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Can you be to old for backpacking in NZ?


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  • Added on: May 23rd, 2010
Today I celebrate my 28th birthday. Not too old in the grand old scheme of things I am sure you would agree. I think I have achieved a lot in terms of travel in this short spell on this planet so far and I am lucky enough to get better looking and wiser, and indeed more deluded each year. However, in terms of being a backpacker in New Zealand I feel like I will be registering for a free bus pass sometime soon. Thus begging the question. Am I starting to get too old for this?

For me, age always has been and hopefully always will be a number. It’s more about how you live your life rather than the amount of candles on your cake. Some of the best people I have met on my travels have been well above forty plus, the two people who inspired me to write about my travels are both in their late thirties. It first came to my attention that NZ was going to be a bit of a wake-up call when a friend whom I met in Cambodia, who had just turned 30, warned me that I should be aware that I will never feel so old as when I stay in a hostel in NZ. I scoffed at such a notion but she is correct. Backpacking in New Zealand makes me feel old.

I have now spent three months here, the majority of it spent staying at the Worldwide Backpackers in Wellington. I had a wonderful time and met many fantastic people but the entire time I was there, I was the oldest person in the hostel at twenty seven. It seems that the hostels in NZ are fully of people who are nineteen and twenty. I shared a room with a girl who was nine years younger than me. Shared beers with a guy who was fourteen the first time I went travelling and had dinner every night with people the exact same age as my youngest sister. The idea of being at home and hanging out with people my youngest sister’s age feels ever so slightly weird. Don’t imagine my sister would be too pleased about it either!

While they do make me feel old. I am full of admiration for people so young who go off travelling to the other side of the world. Especially those who have English as their second language. In fact it makes me rather embarrassed as I could barely tie my shoe-laces when I was a 19 year old. It has also been nice to take on the role of hostel big brother passing on my years of wisdom to those at the start of their travels but it also serves as a reminder of how naive I was when I started my travels and demonstrates how far I have come in the past five years. I look back at some of the mistakes I made in Australia and cringe. Travel certainly makes you grow up fast.

So I have found myself asking is it me? Have I become too old to be hanging around backpacker hostels? Should I read this as a sign that it’s time to move on and consider the world of flashpacking? I have met many people who have lived in hostels because it suited them at the time but would never go back. Should I have moved on to? It did get me thinking about where have all the twenty something’s gone?

This is my forth major trip in five years. My first trip to Australia for a year was taken as a fresh faced twenty three year old in 2006. In that year I found myself just below the average age of twenty five / twenty six, being the majority of people I met. Whilst I did meet a few really young people it was not uncommon to stay in a hostel with quite a lot of people around the age I am now.

The reduction of people at my age travelling I presume is a direct result of the global financial down turn. People now seem reluctant to take a gamble on a year out. People will no longer take their last opportunity before turning 30 and having the working holiday visa option slam shut on them. Companies can no longer afford to offer staff members a gap year. The surplus cash that is meant to be swirling around twenty something’s pockets seem to be no longer here.

Of course there is also the basic reality that everyone grows up and settles down at some point. There will always be the people you know from home who you know will settle early in life but you don’t think it will happen to your fellow travellers, the people you partied with till the sun comes up on a beach, shared a bucket of booze with in Bangkok, the people who swore they would travel till they drop, sadly stop being travellers and fade into the real world. The majority of my Facebook friends are people I have met on the road and my news page seems to be updated with wedding plans and people uploading pictures of their kids. Maybe one day it might even happen to me

Pehaps there could be a more simple explanation. New Zealand just appeals to the younger and adventurous crowd. It markets itself, quite rightly very well as the adventure capital of the world whereas Australia is all about sun and fun and the working holiday visa crowd over in Australia are more similar to a club 18-30 holiday than the sorts that want to jump out of a plane or climb a mountain. It’s probably no coincidence the large amounts of binge drinking British and Irish backpackers who populate the Australian backpacker scene are largely missing and replaced by a heavy amount of young adventurous Germans with a healthy mix of the new emerging Eastern European countries.

Whilst they may make me feel very old, the average New Zealand backpacker crowd is a much friendlier, fun and interesting crowd to mix with than there Australian counterparts.

