20 Trips Every 20-Something Should Take

Bucket List? Tick. Words by Kate McCabe

By Kate McCabe, 15/9/2017
Brought to you by Qantas

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Travel gives twenty-somethings the chance to get out there and experience the world before the real responsibilities that come with adulting set in.

From backpacking Southeast Asia on a shoestring, to heading Stateside for some of the world’s best music festivals, here’s the low-down on the where and when of twenty-something travel with key lessons to boot.

Japanese temple

Image: JNTO

Visit Japan

In Japan‘s cities, you’ll be dazzled by neon that makes you feel like a small fry among busy streets. In the countryside, you’ll fall in love with quaint villages and lush landscapes. You’ll visit tranquil temples, feed wild deer and stroll through towering bamboo forests. You’ll return home with carry-on full of KitKats that none of your friends or family will actually eat. You’ll sip saké in the pocket-sized bars of Golden Gai, surprise yourself with daring culinary experiences and never think the same way about 7-Eleven again.

Japan will be the one place which truly and wholeheartedly opens your eyes to the possibilities of travel. Don’t fret, you will return.


Image: Anne Dirkse / Flickr

Drive Outback Australia

Inspired by images of #vanlife, you’ll hire a camper and hit the wide-open roads of the Northern Territory. You’ll sleep under the stars and gaze upon the changing colours of Uluru as many thousands have before you. You’ll see crocs at feeding time, cool off in Kakadu’s serene swimming holes, snorkel crystal clear waters at Mataranka, bathe under waterfalls in Litchfield and watch the desert sun set over Ubirr. You’ll marvel at rock art over 20,000 years old and you’ll extinguish the heat by knocking back schooners with backpackers in Darwin.

Your visit to the outback will be your most authentic Australian adventure, a first-hand taste of that dry, sacred, dangerous place that you’d so far only heard about. You’ll be left with a newfound sense of history and place.

Woman backpacking

Image: Steven Lewis

Take A Gap Year

You’ll live abroad at least once to legitimately test the stability of your own two feet. You’ll spend a season on the slopes of Canada, pull beers in London, rent a shoebox in Williamsburg or teach English in Cambodia, and you’ll miss home more than you imagined was possible. You’ll work jobs you hate and spend every last penny of your pay cheque.

You’ll feel the sadness that comes from being genuinely broke, and along with each exciting new friendship there’ll be a heartbreaking goodbye to follow.

You’ll have family and friends visit and you’ll burst with pride to show them the new life you’ve created. You’ll fall madly in love (maybe more than once) and you’ll return home after three months, 12 months, three years, oozing with self-confidence and a swag of unforgettable experiences.

Route 66

Image: Randy Heinitz / Flickr

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

At some point, the romance of America’s vast and unending highways will call, and you’ll obey. You’ll travel with a few mates in a beat-up wagon you spent your collective savings to buy. You’ll set off for the Mother Road – California to Illinois – with little more than a strategically curated playlist.

You’ll share the road with balding bikers, oversized Chevvies and tourists being chauffeured in Cadillacs. You’ll keep charged on entertainingly unpleasant roadhouse snacks and, when you finally lay eyes on Trader Joe’s, it’ll feel like a gift from the gods.

You’ll be surprised by friendly locals and a sparse but picturesque desert landscape (replete with actual tumbleweeds). You’ll ditch the car in Chicago to retrace the footsteps of Ferris Bueller, then power on to the grand ol’ Grand Canyon and the bright lights of NYC.


Image: Jakob Owens

Snorkel The Great Barrier Reef

You’ll travel to Far North Queensland to chase sun, sand and Australia’s most precious natural wonder. You’ll party with backpackers in Airlie Beach or splash out on an exclusive penthouse on Hamilton Island. Either way, you’ll spend your days with a GoPro strapped to your arm, capturing the brightest version of every colour under the rainbow. Bliss.

Gursimran Singh

Image: Gursimran Singh

Find Yourself In India

India has an intensity like nowhere else on earth, leaving your senses tingling with striking colours, flavours and smells. It’s likely the furthest your twenty-something self will venture from your comfort zone. Decked-out in fisherman’s pants and sandals, you’ll hit your spiritual peak (either life-altering or perhaps just a phase).

You’ll follow The Beatles to Rishikesh to take a 10-day vow of silence. You’ll make it through day one before choosing to chatter with other soul-seekers over a cup of chai. You’ll catch at least one violent spout of Dehli Belly, visit the Dalai Lama and laze on the beaches of Goa.

