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I recently read a post by one of my favorite travel bloggers; someone I respect and admire. She wrote a piece on her trepidation about turning 30 and gave a lovely tribute to her traveling 20’s. It was a beautiful article, but it made me sad, somehow, as well.

She worried that no longer having the identity of being a ’20-something traveler’ would make her somehow less relevant or relatable.

I get it. I’m not so old that I can’t remember thinking that 30 was the ‘end of an era’ myself. I remember waking up on my 26th birthday crying my eyes out because I was officially closer to 30 than I was to 20. A few years later, it happened. I actually turned 30. The world was over.

Except that I didn’t feel one damn bit different than I did at 29. Or 28 for that matter. Wasn’t I supposed to be all old and stuff?

Now at the ripe old age of 33 (I’m ever so much wiser now, don’t ya know?) I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t turn back the clock even if I could.

When did we put such a stigma on turning 30? And why do those in their 20’s hold the corner market on travel? Google ‘how travel is different in your 30’s and you’ll find a bunch of somewhat-depressing posts that make us out to be boring, snobby geezers who can’t hold our booze.

And okay, they’re not altogether off-base. It’s true that I no longer feel the urge to dance on bars, make out with strangers and do 8 tequila shots in a row because someone dared me to. I appreciate a good night’s sleep a lot more than I used to, and I prefer a nice glass of red to cheap draft beer.

Traveling in your 30’s IS different. But that doesn’t mean it’s not just as incredible. There are so many wonderful things about seeing the world in your 30’s as opposed to your 20’s.

 

Greater Self-Confidence

When I was in my 20’s I was a major worrier. I worried about things going wrong, I worried that everyone was talking behind my back, and most of all I worried about making a fool of myself. I required a lot more liquid courage to come out of my shell and make new friends. No matter how much I wanted to travel, I never would have considered taking a solo trip. If I couldn’t find someone to go with me, I just wouldn’t have gone.

Now I know that not only is the world filled with solo travelers, none of them are talking about me behind my back. No one cares that much about me; they’re all too worried about themselves. Oh, and if I do something stupid…well, I do stupid things all the time. Now I just turn them into funny stories and post them on the internet. 😉

I’m also far less susceptible to peer pressure than I was in my 20’s. I have always hated clubs, even when I was 21. I hate loud music, I hate smoke, and I hate dancing (I know, who the hell hates dancing? But guess what? I do, and I don’t really care). When I was younger I always let myself get dragged along to places I knew I wouldn’t really enjoy. I did pretty much anything that other people wanted because I was so afraid that I might miss out on something or that people wouldn’t think I was cool if I didn’t go.

Split, Croatia

Now, I do what I want. If I feel like staying up until 3 am playing drinking games with the fun Dutch people in my hostel I will. If I feel like curling up in bed at 10 pm with a good book that’s exactly what I’ll do. Sometimes I’ll go explore a city with other travelers that I meet but if I’m in the mood to spend time alone I have no qualms about politely declining. I don’t worry about missing out, because I know I’m living my life to the fullest, not someone else’s.

 

More Potential Friends

In my 20’s I tended to gravitate towards people who were similar to me. Similar-looking, similar-dressing, similar-speaking. I also had less life experience so the only people I could really relate to were…other 20-somethings. I thought the whole world was my little world of school and dating and parties.

Now that I’ve been all over and done so many different things, it’s so much easier for me to talk to anyone. I can relate to people in their 20’s because I’ve been there. I can relate to people in their 50’s because, guess what? They’re not that old either. They’ve probably done a hell of a lot more interesting things than I have and I’d love to hear about them.

Fountain in Budapest

These guys? I bet I would’ve even been friends with them.

Traveling in your 30’s makes you so much more likely to reach out and talk to anyone, regardless of a language barrier. You realize that just because you come from different cultures, religions or backgrounds doesn’t mean you don’t have something in common. And no, I’m not just talking about how many beers you can each drink in a night.

