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Question for older travelers with backpacks

Posted by antoniamitchell on 22/5/2019 at 01:00

Hey everyone,

I've been musing about something, and wanted to ask some of the (ahem) older travelers on here about hotelier attitudes to backpack-carrying guests.

I noticed in my own travels in 2010/2011, that when I walked into a hotel or guesthouse carrying a backpack, I was treated as instantly suspicious, and asked to pay for my stay in advance almost every time. But when I walked into a hotel or guesthouse carrying an overnight bag, I was rarely asked to pay in advance and treated more as a welcome guest. "Such a pleasure to have you here, Ms Mitchell. Can I offer you a complimentary welcome glass of juice and a cold towel?" There was obviously a bit of an attitude that backpackers were a potentially shifty bunch.

(Before anyone asks, no, I was not wearing fishermen's pants and tie-dye. I do tend to look a tad scruffy when I travel (regardless of the bag I'm carrying) but that's because I always look a tad scruffy - I'm congenitally incapable of keeping my shirt tucked and my hair in a neat ponytail - one side will always manage to fall out)

So my question is - does that attitude go away once the backpacker is obviously middle aged or older? Or it that attitude changing overall, with even young backpack carriers now avoiding the shifty assumptions? I'm just curious, as I'm planning to go backpacking again a decade later.

#1 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 566

Posted by gecktrek on 22/5/2019 at 05:48

hey, i've been lugging a backpack, albeit with wheels for the last 30 years, never had an problems with accommodation, mind you i now book either by email or online, never as a walk-in, so perhaps they treat customers like that differently?

#2 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 171

Posted by exacto on 23/5/2019 at 13:03


It is wonderful to see you on the message board, and hope things are going well as you prepare for your next trip.

I had a somewhat related question a few weeks back, looking to keep my travel strategy current as the independent travel scene evolves and I (ahem) transition into middle age.

I am still traveling with a backpack after all these years, and didn't notice the type of behavior you mention directed at me at all on my trip to Thailand last February. In fact, if anything, I noticed the same type of "head down, looking at their phone" indifference from hotel desk clerks and others, at least at larger hotels, that I typically see here in the states now. Mom & Pop type places were the usual friendly as always. But similar to gecktrek, I also tend to book accommodation in advance online now, at least for shorter trip of just a few weeks. This is a big change from how I traveled before, but it is because more and more places can be booked online, even smaller guest houses in out-of-the-way places.

As far how local people react to me, I think my advancing age was a larger factor than my backpack. I received quite a bit of that deference courtesy that Thais offer to older people.

Apart from that, I do try to wear a clean shirt with a collar on the days I move to a new guest house, so when I turn up I look reasonably presentable, even though my clothes are selected for comfort over style when I am on the road. As you also know, a big smile still goes a long way too, although maybe not as much with the cell phone generation, as I mentioned above.

Anyway, perhaps the large amount of grey in the little hair I have left trumps any prejudice from the backpack I carry when I arrive. And even if it didn't, the few times I needed the backpack instead of a suitcase to comfortably and easily carry my stuff around would make it worthwhile anyway. I hope that helps. Cheers.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,816

Posted by antoniamitchell on 24/5/2019 at 15:05

Hey Gecktrek and Exacto, thanks for the replies.

Planning's going well - as always, the biggest challenge is narrowing down the options! Which countries, which towns, and how can I warp the fabric of the universe so that all the stuff I want to pack weighs no more than 5 lbs?

#4 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 566

Posted by exacto on 28/5/2019 at 03:44


I was pleased to get down to just under 10 kg last trip, including the weight of my somewhat bulky pack. Just like with every trip, there was about 25% of the stuff I took that didn't really get used, but everything I had with me was used on one trip or another over the past 10 years. I still take a few printed books with me to leave at guest houses along the way too, and replace that weight with the few fun things I buy as gifts.

Extra clothes seems to make up much of the weight, but I sweat through three times as many clothes in Thailand as I do back home, particularly when I leave the North American winter for the glorious Thai weather in January and February.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of laundry shops pretty much everywhere I want to go, and while it isn't cheap cheap like before, it is still plenty affordable and a real luxury when I travel to have my laundry done for me while I am on the road. I drop stuff off about every two days, just to make sure I have something clean to wear.

Your Travelfish private message function isn't turned on, so I'll ask here: Do you know yet where your next trip will be and about when you expect to go? How is that other thing coming along?

Take care and best wishes.

#5 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,816

Posted by antoniamitchell on 28/5/2019 at 04:32

Hey Exacto,

I've just set private messaging to on (I'd forgotten it was defaulted to off).

I'm planning on leaving end of June (my job here has come to an end, so I thought I'd take some time out to travel before I started another one and got tied into the rat race again). The plan so far (although it keeps changing) is:
- July - east coast of peninsular Malaysia and Thailand
- Aug - fly down to central Java, and work my way east into Bali (although I've spend several weeks in Bali before now, so will mostly be skipping quickly across)
- Sep - Lombok
- October - Sumbawa, Komodo and Flores
- Nov - Cambodia
- Dec - Laos

As to "the other thing" it's been a massive pain in the tuckus. The break is non-union (or at least severely delayed union) meaning I haven't actually been able to get the metal implants removed, and my doc still has restrictions in place on what I'm allowed to do, which will probably never get lifted (so no bungee jumping or playing football for me - not that I was planning on it anyway!). The better news is that the nerve damage is now 85-90% healed (still a bit of weakness in the right leg, but at least the constant nerve pain is gone).

So... it's not what I wanted, but it could have been worse (like much of life, I suppose ;)

#6 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 566

Posted by gecktrek on 28/5/2019 at 06:44

hey, sounds like a great trip, and looks like you will get to see komodo before it closes at the beginning of 2020... will you be renting scooters to get around, or just using local transport?

#7 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 171

Posted by antoniamitchell on 28/5/2019 at 07:09

Hi Gecktrek,
I'm gonna be using local transport, I'm afraid (and taxis where all else fails) - I don't have a drivers license, and I'm not supposed to ride a bicycle any more (balance is mucked up), so that does limit me a bit!

#8 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 566

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