Five telltail signs of a long-term traveller

Maybe I’ve been staying at too many hostels lately, but I seem to be making quite a few ‘insta-friends’ recently. You know what I mean – you chat, you click, you get drunk together, you find out things you never should know about someone you’ve met for 5 minutes, you friend on FB or exchange emails, say your good-byes with promises to meet again someday, and you go your separate ways. Its like the life span of a friendship squeezed into a few days.


Having to make quick assessments of the many people I have met, I have been getting a knack for spotting those who have, or are in the middle of, long term travel. By this I mean from a few months to a year or more. I’ve been noticing a few unmistakeable traits and habits of these types of people, some of them I realised I’m guilty of myself. Not that this is a bad thing, I just found it funny that there is this little culture subset within the travelling world. Here are the top five traits I’ve noted – see if you recognise any of these things as well!

1. The tan lines


No matter what time of the year it is, these people have developed such incredible tans that they can last the winter. Tan lines from walking foreign streets too long in singlets and flip flops, or from chilling or surfing on secluded beaches in shorts and bathers, criss cross their bodies. The ones with the deepest, verging-on-leathery tans, you can almost guarantee have been doing this travelling gig for a few months already.

2. The accessories

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Leather, beads, strings, wood and shells. Boy or girl, you’ll find bracelets or necklaces of these materials somewhere on them. Why? They are hard wearing, and can be worn in and out of the water without needing to take them off. In fact, they probably never come off. Plus they are cheap, probably collected from a market in some off-the-beaten-track village for a few Passos or cents, as its the only lightweight memento these long term travellers can be bothered carrying with them. In an almost tribal way, these accessories are worn like badges of honour to show a person’s status as a seasoned traveller. It shows you’ve travelled to some far flung places, trekked the hard yards on the road, had some unforgettable adventures, killed some other tribal chiefs along the way, that sort of thing…

3. The tattoos

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Remember when tattoos were such taboo? These days, most people have at least one. Look around at a hostel, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone without one. And lets face it, it most likely if you’re ever going to get one, it would be while you’re drunk, overseas, and you’re high on life, love, peace and freedom – or something else that was passed around. You’re having the best time of your life and a small part of your brain that isn’t totally intoxicated knows that you might not ever feel this way again – so you want to mark the occasion so you never forget. These days, all sorts of travellers have a tattoo. However, I find that a seasoned traveller will have a quite a few weathered tatts around that are already fading, likely more exotic and tribal in nature, and probably has a story or two behind them as well.

4. The ensemble


Party nights are when you really see this. When the whole population of the hostel gathers around for pre-drinks before heading out for a night on the town. Short term holidayers have on thier nice clothes of the latest fashions, clean and crisp and colourful. The dudes have clean shorts, with perhaps a belt, and these days an eye-popping colourful shirt. The girls have brought along thier hair straightners and curlers, and thier skirts and dresses and dimonte sparkling flats. But look closer and you’ll see sprinkled among them are the boys and gals in thier flip flops or trekking sandles, in wrinkled cotton kharki shorts, and one of thier cleaner tank tops that has less stains on it. The girls might even be lucky enough to have a lightweight wrap-around dress that doubles as their beach ensemble. They’ve got thier leather and bead jewerlly (cause it never comes off, its just part of thier ‘look’ now), their hair is usually loose, perhaps even finally brushed for the occasion. In other words, they’re dressed for comfort from what little wardrobe they can carry, and are really not fussed about dressing up too much.

5. The attitude


They’re the ones in the hostel kitchen cooking up a storm and pinching the free leftover beers from the communal fridge. Or the one that will sit next to you or your group and introduce themselves instead of retreating with their computer to the dark corner of the lounge, or simply sticking with the folks they know. They’re the ones quizzing the front desk for all the free events and attractions and filling up several water bottles at the sink before heading out. They’re about seeing as much as possible, meeting diverse people and exchanging thoughts and ideas and making new friends. They’re about travelling light and being practical, with shoes and clothes that can be re-worn for several occassions. They’re focussed more on the experience, of the freedom of travel. You can tell they have let go of the burden of possessions a long time ago, and are on that next plane of existence of just living, seeing the world and being happy!

What do you think – do you agree with me? Are there any other things you’ve noticed about these travellers? Leave a comment below!

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1 Response

  1. Bernie says:

    What’s next? I want to read more about your travels!

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