When I do travel with my significant other it will never hold me back from getting to know other people. (Ahem, couples who spend 90% of your time gazing into each other’s eyes and seem to consider public transportation the perfect location to play excessive tongue hockey. Is it really necessary to climb on your boyfriend’s lap and grind on him in the lounge?) I get it, your hormones are all kinds of crazy and you just can’t keep your hands (or lips) off each other. But if the only person you really spend time with while traveling is the one you brought with you, you’re missing out on so much.

 

Less Fear of Taking Risks

I’m not talking about recklessness (binge drinking until you black out in a city you don’t know, surrounded by strangers who don’t speak English, with no idea how to get back to your hostel). I’m talking about having more confidence in your own intuition; your ability to judge a situation. I can name a number of times in my 20’s when my instincts told me that something was wrong with a situation, or that a certain person wasn’t quite trustworthy. But I ignored them and paid the price. I put myself in bad situations and as a consequence, bad things happened to me.

Now, I trust myself. If I feel like something seems off with a situation, I leave immediately. Some people worry that solo travel isn’t safe, but the truth is it’s as safe or as dangerous as you make it.

Having more experience makes you safer.

It allows you to take calculated risks, because you trust your own instincts. I couchsurf as a solo female traveler. Yes, I even stay with single men but I do it wisely. If I don’t feel completely comfortable with a potential host I don’t accept an invitation. And I know that if I ever did get in a bad situation I have the wherewithal to get myself out of it.

 

Wider Range of Interests

In my early 20’s I did a lot of crazy things. I also went a lot of amazing places & had the opportunities to meet some fascinating people. But you know what I remember most about those experiences? The drinking. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with partying with your friends. It’s a great bonding experience and it really can help develop lifelong friendships. I mean, it’s hard not to be besties after you’ve held someone’s hair back and had a 40 minute heart-to-heart in the women’s bathroom. (I’m actually not being sarcastic here – this is genuinely how I got to know one of my best friends.)

I still drink, even a bit too much on occasion although those are becoming fewer and further between. But to me traveling isn’t just about the next party. Or which city has the best nightlife. I actually enjoy museums now. I like to hike and explore national parks. I love art exhibits and spending a day on the beach. I go see the sites but I also know that it’s not about checking off everything on the map or hopping a bus to a new city every 2 days just to say I’ve been there.

Church in Budapest

I would have totally missed this if I was too hungover to climb 8,000 stairs…

Now I travel to soak in a city – get a taste of the people, the culture, the history & just the general vibe.

 

Greater Appreciation for Every Opportunity

When you’re in your 20’s it’s easy to feel invincible. I remember being certain that I would never get old or seriously injured. I believed I had unlimited opportunities; the world was my oyster. I spent way too much time either lamenting the past or worrying about the future. I had a much harder time getting over disappointments and moving on with life, which in turn kept me from fully experiencing joy in the present.

The world is still my oyster, but in such a different way. I realize that opportunities are not infinite. I know how blessed I am to be able to experience what I do. I don’t take anything for granted anymore, and I’m much better at stopping to appreciating the exact moment that I’m in while I’m living it. (I don’t always succeed; it’s a work in progress, but oh so much easier than it used to be.)

 

Please note, I’m not saying that travel isn’t amazing in your 20’s or any other stage of your life.

I’m not making comparisons here, or saying that these statements apply to every single person. I have met younger travelers who don’t fit the typical backpacker mold and older travelers who still don’t get it.

For most people, travel is a different experience in your 30’s. All of these ‘Things to do Before You’re 30’ lists can suck it. Why has 30 become this magic number before which all good things in life happen? That stupid imaginary benchmark that we set for ourselves.

Those of you in your 20’s, don’t fear the big 3-0. Trust me. You will change, life will change, but it keeps right on going. And it gets even better. Keep right on traveling, finding new adventures, and loving every minute of it.

Your life does not end at 30. It’s just beginning.


This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. To find other fabulous travel related post and link your own up, check out at Chasing the Donkey, The Fairytale Traveler or any of the other awesome hosts listed below:

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Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. Dave Cole    

    Lots of great points in here, Mandie! As another 30-something, I really appreciate what you wrote about a wider range of interests. I have found that I gain a lot more from each new place given that I’ve matured a bit and have accumulated a greater knowledge of history & culture in that process.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Dave! 🙂 I agree – the more I learn & experience, the more I want to. I don’t know that I would have fully appreciated all the cultural diversity when I was younger.

