Messy Traveler

Are You A Messy Traveler Too?

Derek Everything Else 71 Comments

Messy Traveler

Whenever I am living in one place for a good amount of time, let’s say a few weeks or more, I tend to be quite a clean and orderly individual. I always make my bed each morning, I keep my clothes in a closet or in drawers and I make sure that everything is in place before I head outside. If I cook some food, I always clean the kitchen soon after (sometimes even before eating) and after taking a shower, I make sure the bathroom floor is dry and spotless.

I enjoy a clean room or apartment. It makes me feel good, especially when, at night, I climb into my bed after another long day out and about. Knowing that the space around me is in perfect order helps my mind remain calm and orderly as well.


When I pack up my backpack again and hit the road, it’s an entirely different story.

If I’m staying in some short-term accommodation, maybe a hostel or hotel or guesthouse or a room in someone’s house, I tend to destroy the place. I don’t exactly graffiti the walls or pick up the chair and smash the lamps and tables to smithereens, but in terms of my possessions, I can’t seem to keep them from scattering all over the room.

And usually, it takes approximately three minutes after my arrival for me to turn the room into such a disaster area.

Hostel Room While Traveling

I don’t know exactly why this happens. I can only guess. Perhaps it’s because if I was organized in these kind of places, I would feel too settled. It would start to feel as if I was staying long-term and of course, the more comfortable I am in a hostel or hotel, the harder it is to leave, naturally. But sometimes I want to leave and having to take my newly organized room and place it all back into my backpack becomes a difficult task.

By creating a disaster zone instead, it becomes very easy to just pack up and take off to the next destination, even on very short notice. There’s no attachment, in the form of comfortable and organized surroundings, to my room at all.

And this is why, only five minutes after arrival, my current room at the Rossco Hostel here in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, the hostel where the Wander Across Mexico tour group is staying, looked like this…

Hostel Room in Mexico

So, are you an organized traveler or a messy traveler? If you haven’t traveled, what do you think you would be? And what does it all mean?


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Comments 71

  1. If it’s a short-term stay, I keep most things in my bag unless I’m using them. Otherwise, I’m a semi-neat long-term traveler. I suspect it’ll be a bit different now though since I won’t be travelling for work (usually 60-90 days at a time) and I’ll be in hostels. Definitely a lot less stuff will be packed.

  2. Um. Wow. I guess I’m pretty neat traveler. I never unpack, things stay nice and in place. That way, I’m able to move about quickly. I don’t want to waste my precious time traveling with unpacking and re-packing and searching for stuff.

  3. i’m very messy traveler. every single time in a pleasure and enjoyable place, you will feel dont have enough time to spend for discovering the details. just throw the bag, and get out 😀

  4. Hmmmm That’s something to think about. On short trips, I tend to keep everything basically in my suitcase. I think mostly so I don’t leave anything behind and can pack up quickly. If I have enough room, it does spill out a bit though, for easy access to things. When I’m somewhere for a longer stay, but not permanent (a few weeks to a few months) I can get messier, because, well, what’s the point in getting too organized? It’s not like you live there! When I move into a place I have a burst of energy for organizing and decorating and have this idea that it will be a neat and tidy place, which it is temporarily…. and then I get comfy and lazy and leave my clothes in a pile and my papers in another pile. Darn it, I’m just messy!!! How do I cure this??

  5. It’s hard to stay orderly when living out of a backpack. If you stay somewhere for a long time you have time to organise your things. But when hopping from place to place you have to cram everything into the pack and rip it all out because the thing you need is usually at the bottom. The joys of backpacking 🙂 oh how I miss it.

  6. No I’m totally opposite to this king of habit .If I am in a place with other people around or Couchsurfing at somebody’s house, I tend to are cleaner and more organized out of respect.

  7. I would like to think I’m somewhere in the middle!

    I try to keep most of my stuff inside my bag so I don’t get the room oto messy, but if I’m looking for something & I can’t find it, the room might get a little messy. I try to put everything back right away, but sometimes it takes a couple of hours. 😉

    -Maria Alexandra

  8. I’m definitely a messy traveler, but I’m trying to improve! I’d much rather be neat and organized, but as soon as I enter a hostel/campsite/hotel/whatever, my backpack explodes everywhere. I’m so glad I remembered to use packing cubes; at least my mess is somewhat confined!

