Last updated on 30 June 2020
When you’ve been on the road for a while, you start getting asked a lot of the same questions about travelling by people who have chosen not to spend their lives living out of a backpack.
And that’s fine, obviously. It’s natural for people to be curious about those who have opted for totally different lifestyles than them. Trust me – I have a million questions about what it’s like decorating a house or living with a screaming baby or what an absolute bitch Sandra from the office is being lately.
That’s not sarcasm either. I mean it.
And so I understand why people have questions for me.
I mean, it’s not exactly common to spend your life travelling around the world and writing about it.
Of course people have questions about travelling.
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 about travelling that we wanderers get asked are just impossible 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 About Travelling Long Term Backpackers 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 4 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 anyway.
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 than a fairytale!
Sure, I’d like to have a nice home as a base, and I’d love to fall in love and get married one day 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.
Our travel styles may change over time, but many long term travellers will never ‘settle down’ in the traditional sense, and why should we?
3. What’s your favourite country?
That’s so impossible to answer! Do I say Spain because I spent my childhood summers there, 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, 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 of those questions about travelling that are impossible to answer!
4. Where will you be in 5 years?
Again, this is one of those travel questions that I don’t know the answer to!
Most travellers hate long term planning. Hell, we don’t even know where we’ll be next month, never mind in 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 the thought of being tied down to a specific place or schedule terrifies us.
Que sera, sera.
5. Aren’t you going to be too old soon?
First of all, that’s just rude.
If you don’t see how this question could irk us, just imagine me glancing at your shiny engagement ring and lovely new home and saying ‘aren’t you a bit young for all this?’
Doesn’t sit right, does it? 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. If you think that being too old to travel is a thing then just speak to Sherrill, a 70-something woman who travels around Europe and Africa doing volunteer work or Lesley, 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?
This is another of those travel questions that just seems very judgemental, while also happening to be none of your business!
FYI, 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.
What’s more, whenever I come to visit Manchester, I stay at my parents house for weeks or even a couple of months so they see more than enough of me!
To be honest, even if my parents did disapprove of my lifestyle, I wouldn’t stop travelling. I only get one life, 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?
I’m only going to say this once – not only 9-5 office jobs qualify as ‘real’ jobs.
I don’t know anyone on the planet who wouldn’t be offended by this travel question. I mean, we travellers 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.
Personally, I do both. I’m a blogger, a freelance writer, and I have online stores that generate passive income for me. I have also done various jobs while travelling in exchange for board including English teaching, bartending, promo work, cleaning, hostel work 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?
Okay. While this does feel kinda invasive, I understand that most people with questions about travelling, especially when it comes to saving up money to travel, simply want to know how they can do the same as me.
The answer to this is simple. I afford to travel by working hard and spending my money on what matters to me (travel).
I don’t have a car, an apartment, or an expensive shoe habit.
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. I am the girl who will turn down a night out because I refuse to pay the £30 taxi fare home, choose restaurants based on their weeknight deals and never treat myself to new clothes or books.
I spend my money on travel.
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 – very angry).
However, I’m not doing those things.
I’m not dumb. 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. As an extension of this point, travelling as a solo female is not as scary as you think either, I promise!