  2. Katie    

    Every time I read one of your posts, I find myself mentally nodding my head as I read. If I had traveled to the places I have in my early 20s (I turn 32 in a month -eek!), I would have never appreciated them the way I do now. I would have been exactly as you described – looking for other people just like me and constantly being afraid of missing out. Now, I don’t care, and it’s liberating! 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      I know! It’s so freeing to stop worrying so much! I’m glad that other people feel the same way here – I just keep waiting for some pissed off 22 year olds to start posting angry comments. Lol

  3. Angelica @BkChickTravels    

    This is all so true, I cannot even begin to say how much I agree with you! I am 27, inching up my way to 28 and I love it. My life is so much better than when I was 20-24 years old. 25 was a great time, I become wiser, more adventurous, less afraid and definitely have more interests than going out and drinking with friends. It’s a whole world out there and it continues to get more and more eye-opening. Plus, now I divert to how great women can look as they age as long as they take care of themselves so age is only a number.

    1. Mandie    

      I think 27 is when you really start to be so much more comfortable with who you are and you stop worrying so much what other people think. Most people guess that I’m 25, so I could totally get away with lying about it but I don’t because I want them to see that’s it’s possible to be happy in your own skin exactly the way you are, old age and all. 😉

  4. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    Yes!! I am 30, turning 31 this October, and am 2 months away from jetting off on another adventure in New Zealand. I look back at my younger self, and am fascinated by how much I have grown as a person since I started traveling extensively at age 23. I find similarities to your experience – priorities shift, feeling more secure in my own skin, being able to make new friends anywhere and say no when I don’t feel like it. I’ve never been one for clubs either, and now I don’t pretend. I think some of the wisdom that comes from getting older is that you realize that there are all types of people out there, so you don’t need to conform in order to fit in. Chances are there is someone, or some group, somewhere who shares your interests. And the best way to connect is to put yourself out there. Cheers to our 30s!! 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      That’s exactly true!! There are ALL kinds of people in the world and the best way to find the ones who will really get you is to just be you. 🙂 Love it!

  5. Anda Galffy    

    Every decade in our life has its own benefits, but I guess is our limited existence that makes the passing of years sad. Beautiful post.

    1. Mandie    

      Yes they do…I definitely wasn’t trying to demean traveling in your 20’s, I just hate how people feel like they have to accomplish all these things BEFORE they turn 30, because life keeps on going. 🙂

  6. Brittany Longden    

    I am in my mid-30’s and I much prefer it over my 20’s. I now travel solo, which is something I would have never tired in my 20’s. I am also able to focus more on what is important – not wasting money at the bars and saving it for travel.

    1. Mandie    

      Exactly. I still like to drink but it’s not the highlight or focus of my trip! 🙂

  7. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer    

    You make turing 30 (which is happening to me in 2 years) sound not so scary! Thanks 🙂

    I myself am over the ‘partying stage’ and have been for a while now, I much prefer something relaxed and low-key.

    1. Mandie    

      I was terrified of turning 30. I was still depressed when I hit 31. Then 32 came and I realized that I was still capable of achieving anything I wanted to. It’s not scary at all – it’s liberating once you realize you aren’t contained by by some imaginary deadline 🙂

  8. Lois B (@PolishHousewife)    

    You make excellent points, Mandie, and I can tell you that with your attitude, it will just keep getting better and better.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Lois! I hope so 🙂

  9. Steve    

    As someone who turns 50 next year I found that experience and knowledge takes over. With it comes respect. People assume once you turn a certain age you become normal. They are wrong. You live the life you want and enjoy. Keep smiling.

    1. Mandie    

      I know, I’m pretty sure I’m getting LESS normal the older I get – the only difference is that I’m now 100% okay with it.