  9. Another thought after reading these comments. I wonder how many of these travelers have a pack that is entered from the top. I can see that you’d be a messy person if you had to unload and load your pack every time you wanted something, as what you are looking for is almost always on the bottom!

    I travel with a front loading pack. You lay it down, zip it open and everything you own is right there in front of you. It’s easy to get what you want without unpacking all your other stuff. And, it’s easy to just throw unfolded stuff (dirty used stuff) onto the top of the stuff in your pack and flip the flap back over everything without zipping it back up. It looks like you’re a neat person, but really, you’re only hiding your mess as you leave your room for the day.

  10. I am the same. I spent a year traveling and working in australia and I never ever became organized anywhere. Even when I ended up living in the same house in Sydney I always thought, it’s just temporary anyway so no point in setting up. My visa expired and I returned home to Chicago and moved into my mom’s apartment to save up money and find work for a bit (it is NOT easy finding temp work here…it’s been a month and i’m still unemployed). Now I feel weird and can not get organized because I feel like it will mean I am stuck here and this is where I live. Ever since I got out of that “stuck” feeling and started traveling… spending time in one place makes me feel stuck. This is a problem as I am low on funds and can’t even seem to find temp work! Any tips for that trapped feeling? I miss the exhilarating feel of exploring and constantly moving and experiencing….

  11. I’m exactly the same as you, Earl. When I was a teenager, friends used to come over to my house and ask where all my stuff was in my room; they’d be shocked how minimalist and tidy I was. Some said anally retentive. But when I’m in a hostel or hotel, I spread my stuff all over the place, just like in your pictures! My partner, Zab, is the opposite; at home, he has piles of stuff lying around that drive me crazy, but when we travel, he lives entirely out of his backpack and barely unpacks anything. Weird, huh?

    1. Hey Sam – That is definitely weird and hopefully that works for you guys while on the road! I guess it can as I know that I don’t enjoy traveling with another messy traveler, even though I’m throwing my stuff all over the place.

  12. I’m ridiculously neat at all times. I love order and I have a strong desire to create a nest even if only for a few hours. I love checking into a room and immediately extracting my laundry from my backpack, which I then hand wash and hang right away. It makes me feel so happy to see it drying. I know that when I leave in the morning it will be crisp and ready to serve. (I’ve always been like this! = )

      1. I think I’ve never met a person while traveling in 3 years that does this. Respect! I think the most are to lazy to do so, as I dont mind spending some money (as my travel budget has always been low) on dropping my clothes and let my clothes been washed. Am I the only one…or are there more travelers that wandered around with clothes not been washed for..yes..weeks!?

        1. Hey Lars – I always have my clothes washed as well…usually once per week. Without clean clothes I’m not comfortable at all.

  13. That’s funny, I’m the opposite. If I am in a place with other people around or Couchsurfing at somebody’s house, I tend to be cleaner and more organized out of respect. If it’s a domicile that I’ll be in for a while, I tend to get more comfortable and leave my stuff all over.

    1. Hey Matthew – Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trash anything. It’s only if I have my own room that I make a complete and utter mess, or if I’m staying at one of my closest friend’s houses who know that I’m not going to stay organized while there!

  14. I travel alone, and I love having everything neat and in its place. When I’m home, I’ve got a houseful of kids and dogs and cats and a husband, the mess drives me crazy! I travel to satisfy my OCD desires, with everything “just so”. I’m weird that way.

    1. Hey Kiki – Sure…you want the opposite of home when you are traveling and I can only imagine that you love that organized feel of your accommodation when traveling on your own. It must be quite relaxing and peaceful to have such order from time to time!

