Adventure

The Realities Of Travelling In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

Why party 'til dawn when you can wake up early for a cooking class?

There’s an (almost) fool-proof way to tell the twenty-somethings from the thirty-somethings in a hostel bar: watch when the free shots are poured.

In your 20s, a tequila shot on the house is the best thing ever (in fact, anything on the house is the best thing ever). But when you’re in your 30s? No. Way. In. Hell. You know you’ll be too hungover to get up for your street art walking tour in the morning. Plus, you can tell from the smell it’ll go down about as smooth as paint thinner.

It’s just one of the many ways travel changes depending on which side of the big 3-0 you’re on (generally speaking). It’s time for some travel truths.

Sleeping

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In your 20s: 12-person dorms
In your 30s: Boutique hotels

If you’re over 30, the chances of being in that hostel bar to begin with are already reduced. After years of putting up with disrupted sleep and strange noises in 12-person dorms for the sake of saving a little cash, you might prefer to spend more money to check-in to a cool boutique hotel.

Sleeping well in your 30s is vital – unlike in your 20s, you can’t manage a full day of activities without getting some decent shut-eye. Not having the energy and stamina that you used to sucks, but it’s a good excuse to upgrade to some sweet digs.

Packing

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In your 20s: Taking too much stuff
In your 30s: Nailing the art of the smart pack

In your 20s, you’re still figuring out your style and you still care what people think, which might be why you pack a lot of unnecessary stuff when you travel (“But I look so good in a hat! I’m bringing all five”).

In your 30s, whether you like it or not, no one cares what you’re wearing, so all you need are some basics in a colour scheme that you can mix-and-match like the classy, self-assured and – let’s be real – probably slightly boring grown-up you are.

Making friends

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In your 20s: Wanting to make friends
In your 30s: Mastering the art of going solo (and loving it)

When you’re twenty-something, you want to befriend every person you meet on your travels, get to know their life story in great detail, have some crazy adventures together, and like each others’ photos on Facebook long after you’ve gone your separate ways. It’s beautiful, and you can make life-long connections.

It’s not that you become anti-social in your 30s, but you can’t be bothered wasting time on anyone you don’t feel a strong, instant connection with. It might also be because you don’t mind being by yourself, anyway – in fact, you relish it.

Sitting at a bar or restaurant alone feels excruciatingly awkward in your 20s (and no, you’re not convincing anyone by looking around as if you’re just waiting for a friend who’s running late), but in your 30s, it becomes something to savour. You delight in being able to people-watch in peace and order two desserts if you can’t choose between the brownie and the crème brûlée – you don’t have a friend coming, everyone knows it, and it’s fine.

Sightseeing

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In your 20s: Doing all of the things
In your 30s: Doing all of the right things

Unless you were privileged enough to be a well-travelled teenager, your 20s is when you make a lot of your first trips to different countries. You feel the pressure to tick off everything – the things you just HAVE to see (looking at you Empire State Building, the Colosseum and every temple in South-East Asia), as well as some more off-the-beaten-path experiences for travel cred.

By the time you’re in your 30s, you might be on your second or third trip to a destination, so you’ve done all that and can be more relaxed and spontaneous. Or you know what you really want to do, and couldn’t care less if people judge you when you admit you’ve visited Paris three times and never been up the Eiffel Tower.

Eating out

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In your 20s: Making sandwiches in the hostel kitchen
In your 30s: Hitting up a $500-a-head restaurant

Sure, you might have less energy and less inclination to meet new people, but one of the upsides of travelling in your 30s means you probably have more cash, which means you can begin to explore a different side of travel that wasn’t available to you as a struggling student – namely, expensive meals. You know, the kind of restaurants where you need to book months in advance, and somewhat embarrassingly have to ask how much the glass of champagne the waiter offered to start your meal with costs. And when you find out it’s $20 a glass, you go ahead and order it anyway.

Experiences

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In your 20s: Partying till sunrise in a superclub
In your 30s: Getting an early night to wake up before dawn for activities

You can have some of the best nights of your life staying up ’til morning, but when you wake up past lunchtime, your body is aching from the dancing and your head is still pounding with the beat. After you’ve been there, done that, even the wildest nightclub can seem a bit mundane. And strangely, getting up early to do a sunrise yoga session or hit the local markets before a cooking class can actually seem, well, kind of exciting.

If so, see the item above about booking a private room for a good night’s sleep – if you stay in a dorm, chances are your roommates might still be in the dancing-until-dawn stage of life.

Destinations

In your 20s: Touring the party capitals
In your 30s: Going off the beaten track

When you plan a trip in your 20s it’s more than likely going to be based around places where you can get loose. Bangkok! Berlin! Ibiza! What the hell, let’s fly straight from Berlin to Ibiza without sleeping!

In your 30s, travel becomes more about having an authentic experience in less commonly visited places, like chilling in an unheard-of Mexican fishing village where no-one else speaks English. Being painfully pretentious and bragging about off-grid travels is definitely a 30s thing.

Time and money

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In your 20s: Cheap but inconvenient
In your 30s: Costly but quick

In your 20s you might spend three days taking every mode of land transportation known to man to get somewhere that would only take 45 minutes by plane. Not only is it cheaper, but you also end up with plenty of anecdotes to one-up others when sharing travel tales. “So you got lost in the Vietnamese jungle? Well, I spent four days in a canoe going down the Amazon – in the wrong direction.”

In your 30s, you just take the 45-minute flight because you care precisely zero about bragging rights, but care a lot about making the most of every minute of your trip. After all, it’s probably only a couple of weeks long, because you have to get back to your job, because you’re an adult. The grass is always greener.