  10. Kristen Bor (Bearfoot Theory)    

    Mandie – Another awesome post. I’m 30 and can totally relate to the things you talk about here. In fact, just last week, I finally went on my first solo hike. It was liberating and something I would have been way to scared to do a few years ago. Thanks for the continued inspiration!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Kristin! I’m doing all kinds of things I never would have done on my own before and it feels so empowering!

  11. Brianna    

    As a fellow 30- something traveler I noticed outside of summer there are fewer travelers in our demographic. In general I was much more confident and comfortable with myself after the big 3-0 than I ever was in my 20s. The great thing about travel now is that I can afford all the experiences I want to do when I travel and not worry about the bills when I get home.

    1. Mandie    

      Haha well I’m envious of you on that one – I’m definitely stressing about the bills waiting for me back home, but then again I’m in the unique position of no longer having a job. Lol. But I agree, in general I think that those of us in our 30’s have a much easier time affording travel!

  12. Lauren    

    I can definitely relate to this post! I’m 32 years old, and I really didn’t feel any different as my age creeped up into my late 20s and into my 30s. I can totally look back on the way I was in my early 20s and I was just so…cautious, didn’t take many risks…now, I’m enjoying life way more! I do things on my terms and have a few close friends in my life who I adore, and love living life with Justin with our cat, traveling when we can… I don’t think that we live life to check things from lists, to get a certain amount of things accomplished before we turn a certain age because that could be setting ourselves up for failure. Instead, I would rather take the approach of focusing on what I’d like to do in the present, some things to strive for, and live life to the fullest!

    1. Mandie    

      That’s such a great approach! The problem with check lists is, what happens when you don’t get them checked off in time? Or worse, what if you do and it’s not what you expected and hasn’t made you happy anyway? So much better to just live the fullest life you can without putting a deadline on it! 🙂

  13. Lisa    

    At 36, I can totally agree with ALL of this. Without even having traveled much in my 20s. And now I find myself wondering what travel in my 40s and 50s will be like!

    1. Mandie    

      I know – I’m started to get excited about how my life will change (and how much more awesome I’m going to get – haha) instead of fearing it.

  14. Heather @ TravelingSaurus    

    OMG. Thank you so much for this. I turn 30 in exactly one week, and you know what? I’m really, really glad I’m not 21 or 22 anymore. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, or learn from it, but I’m glad it’s past.

    FYI: Also, I hate dancing more than anything. No one gets it!

    1. Mandie    

      Yay, another girl who doesn’t dance! We weirdos have to stick together 😉

  15. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}    

    Now that I’m in my 40s, I would say that I’m even more adventurous than when I was in my 20s or 30s. I have more self-confidence in myself, and I’m more carefree than when I was younger. Having all those years of earning power behind me has also opened up more destinations or experiences than what was possible in my younger years. I can still travel on a cheap budget if I want, but splurging every now and then isn’t a problem either.

    1. Mandie    

      I think I have finally stopped being afraid of 40, because I’ve seen how silly it was for me to be afraid of 30. The extra disposable income is a major perk! I’m still working on that myself. Lol

  16. Anna    

    Even though I’m 27 (and almost 28… eek), I feel like I relate more with 30’s than 20’s. I’ve never liked clubbing or dancing either, and I don’t really drink too much… and now that I’m traveling, I don’t have to pretend anymore. But I do need to work on being less afraid to do stuff by myself, which I’m sure will come with more experience. I’m nervous about turning 30, so thanks for making it seem not so scary!

    1. Mandie    

      The first time I sat down in a restaurant by myself I felt like a total FREAK. Now, I don’t even think twice about it. I think that has as much to do with traveling than it does with age, though. It is really scary the first time you do stuff on your own, but after awhile you become so free because you realize that you can do anything you want. Don’t be scared, I’m 100% confident that your life will still be awesome after 30. 🙂

  17. Penny @ Travelling Penster    

    Great post! I totally agree, being a 30-something. The greater appreciation you have for things in your 30s only enriches travel … and I think most things are better in your 30s! I actually freaked out a tiny bit at 31, not 30 – go figure! All good now though 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Haha I actually did too! Now at 33 I’m like, whatever… 🙂

  18. Katrina    

    I really enjoyed this post! I’ll be turning 27 this week, and 30 hasn’t looked quite so old or intimidating these past few years. 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks! I’m probably a little hypocritical because I’m still a little nervous about 40…but that’s a few years off lol

  19. Agness    

    I can’t relate to this post yet as I’m 25 :), but I can see myself changing every single day. I’m definitely more mature and started collecting moments, not things.