  15. ahahaha omg, as soon as i saw the post i jumped at reading it! such a coincidence, last night i was talking to my friend about this. I just hit the road (5 weeks in SEA now) and this weird thing happened to me as well. I just can’t believe it. MY friend laugh at me because as soon as i arrive in the hostel the room looks like a bomb has been blown inside. And, just as you, this is surprising, as i am a really organised person in my normal life. So i was just trying to figure out why this is happening to me! I still don’t have an answer…it may be because i’m still not used to the life on the road? but yet I used to do camping for weeks when i was at University, and even with a tent, no table and 1 square meter to use, i was tidy. So yeah…i have no idea of what is happening! i hope i get better otherwise i think i’ll go crazy after a ciouple of months 🙂

  16. With the size of some of the hostels I was staying in in South America, I was forced to re-pack my backpack every time I got something out of it! To begin with it was a massive pain, but I found that it forced me to be really organised. Now I’m back in my London flat, it’s amazing how much mess I can make with the few possessions I’ve so far recovered from my garage…

  17. Ohhh neat and tidy all the way, wherever. Have to be or I lose track of stuff and waste time looking when it’s right there! There under that other thing.
    I also find a neat space to be more restful.

    1. Hey Maria – Ha…I guess I can’t waste time looking for things since I don’t travel with much. Now I envision you traveling with a three trunks and two suitcases 🙂

  18. I would be exactly the opposite. When I’m comfortable in a place, it’s all messy, but if I’m not there very long, it’s spick and span! I even tidy up before the maids come round…even though that kind of defeats the purpose of maids.

    1. Hey Rebecca – I can see how that works as well…and tidying up before the room is cleaned isn’t a bad idea. I know people who do that just so that nobody thinks they’re a messy person.

  19. I’m exactly like you. I can’t work in a morning until I know the place is tidy normally. Disorder nags away at the back of my mind and I can’t concentrate. Yet light as I can travel I seem to trail chaos too. I think the person who mentioned about having to root for things in the bottom of the backpack hit the nail on the head. That’s part of it. It’s also because in budget accommodation there normally isn’t space for everything, no matter how little you carry! One of the things I dislike about hostels is having to stuff everything away each morning out of respect for others sharing the space (even if they don’t do it themselves!), and out of a need for security, and then having to drag it all out to change my clothes or get night stuff. I am definitely tidier when I stay in a posh hotel!

    1. Hey Linda – That’s right about the hostels…having to pack up and unpack a few times per day is not so fun and definitely makes it more difficult to stay tidy. And I also agree think that because I use just about everything in my backpack, I need to take it all out all the time and that helps ensure that I scatter everything all over the room!

  20. I am terrible, but it’s not my fault. I blame it on the unwritten law of physics that states that as soon as i enter a hotel room my backpack will always and without fail, spontaneously explode, spreading matter (and some anti-matter) across every spare surface of above-mentioned hotel room.

    1. Hey Amanda – You know of that law too? Nice! I thought I was the only one who had heard about that one 🙂

  21. I’m usually the kind that keeps things picked up when I travel, or even at home. If I’m in a hostel type room with others, I like to keep my stuff out of sight so it doesn’t grow legs. If I’m in a room by myself, I also like to leave things in order while I’m out. I don’t want the maids to think I’m a messy person! HaHa I think it’s just to keep track of my stuff so things don’t get lost.

    If I’m in a place for a week or so, all my stuff is hung up and/or put into drawers and my empty pack is slipped under the bed, out of sight. Presto, I’m home!

    1. Hey Steve – Very orderly of you! I guess once you get in the habit of putting everything away, it must become quite easy.

  22. Great post Earl!

    These actually look like neat messes (if that’s not an oxymoron). It just looks to me like you had limited storage space and so used beds at the next best option. Maybe this shows I’m a messy traveler myself (although I usually live out of my bag if it’s for less than a week).

    Also, what the best way to find a cheap rental in Sayulita (or somewhere equally cheap and authentic in Mexico that you’d recommend). I keep coming up with $100/night places (unless those figures are in pesos in which case I apologize)!

    Keep up the great posts! 🙂

    1. Hey Owen – The best way is to visit, look at the 1 BR apartments tab and scroll all the way to the cheapest ones at the bottom. Ignore the nightly rates and contact the owner directly through the site, asking what their lowest weekly/monthly/long-term rates are and you’ll find that they are usually much more affordable. Otherwise, just show up, ask around and you’ll be sure to find a room/apartment at a cheap rate. They exist, just not always advertised online.