Perhaps getting old isn’t so bad after all but it has still left me wondering if I am getting too old for this?

go girl now

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Armchair Traveler
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Joined: June 15th, 2009

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
Mein gott! You can't be serious :o Old at 28? I was 47 when I spent a month backpacking the south island and didn't feel the pinch at all. I think you just need to stay in different types of places--maybe you're gravitating towards the youthful hostels b/c that's your comfort zone, but there are many other ways to travel. We camped all the way thru and met lots of other people your age and my age who also camped and/or bicycled thru. You have a lot of years to go so don't give up now.

go girl now

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
Oh yeah, and you're not even old enough to be on this board--you have to be at least 40. :lol:


Knows What a Schengen Visa Is
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Joined: December 19th, 2007

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
Too old don't make me laugh I can't remember what it was like to be 28 yr old. My husband and I did a 12 month round the world backpacking trip when we were 63. Age is a number if you are fit and healthy it's not an issue, I couldn't care less if I could be someones grandmother so what. As a group we all have the same passion for travel and that's all that matters. On our trip we were on the go every 2 to 3 days sometimes just overnights and it was hard at times but I certainly didn't consider if I was the oldest one in the hostel that was the last thing I was thinking about. Just get on with the travelling and and enjoy it.


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Street Food Connoisseur
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Joined: March 26th, 2007
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  • Added on: June 30th, 2010
I'm now 40. Six months ago returned (to NZ) from a 15 month trip that included backpacking....with our eight kids and 76 year old Grandpa. Maybe there is no no "normal" for backpacking.
Pilgrims' Progress


Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: March 21st, 2007

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  • Added on: July 2nd, 2010
This reminded me when I was at the YHA hostel in Wellington. I was also 27 at that time, although this anecdote isn't about me. It's about a guy who stayed in the same room as I and who seemed to be in his 40's. The other guys in the room who were in their early 20's kept referring to him as the "creepy old guy" behind his back. The old guy seemed nice so it was quite disheartening to see people trash-talk someone because of their age.
There are lots of older travelers in NZ but a lot of them avoid hostels altogether. So if you stay in hostels, it might skew your perception that NZ mainly attracts the younger independent travelers, which isn't the case.
"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time" -- Fight Club


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Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: December 27th, 2006

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  • Added on: September 15th, 2010
LMAO - I think what you are finding is that older people are often couples and therefore will stay in different places - cause its cheaper than hostels. A couple of years ago we drove 35,000km in Australia - but rarely stayed in hostels - even in Sydney I fount an online hotel deal which was cheaper than the YHA! When we did meet up with the younger backpackers it was very much on the beaten track. If you get remote - all you will meet is their grandparents! Average age in the bush - 55 plus!

Travel for the Over 30's


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Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: April 10th, 2008

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  • Added on: February 14th, 2011
I have now spent three months here, the majority of it spent staying at the Worldwide Backpackers in Wellington. I had a wonderful time and met many fantastic people but the entire time I was there, I was the oldest person in the hostel at twenty seven. It seems that the hostels in NZ are fully of people who are nineteen and twenty.

WTF! Get out of your hostel and get out of Wellington. Check out the BBH network of hostels, aimed at independent travellers of all ages.

Don't forget your history
Know your destiny
In the abundance of water
The fool is thirsty

"Rat race" - Bob Marley


Holds PhD in Packing
Posts: 268
Joined: July 25th, 2008

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  • Added on: February 14th, 2011
I second BBH!

When I was in Australia I felt old at 25. When I got to New Zealand, I found myself with people my age, and sometimes I was the youngest! Get out of the YHAs and check yourself into some BBH hostels!
"i'm on my way, don't know where i'm goin..."~Paul Simon, Me and Julio


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World Citizen
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Joined: January 12th, 2008
Location: Traveling for a while away from Playa San Diego SV

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  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
A question like that on this board doesn't deserve a civil response! :horsie:
http://blogs.bootsnall.com/busman7 | http://wwwlasbrisasplayasandiego.blogspot.com
"I started out alone to seek adventures. You don't really have to seek them - that is nothing but a phrase - they come to you." Mark Twain

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