    1. Mandie    

      Haha but you’ve had so much life experience that I think it makes you appreciate life sooner. Just think how awesome you’ll be in your 30’s! 😉

  20. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)    

    Totally agree with so much of this post – such a good approach and like many of your other readers of this post, I too have enjoyed my 30s and the travel of my 30s far more than my 20s! Here’s to many more years of great travels!

    1. Mandie    

      Cheers! Keep the adventures rolling, that’s my motto 🙂

  21. Harri Constable    

    Some really nice points Mandie! Something to look forward to not dread x

  22. Christa Thompson    

    Hey, on behalf of Christa, Host of The Sunday Traveler, I was stopping by to check out your article. That’s one thing I always admire, transparency and a sense of humor- ok actually two, LOL. This was a great read and I have a little inside info to share with you, the same goes for in your 40’s. Yup, totally true. So now you have even more to look forward to. I also really like the way you ‘take time to stop and smell the roses’. I have seen how blogging can (though it has its many rewards), drive and direct someones entire trip and then next thing they know they’ve missed out on the roses but they’ve probably got some great pictures of them and can even tell you how they originated and are cared for etc. But, can they tell you how they smelled and perhaps felt and did they take some time to enjoy them? You seem like you do, and in the world of blogging it’s easy to fall victim to schedules and agendas. Kudos to you! 🙂

  23. Jess    

    I think people have the idea that your 20’s are when it’s okay to be a carefree wanderer, while travel in your 30’s has to be balanced around childcare and mortgage payments – as if anyone’s life actually follows that predictable a pattern. I was much more ‘settled down’ in my early 20’s, when I had responsibilities that didn’t allow for much travel. Now, at 30, I have resources and opportunities I didn’t before – and I use them to be the opposite of settled. 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Well said, Jess! I, too, was actually a lot more settled earlier on. My wanderlust has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. 🙂

  24. Adelina // Pack Me To    

    I’m in my late 20s and will be hitting my 30s soon. I feel that in most of these areas, I’ve already changed from when I started traveling in my early 20s. I think it comes with just more life experience, plus more travel experience in general. Great post.

    1. Mandie    

      Oh I totally agree. There is not a formula for exactly when a person changes and grows, and travel definitely can accelerate the process! 🙂

  25. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey    

    Such truth! My only thing that I miss about travelling in my 20’s is being able to stay awake longer, later…or skip sleep and the fact I was less worries. Naive maybe, but less worried.

    1. Mandie    

      Yeah, I do miss the whole not needing sleep thing, but the worrying? Girl, you just need to come on an adventure with me. I will terrify you so much that everything after that will seem like a breeze. 🙂

  26. Jonathan Ervine    

    I totally agree with what you’ve said about travel not suddenly getting less fun after hitting the 30 mark. I can relate to what you say about it being different but not necessarily any less fun. When I was in my early 20s, I’d be more likely to be getting up early and going on long day trips to see places. Although I’m only in my mid-30s, I can already feel that I’m often taking more time to relax when on holiday.

  27. Amy    

    Great post Mandy! As a fellow 33 year old, I can completely relate to all of this. I’m so glad I traveled a lot in my twenties and I really do think I grew a lot from it, but traveling has definitely evolved and gotten better as I’ve aged. I think the confidence aspect of it is huge – not only in trying new things and meeting new people, but also in not feeling limited in what you can do. And I’m no less fun than I was in my 20’s. Although, I do fit the stereotype of not being able to hold my alcohol anymore 🙂

  28. Diana - Life in German.    

    Love your post, I am currently hanging out with all these older ladies, I don’t know any my age in Hamburg. ( I think) the closest one to my age is 29 (i’m 25) , but we’re mostly all expats.