  23. You know what…I looked at your chaos…and…actually it did not look so bad. Really an orderly mess. I could live with it. You are doing a fine job. I live in my perfectly pretty patty pringle life in ACK as you know and, quite frankly, my place could look like your worst night mare. Two minutes later and I could have the place ship shape and not be afraid of having India Hicks visiting…It is all relative.. it does not stay that way but…oh well…there is a fine line between chaos and order… 🙂 Dan

  24. Funny to read this! I am the kind of person that cleans up and make sure everything has his place. The main reason is so I dont lose anything!!!! Cause thats where I am good in, losing or forgetting things! Keep up the nice blog posts, cheers 🙂

    1. Hey Lars – Now that is a perfectly reasonable reason to be orderly. I do lose things from time to time with my messy ways.

      1. I guess every backpacker knows the feeling, you forget the most simple thing, that doesn’t cost much but what is soooo useful while traveling…!

  25. Are you still in San Cris or is this an after-the-fact post? If you’re there, be sure to go to the scooter shop, Croozy Scooters, just off the andador on Bellisario Dominguez and see Shelley! She will take care of your local travel needs and tell you places to see around town!

    1. Hey Dixie – I’m still here, for another couple of days. My group has a busy schedule but I will try to get over to the scooter place to meet Shelley!

  26. I’m messy in general, but I’m also afraid of leaving stuff behind, so I usually designate a corner of the room or a table space where my mess exists. I also avoid using cupboards and drawers (which adds to the mess) because I’m concerned about leaving stuff behind by accident!

    1. Hey Jac – I can understand that reasoning and since I do leave stuff behind from time to time, I might want to create a more orderly mess myself.

    1. Hey Wil – And I think that when you don’t travel with much, you generally use everything in your backpack, so it all needs to come out when you arrive.

  27. I’m glad its not just me! I am like a gas, I expand to fill the available space in a random, chaotic fashion. Never thought much about why, think usually its just not worth being tidy only to pack everything up again a few days later.

    1. Hey David – Nice analogy…as long as you don’t explode then it seems like you have it all under control!

  28. I am most definitely the messy traveler. As soon as I get into a hotel room, my backpack explodes like a pinata and my stuff spills out all over the place. I think it doesn’t help when you live out of a backpack and you are looking for that one specific item so you have to take everything out to reach it.
    Luckily both Lee and I are messy, so he doesn’t get too bothered by it. Sometimes if we are staying somewhere for a few days and the mess starts to annoy us we will tidy up the room, but it doesn’t stay tidy for long.

  29. Oh god even now I’m stopping for a while, the mess is incredible. I don’t think it’s anything to do with attachment, for me it’s really upsetting to think, that I will clean something only for it to become a mess again. There is also things like if I come home from working all day the last thing I wanna do is clean. Argh

    1. Hey George – Fair enough. Staying organized does take some effort. It’s the same when traveling…after a full day out and about, the last thing I want to do is clean up.

  30. I am precisely neat with my belongings whenever I travel. I just get too crazy if they are everywhere! I hate searching for things so I tend to always put them back orderly in their places to save time looking after them later on. However, if I settle at one place for quite sometime you can see a thing or two not on its place. I’ve traveled, though, with friends who can make a room look like some kind of an atomic bomb exploded. I didn’t bother as long as my space is tidy 😀

    1. Hey Evan – I wish I could follow your lead and stay as organized myself. I don’t mind being messy but a little more cleanliness wouldn’t hurt.

  31. I’m both, I made my bed this morning, I neatly stacked my toiletries on the vanity, I placed my shoes and bags to one side of the bed and threw all my snotty tissues in the trash (I have a cold), I folded my pj’s and put them on the shelf. You should see my side of the room now…CHAOS!! My bag exploded and almost every garment I have with me is on my bed, only because I was picking out something to wear after my shower. I’m going to have to repeat the tidy up process before bed, how annoying!

    1. Hey Rashelle – That’s what happens…if I do try to clean, it’s a disaster soon after and so I think, what’s the point of cleaning up. I wonder, did you tidy up again??

  32. Nope, I am one of those crazy travelers who takes everything out of my bag and puts it neatly away, even if only in a place for two days…it gives me less of a rushed feeling, and more of a “live there” feeling. At home, frankly things can be messy…but when I travel, I like everything put away…so I an almost pretend I live there.

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