To the twenty first century vagabond there is nothing more tasteless than the suggestion that you should abandon life on the road and ‘settle’. Embracing the static is beyond natural, but there are the perennial moments when your travel plan begins to warp and the sleepless days become structured weeks. This happened to me and before I had chance to realise, I’d found myself a new home abroad. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, it might be time to reassess and move on.
Once your hostel is no longer a mysterious labyrinth and you know your way around every room, you get the distinction of being an anchor of your dorm and can sprawl your clothes and towel out territorially. As the days roll by, there becomes a point where you feel like you want more space to spread out. If you’re feeling really maverick, you might start leafing through the accommodation listings of the local paper. This is an unexpected shift in dynamics and is a sign that it might be time to get out of town.
I’ll take you back to 2007 if you’ll let me. Stepping out of my flat in Sydney into the stifling heat I’m greeted by a raffish, pretty girl who wants to give me a cigarette if I indulge her with some directions. Instead of having a wander with her and idly losing our senses over a hazy afternoon, I found myself sending her down Harris Street with precise (wrong) shortcuts to Broadway. What was I doing knowing road names? This alarming realisation is surely a pointer that it is time to chase new skies.
People Know Your Real Age
Of course, there is nothing awry here. Forming a trusting unit with other wanderlust explorers is part of the ecstasy that keeps travelling fresh. Like me, you could be content with people thinking you’re older than you are. Or, you might be happy to adopt a younger image for a while. On this principle, every traveller is about 22 and even though there is no way it can be accurate, we’re happy to go along with it. If you’ve started freely giving your real age away, you’ve gone and gotten comfortable.
There is a pivot somewhere when the sleepless days and euphoric nights become, to a degree, structured. You might start planning your meals days ahead of actually eating them, or catch up on sleep; you may even start having breakfast. Having a routine is a pretty enriching way to live, but is unfamiliar on the road and tends to suggest you’ve become part of the furniture.
One of the key markers to having been around too long is also one of the most rewarding. When you start paying your hostel fees by the week, your food starts to conquer the fridge, one of the chairs in the common room becomes ‘yours’, you’ve been involved in some sort of debauchery on several staircases and are the mainstay of your room, you have become a hostel anchor. It’s a privileged position, hostel newcomers might look to you for anecdotes and tips, however it now ranks you alongside the girl from Chile who hasn’t left for 16 years. This is a position of responsibility, and if you’ve gathered this status when your original plan was to stay for a night, it might be time to get your coat.
As the visits to the local cafe mount up, you start to recognise faces. You might ask a girl out who you’ve seen sit at the table opposite a few times. She is from round here and in an audacious departure from your travelling community; you’ve identified yourself with a local. The fact she explosively rejected you is irrespective, you’ve been in town three months now, time to move on. Unless you find you can’t bring yourself to leave, is it time to stay, time to… settle?