When I look back to my first solo trip abroad at age 21, my experiences were so different to what they are seven years on. I could go (in fact I have been) back to the same cities that I visited when I was 21 and have a completely new experience, as though I’m seeing it for the first time. As we get older, our interests develop and mature, we appreciate different aspects of travelling and we’re more aware of the many different cultures around us. With new knowledge also comes a little more hesitation and the older we get, the more risk-averse we tend to become.
While I don’t think that I’ll ever stop travelling, I think that travelling so much early on has been the best decision I ever made. My 20s’ travels have completely shaped the person I am today and that really is a priceless beauty of exploring the world when you’re young, naive and free (and a little broke).
So why is it so important to travel in your 20s and what makes it so different to any other time in your life? Let me explain…
Take a break
Firstly, it’s important to take a little break away from study, away from work, and just enjoy life. These are meant to be the best years of our lives, so why would we want to waste them all away on work, when we have the rest of our lives for that?!
If you’re still living at home with your parents in your twenties, there’s one key upside and that’s having the ability to actually save some money, fast (ok maybe there are two – home made dinners are pretty awesome too!). If you’re not already, you’ll be out on your own very soon so take this opportunity to save your young little butt off and then go blow it all on an amazing trip abroad! You have the rest of your life to save money for grown up things.
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for anyone else’s bankruptcy but my own
Take more risks
The younger we are, the more innocent the world is and the more risks we take, most of them unknowingly. One must still proceed with caution and when I look back at my first trip abroad, I’m pretty surprised and quite frankly, impressed, that I didn’t get abducted by an Albanian people smuggling ring, drugged up and sold to the highest bidder at a secret auction, whilst my retired CIA agent father came to the rescue. I also watch too many films and am so happy I watched Taken after my first trip to Paris as it scared me off for a good year.
In all seriousness, there are things I did and risks I took during my first trip abroad that I would probably never have the guts to do now, but I’m so happy that I did because I now have so many amazing, funny and ridiculous memories from those times, and so should everyone.
There’s a certain stigma that comes with backpacking and it’s not entirely wrong. Backpacking isn’t for the feint hearted but it can be one of the most exciting, adventurous, raw experiences of your life and to fellow Aussies and Kiwis in particular, backpacking through Europe or Asia has become somewhat of a right of passage. Like a way of graduating from your teens and making your debut as an adult who can look, think and experience for themselves. Of course, it’s also an excellent time to get completely boozed up, pick up lots of cute guys and/or girls and occasionally visit some key tourist sights all whilst calling it a personal building experience on your journey towards self discovery. Mum and dad have never been prouder, maybe hide your photos from their Facebook timelines though.
The older you get, the less appealing sleeping on a dirty mattress in a hostel dorm with 12 other snoring strangers sounds. You start to enjoy ‘luxury’ things like a working shower and clean bed sheets.
Enjoy the backpacking lifestyle while you can. Get drunk. Do some stupid things. Party in every city. Miss your train because you’re too hungover to get out of bed. Make loads of new friends and just enjoy it for what it is! Just please make a promise to come back for the cultural stuff later, when you can really appreciate it. I promise it’s not as boring as you think it is right now.
It may seem like life is always hectic and it’s never a good time to pack up and leave to go abroad, whether for 6 weeks, 6 months or 2 years. If we look for excuses to hold you back, we’ll always find an abundance of them. The fact is, our twenties are when we’re at our most free. It’s 100% OUR time. The older we get, the more things make travelling difficult – mortgages, careers, kids, illnesses, weddings, divorces, you get the point. Though it may not feel like it right now, we’ll look back on our twenties one day and think how simple life was back then. Make the most of it!
Lastly, as cliche as it may sound, our twenties really are a time for self discovery. It’s probably the the time of our lives that sees the biggest changes and how and where we choose to spend this time of our lives has a huge impact on shaping who we become as people. We really do have the rest of our lives to work, buy a house and get married. Let’s spend this time of our lives exploring the world, discovering new places, cultures and interests, making new friends and memories, learning new languages and mastering our metro/tube navigation skills. Becoming a grown up in inevitable so let’s just enjoy these years for what they are – a time to be a little selfish, a time just for us!
For all those reading who have already hit the 30+ counter, I’m reaching the higher end of the 20s spectrum and soon I’ll be writing why travelling in your thirties is the new twenties, so if you feel you’ve missed the boat – stop, keep calm and carry on. There’s never, ever, a bad time to start travelling. Plus, the older we get, the richer our travel experiences become, so really, there’s never been more to look forward to than now!
What has been the best thing about travel in your 20s? I’d love to hear your stories or advice too!