The stand out memory will be a sense of pure peace at the Taj Mahal (or other stunning sites); a wonder deserving of nothing less than its wondrous reputation. Take a deep sigh of soulful longingness.

New Zealand

Image: Sam Ferrara

Go To The Extreme In New Zealand

Never before (and never again) will you jam so much adventure into one holiday. Summer or winter, not a moment under the Great White Cloud is wasted. You’ll ride helicopters, kayak, canoe, snowboard, skydive and do the “when in Rome” bungee jump. You’ll spend the majority of your time among stunning national parks topped off with a day of wine tasting on Waiheki Island.

Bus interior

Image: Matthew Henry

Do Europe By Bus

On your first trip to Europe, you’ll take a chunky bite of your bucket list, keeping count as you go. Instant friends and an energetic guide make for the ultimate European adventure. A no-regrets no-brainer for every twenty-something, you’ll see landmarks that will take your breath away alongside those that don’t quite live up to your expectations. You’ll get swept up in the romance of Paris, the tantalising food in Italy, the jaw-dropping mountains of Switzerland and the mischievous streets of Amsterdam. You’ll miss at least one due to a hangover.

Every day is something new. You’ll rely on your guide like it’s a matter of life and death – you’ll waste no time lost or unsure. You’ll tick off many of the continent’s must-do’s and return home as worldly as ever, pronouncing “France” as “Fr-AR-nce”. And you’ll never travel at that pace again.

Canada ski slopes

Image: Alain Wong


Hit The Slopes In Canada

The Rockies are one of the most spectacular places on earth, and there’s no better way to take it all in than from the slopes. Basing yourself in Whistler or Banff, you’ll spend your days carving up fresh powder and your nights drinking Coor’s Light in mountain-top bars. You’ll get up close and personal to majestic wildlife and be inspired by locals’ passion for Canada‘s Great Outdoors.


Image: Abigail Lynn

Go Clubbing In Berlin

Visiting Berlin and not going clubbing is like visiting to Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower. Berlin’s club scene developed after the fall of the Wall, when factories and apartment buildings were abandoned, free for the taking by club promoters.

You’ll try Wilde Renate, Watergate or Sisyphos to start. You’ll lose your way in dark hallways and hideaways, and have your mind blown by some of the world’s most innovative club DJs. You’ll work up the courage to try the notorious Berghain, where you’ll see things that cannot be unseen. Don’t believe everything you read: go early, be yourself, wear black and you’ll walk straight in.

Yosemite National Park

Image: Sebastian Gabriel

Camp In Yosemite National Park

It had always been the bright lights of LA and New York that attracted to you, but you’ve since learnt that the USA has more to offer than the cities featured on its most popular sitcoms. You’ll drive a camper van across Yosemite to witness some of the most photogenic landscapes the country has to offer, with a few campfire singalongs thrown in for charm.

Sailing in the Mediterranean

Image: Benjamin Voros

Sail The Greek Islands

Sailing Greece is the ultimate party trip. You’ll spend 10 days on a squashy yacht, forgoing the luxury of personal space. You’ll dock at dazzling beaches watched over by clifftop towns. You’ll party at a poolside club in Mykonos, survive on an olive and feta diet, and cruise Santorini by scooter. You’ll wrap it up glaring into the authentic Oia sunset, the most breathtaking you’ve ever seen. You’ll take a photo with your friends on the bow of the boat, topless, backs to the camera, arms stretched high, wooing out to sea.


Image: Eric Ward

Dance At A World-Class Music Festival

As the first music festival line-up drops, you won’t be able to bear the thought of not being there. You and your mates will buy tickets not yet knowing how you’ll get there or how you’ll pay for it. Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, Sziget, Fuji Rock or Tomorrowland, you’ll be drawn in by the promise of the world’s best bands and atmosphere to boot.

You’ll be ill prepared with a tiny tent, paper-thin mattress and a handful of carefully curated outfits. It’s a quick trip with no time for sightseeing, and it will be unforgettable.

Mae Hong Son Thailand

Image: Stephanie Ecate

Backpack Southeast Asia

Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam will be the trip you take to prove your independence. You’ll depart on a cheap flight with your luggage allowance maxed. You’ll drink cocktails from buckets and chow down tasty bánh mì. You’ll let go of insecurities and embrace street food and test your nerves on manic streets. You’ll get lost in mesmerising night markets and marvel at the sunrise over Angkor Wat.

