1. You are no longer interested in just “sleeping wherever.” It used to be that you would all but sleep on a serial killer’s air mattress if it was close enough to public transportation, and had no problem with bouncing from couch to couch to get your four hours of sleep between drinking and wandering around the city all day. But now, you need a little space. You need a reliable bed. You need a place where you can change in peace. And the crumb-covered floor of your friend’s boyfriend’s friend’s place isn’t cutting it anymore.
2. Packing is a much bigger ordeal. Where you used to just throw your most pressing belongings into a backpack and hope that it would see you through your first week or so, you now begin packing weeks in advance, with a well-drawn list of all the items you need to include, from hair styling tools to a variety of cardigan options, to a small first aid kid in case you get a boo boo.
3. Everything needs to be at least (mostly) meticulously planned out. You have a set amount of time, and you’re going in there with a plan. While it would be romantic to just hop on a train and “explore,” it’s more important that you have enough money and somewhere to sleep. You are not about to get Taken at the age of 25. That would just be embarrassing.
4. Drinking has to be a planned-for activity in itself. No more of this “every night is flaming tequila shot with the locals” night. That shit wrecks you, and takes away valuable sightseeing time in the morning. Drinking is now one of your planned activities, that you can engage in some nights, but not with total abandon.
5. Hostels seem exhausting. You’re not trying to get caught between the Australian whose entire side of the room smells like bad weed, and the Spanish couple who somehow thinks it’s appropriate to have really quiet sex in the same room as everyone trying to sleep. You’re just too old for that shit.
6. Everything is much more expensive. Not that travel was ever cheap, but when you’ve upgraded even slightly from the “I’ll ride over here via steamship and sleep under bridges” school of exploration, things start to add up. AirBnBs? Airlines that are not RyanAir? Two pieces of luggage? It adds up.
7. Your parents are not helping. Not that you could take the hit to your pride that would involve going to your parents at this point and asking them to help subsidize your frolic through Europe, but you would still appreciate it. But you’re an adult, so no. They’re not helping.
8. You’re actually interested in seeing some sights. Before, everything about travel was a blur, just making out with accented strangers in a bar and eating cheese by rivers. And now you actually want to make sure to see some important works of art and public squares. What happened to you???
9. You are capable of planning out meals. Where you used to just kind of eat “when you realized you hadn’t eaten in ten hours,” you are now planning things out for yourself. You get a good breakfast in, and you make sure to really enjoy lunch, and you know where you are going for dinner. Food has become a main attraction in itself.
10. The word “working vacation” has entered your vocabulary. If you could get some work done on some of these days, maybe you wouldn’t have to use them as full vacation time. It’s basically the “tricking God” of traveling.
11. Tourist bars just make you tired. You no longer have the energy to go to Señor Pierre McFrog’s and watch a thousand Australians blow whistles and do whiskey shots and dance to Flo Rida. (Why are there always so many Australians???)
12. “Vacation time” has become a thing. You no longer just get a couple weeks or, come summer, months of vacation to just do what you want. You have to put in requests for that shit six months in advance, and use your time wisely.
13. Coordinating with friends is near-impossible. You’re not all in that transient, blowing-in-with-the-wind part of life. You have jobs. You have lives. And if you want to have a life-changing experience on a transcontinental train, you’re going to have to align your Google Calendars.
14. You’re not obsessed with just “continuous movement.” When you’re 19, you’re the shark of international travel. If you don’t stop moving, you’ll die. But eventually, you like the idea of staying in a place long enough to understand it much more than just “spending 12 hours in as many individual countries as possible.”
15. Real restaurants are part of the plan. You’re no longer going to subsist on a diet of Kebabs and beer and struggle. You’re actually interested in some real, authentic, relatively pricey dining. You may even leave a Yelp review, if the mood strikes you.
16. Vacation romances are a very different thing. You used to live for the idea of making out with a rando in a bar to a Stromae song and then never seeing them again. Now, you’d like to get lunch with your vacation romance. You’d like to discuss the universe with them. You want a spiritually-enriching vacation fling.
17. You’ve become “an adult on a well-earned vacation.” You take time to learn the foundations of the language. You research extensively. You talk about “making the most” of your time there. It’s a whole thing now, and at some point over the last few years, you basically turned into your dad. Your next step will be wearing hiking shoes and telling your friends fun facts about the various monuments. And you know what? You’ll probably love it.