When you’ve been travelling for a while, you start getting asked a lot of the same questions by non-travellers. That in itself is fine, obviously. It’s natural for people to be curious about people who have opted for totally different life paths than them. However, some of these questions, no matter how well-intentioned, get old very quickly. Sometimes, without thinking, people can come across as pretty condescending, and even downright offensive at times!
What’s more, some of the questions we get asked are just impossible for us to answer. It’s not that we don’t want to answer you. It’s just that we really have no idea how to!
9 Questions Long Term Travellers Hate!
1. How many countries have you been to?
For the most part, we know that this question is meant without any malice. People who don’t travel so much often hear that I’ve been travelling for over 3 years and ask me how many countries I’ve seen in that time, assuming that I must have seen the whole world!
If asked in this way, then this question isn’t annoying. It’s just something that I can’t answer off the top of my head because I don’t count countries, and to me, the number is kind of irrelevant.
This question becomes annoying when it’s asked by a fellow traveller, who is only asking because they want to tell me how many countries they’ve been to. Travellers are often weirdly competitive, and they think that boasting a high country count makes them somehow superior. As someone who travels very slowly and often chooses to live and work in one place for a while, I’ve probably been to far fewer countries than you might imagine, and so being on the receiving end of attitudes like this is very tiring.
2. When will you settle down?
We might not! For people who dream of getting married, buying a house and having a nice car and a dog, the idea of not wanting to ‘settle down’ is alien to them, but for many long term travellers, we view ‘settling down’ as more of a prison sentence!
Sure, I’d like to have a nice home as a base, and I’d love to fall in love and get married but it’s definitely not the be all and end all for me, and if I do end up doing those things then you can bet I’m not going to be what you’d call ‘settled!’ Most long term travellers will always be travellers at heart – it’s just what we are.
3. Which is your favourite country?
That’s so impossible to answer! Do I say Spain because I spent my childhood summers there and feel a deep connection to it, or Poland because I’ve bonded with a lot of Polish people and made some lifelong friendships there? Do I say Albania because it was friendly, Morocco because it was crazy, Montenegro because it was beautiful, Bosnia because it was heartbreaking or Ukraine because it was quirky?
There are so many countries I have fallen in love with, for so many different reasons, and it would be impossible to single out just one.
This isn’t an annoying question, it’s just one that I can’t answer!
4. Where will you be in 5 years?
I don’t know!! Most travellers hate long term planning. Hell, we don’t even know where we’ll be next month, never mind 5 years from now! Just like some people are commitment-phobes when it comes to relationships, we’re commitment-phobes when it comes to making and sticking to plans.
We’re drifters, preferring to go wherever the wind takes us, and hey, if we don’t like it, we can move on!
5. Aren’t you going to be too old soon?
If you don’t see how this question could irk us, just imagine a backpacker looking at you with your shiny engagement ring and lovely new home and saying ‘aren’t you a bit young for all this?’ Well that’s kind of how we feel when we get asked this question. It all just feels a bit judgy and condescending.
If long term travel has taught me anything, it’s that you’re never too old to travel. From Sherrill, a 70-something woman who travels around Europe and Africa doing volunteer work to the 65 year old I met who went skydiving for her 65th birthday and got drunk with me in hotel bars all around Poland, I’ve met tonnes of older travellers, and none of them are slowing down anytime soon.
After all, age ain’t nothin’ but a number (unless it’s R Kelly saying it).
6. What do your family think? Don’t they miss you?
First of all – ouch!
Second, my family love me so they’re happy that I’m happy. They know that travel is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and so they’re pleased for me. Of course they miss me – I mean, I’m not a monster – but overall they’re happy that I’m living my dream.
To be honest, even if they did mind, I wouldn’t change the way I live my life. Because it’s just that – my life. I only get one, and if I can finance it myself and I’m not hurting anyone, then why shouldn’t I live it how I like?
7. When will you get a real job?
Guess what? Not only 9-5 office jobs with a clear progression path qualify as ‘real’ jobs.
I don’t know anyone on the planet who wouldn’t be offended by this question. I mean, we don’t just magic up money from thin air! Most long term travellers are either ‘digital nomads’ who do ‘normal’ jobs from remote places rather than in an office, or people who work as they travel in exchange for food and accommodation. A lot of us are bloggers and influencers as well, who use our online presence to make some extra cash.
Personally, I do both. When I’m in the UK I knuckle down and get stuck into my freelance work, and when I’m on the road I make some passive income. I have also done various jobs while travelling in exchange for board including English teaching, bartending, promo work, cleaning and more. I consider every one of these jobs to be a ‘real’ job, and so should you.
8. How do you afford to travel?
By working and then spending my money on what matters to me (travel). I don’t have a car, an apartment, or an expensive shoe habit. I spend my money on travel.
I don’t have a trust find, I don’t have a sugar daddy (yet) and I’m not a drug dealer. I’m just good at budgeting and good at saving.
It’s really that simple.
9. Are you not scared to travel to Cambodia/Albania/Kosovo?
You guys. If I was rocking up in Syria with dreams of marrying an ISIS fighter, you’d be right to be worried (and angry, but that’s another blog post).
However, I’m not. I’m not dumb (and I don’t say this to be confrontational, but to reassure you). I do my research and I only travel to places that I deem safe. Most of the places that you have concerns about are actually a lot safer than the UK. Yep, that’s right – many of these so-called ‘dangerous’ countries are actually ranked safer than the UK according to the Global Peace Index.
The world is not as scary as we think it is, and only through travel can we see the world as it really is, rather than through the lens of the mass media.
So, fellow travellers, what do you think? Do these questions bug you too, or do you have some other pet peeves? Let me know in the comments below!