You’ll spend a few days grossly hungover, get sunburnt and, god forbid, you might get your first (bad) holiday tattoo. But you’ll find that independence you were looking for.

Mariachi musician

Image: Cristian Newman

Follow The Gringo Trail Through Mexico and Central America

At the beginning, it’ll sound offensive, but as you make way through Latin America you’ll embrace your place as a certified “gringo”. Across Central America, you’ll discover how “real” tacos should taste, trek to ancient Mayan Ruins and backflip into sparkling Cenotes on the Yucatan. You’ll hike volcanoes in Guatemala, slide back down them on a board in Nicaragua, learn to dive in Belize and see a sloth in jungle of Costa Rica. It will be otherworldly.

Machu Picchu

Image: Scott Umstattd

Bulk Up Your Bucket List In South America

Curious after reading Marching Powder, you’ll venture into remote and unfamiliar worlds on death-defying roads. You’ll take ingenious photos on the salt flats of Bolivia, trek into the Amazon in Ecuador, go sandboarding in a desert oasis in Peru, and (if budget allows) get yourself to Galapagos.

You’ll get drunk on terremoto in Chile and party like the world is ending at Carnival in Brazil.

There’ll be no shortage of show-stopping experiences during your South American jaunt, but the icing on the cake is the hike through the Andes to Machu Picchu. Four days of a steep jungle terrain with the high altitude adds an extra challenge, but it will be so worth it.

Mount Kilimanjaro camp site

Image: Antonio Soletti

Hike Mount Kilimanjaro

In the months leading up, you’ll try (and fail) to stick to a regimented training schedule. The once-in-a-lifetime hike will take you eight long days to complete, a climb so rigorous you’ll need to actively remind yourself to stop and take it in.

“Congratulations. You’ve made it to Uhuru Oeak Tanzania, Africa’s Highest Point, World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain.” If an eight-year-old can do it, you can, too.

La Tomatina

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Throw Tomatoes In Spain

One of Europe’s most bizarre but strangely alluring annual events, you’ll hit the streets of Bunol on the east coast of Spain for the world’s biggest food fight, La Tomatina. Get the timing right, and you’ll catch world-renowned acts at Benicassim music festival and run with the bulls in Pamplona while you’re there.

A lack of Spanish will leave you mostly out of the loop, so, later, you’ll bunker down in the Spanish seaside town of San Sebastian or the lakeside hangout of San Pedro to learn the most important phrases: “How much is this?”, “Is this chicken?” and “Two glasses of red wine, please”.

Image: Scott Web

Let Loose In Las Vegas

A right of passage for anyone driving or flying across the USA, you’ll roll into town as the bright lights of the Strip start to twinkle. You’ll angle for an upgrade as you check into a sprawling, glittering, buzzing hotel and hope desperately you haven’t left it too late to buy tickets for Britney’s residency.

You’ll sing along to ‘Piano Man’ at a Billy Joel-themed piano bar, take selfies in front of the iconic Las Vegas sign and marvel that they actually built full-scale sphinx and pyramid in the middle of a desert on the other side of the world.

You’ll discover there’s a Vegas far from the neon glow of Strip, squealing through hot laps in souped-up super cars, chasing friends across vast sand dunes in buggies, and sipping champagne as you watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon from a helicopter. And you’ll tell your friends it was like no other place on the planet.

Meredith Music Festival

Image: Theresa Harrison via Aunty Meredith / Flickr

Make Friends At Meredith Music Festival

Ready to graduate from Falls, you’ll fill the Esky with tinnies and hit to road to the tiny town of Meredith in Western Victoria. The next three days will be full of fun-loving community vibes, inconsistent weather patterns and a program of impeccable live music to soak in.

You’ll start your days with corn fritters and Bloody Marys and finish with a late-night Pink Flam. You’ll watch the sunset from Inspiration Point and hold your shoe high in appreciation of your favourite acts. This is your home now.

Vanlife Tasmania

Image: Manuel Meurisse

Take A Foodie Tour Of Tasmania

Domestic travel wasn’t high on the radar of your younger self, but you’ll choose Tassie to test the waters with your new boyfriend or girlfriend, like a crystal ball into your future together (or apart).

You’ll book a charming AirbnB with an open fire and demonstrate your sophistication with visits to wineries and distilleries. You’ll peruse local produce at Taste of Tasmania and spend an artful day at MONA. You’ll hike together to Cradle Mountain and take cute selfies while glamping at Bay of Fires. Adultness? Check.

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