site
Oh look, you’re kissing the Sphinx! Oh look, you and all your friends are jumping at the same time at the Taj Mahal! Oh look, you turned the Eiffel Tower into your dick!
17. Plan at least one incredibly expensive trip around the massive party they plan on attending while there
It might be Carnaval in Rio, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, or Oktoberfest in Munich: they could save hundreds of dollars by going at another time of year, but that’s not the point, dammit!
18. Go an unreasonably long time without bathing
And be proud of it.
19. Take the longest, most roundabout way possible of getting somewhere in the name of saving an almost negligible amount of money
I once took a bus from Cincinnati to Chicago, slept on the floor of O’Hare Airport, flew to Atlanta for a four-hour layover, then flew to Guatemala, where I caught a six-hour bus to San Salvador. It took 36 hours. I could’ve just flown direct and been there in seven hours, but that cost, like, $100 more.
20. Refuse to admit they’re kinda sorta happy to come back home
Their Facebook posts about how they “can’t wait to leave again for another round of travel!” belie the fact that they’re kinda loving having access to their XBox and a pizza-delivery service.
Photo: Étienne Ljóni Poisson