  29. Greg | Travel Blue Book    

    Dude, I love this. Personally, I think everything is better in your thirties. For me, I just grew up and realized that I really didn’t care what other people think of me anymore. It is actually a very freeing feeling. Furthermore, I’m now old enough to know better, still young enough to try, and smart enough to know that I don’t know it all. Not only has traveling become more fun, but life feels like it has truly just begun 🙂 Great work!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Greg!! I totally agree – right now I feel like I’m living the best part of my life and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here! 🙂

  30. Erik Emanuelli    

    Your life does not end at 40 too, Mandy.
    And I could go on.
    I plan to keep travelling until when I’ll have the strenght to!

    I love the “Cinque Terre” picture of the Italian Riviera.
    Wanna laugh?
    I live just at 180 km from that amazing place, and I’ve never visited it!
    I should feel ashamed… 😉

    But I’ve traveled around the world, in more than 30 countries.
    U.S. included, 6 times already.
    And Dubai, Venezuela, Europe, even Iran (for work)!…

    I am glad to have visited your blog, Mandy.
    Just connected with you on Twitter.

    Have an awesome week! 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Hey Erik,

      Thanks for stopping by! I agree, there’s no cutoff age in which you have to settle down and stop being adventurous. At one point I would have been nervous about 40, but it doesn’t scare me now. I’m sure I’ll be just as awesome. 😉

      You should definitely go visit Cinque Terre, but I know how it is. I lived in Chicago only 6 miles from Navy Pier and I never made it there. When you live nearby, you tend to think you have more chances, so you never get around to it.

      That’s an impressive travel list, however! I’d be nervous about Iran, I have to admit, but Venezuela would be amazing. 🙂

      Thanks again, Erik – have a great rest of the week yourself!

  31. Miriam of Adventurous Miriam    

    What an inspiring post, Mandie! I couldn’t agree more – traveling is not only for twenty-something travelers and growing up is not a bad thing. On the contrary. I feel much more experienced in so many areas now and life has made me strong and independent. I wouldn’t have considered a solo trip either in my twenties, but I had my first one this summer and I’m glad I waited. I just wasn’t ready until now. Thanks for addressing this subject!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Miriam! I’m always glad to meet another 30-something traveler. Even though sometimes I regret not going abroad in my 20’s, it wouldn’t have meant the same to me then that it does now. 🙂

  32. Božo    

    I absolutely agree with you Mandie. I’m in my early 30-ies and to be honest i wouldn’t return to my 20-ies. When i looked at my photos from 10 years ago i looked like some lost boy. I really don’t feel any different (ok i’m a little wiser) now. I still listen to same music. Unlike you i like clubs and electronic music, and still like to party and have a drink or two. 🙂

    P.S. I would really like to know who came up with the idea that 30-ies are “the end” ?

    1. Mandie    

      Right?! Why do we have to be all ‘settled down’ and boring now? I still like to party as well, just not in clubs. I’m more into pickup trucks and bonfires in the country. 🙂 I didn’t like clubs in my 20’s either though, so I don’t blame it on age! Haha

  33. ChasinJason13    

    I absolutely agree with what you’re saying. I look back at some of the trips I took when I was younger(missing the David because I lost my guidebook and ‘thought’ I remembered it was in the Uffizi 3 hours before my train left at 20) and I want to smack myself for being a moron. That said, although I “correctly” re-did Florence at 23(w/ a LOT more research- read: maturity), I would absolutely kill another week in Florence. And in 20 years I’ll probably look back and think I can do it even better- and that is what they call catching the travel bug.

    I dig what I’ve seen of the site so far, it’s nice to see someone writing more than 500 words at a time.

    1. Mandie    

      Hahaha, well I think we were all sort of morons when we were 20. I have yet to do Florence but it’s absolutely on my list. You know, along with 876,213 other places to see before I die. 🙂 And thanks for the compliment! I tend to write longer, more in-depth posts, which is why they usually only come out once, maybe twice a week.

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