I know many people in their 20s have a lot of anxiety about hitting the big 3-0. The thing that made me feel the most unsettled about turning 30 was that I never did that big backpacking trip that you’re “supposed” to do in your 20s. As my 30th birthday drew nearer I started to feel an increasing sadness that the opportunity for this kind of adventure was over. Backpacking in my 30s was out of the question. The end of my 20s meant the end of the ride. The fun had to stop, and it was time to get really serious about life.
Even though I crossed the 30 threshold I still had this persistent desire to take an extended amount of time to see the world. Although I initially thought I was too old to upend my life I soon came to cherish the experience of backpacking in my 30s.
You’re Not Too Old
As I wrestled with whether or not it made sense to leave my job and travel abroad I had the gnawing thought that I had missed the boat. I thought leaving a job to go backpacking is something people in their 20s do, certainly not once you get past 30.
A friend connected me with a woman who had left her job and spent a year traveling abroad when she was 36. After talking with her I realized this was something that was not outside of the realm of possibility. This idea that you can’t go backpacking in your 30s was an arbitrary “rule” that had been planted in my head.
I began to realize that the only thing stopping me was me. These were fake limitations I was putting on myself.
I met some people in my travels who further proved my point. At my hostel in Barcelona one of my roommates was a 67-year-old woman from Brazil. At another hostel in Lagos, Portugal I shared a room with a 60-year-old woman. It was encouraging to see other women who didn’t put an expiration date on enjoying life.
Backpacking in Your 30s Perk 1: Sense of Self
One of the best parts of backpacking in your 30s is an increased sense of self. That’s not to say that once you turn 30 you have everything figured out. I sure as heck don’t, and I’m guessing that’ll take a few more decades.
What I do think is that I have a better idea of who I am and what I want at this point in my 30s than when I first graduated from college.
This better understanding of myself helped guide what I did and, just as important, what I didn’t do. In my 30s I felt that I could design the kind of trip I wanted and not what everyone else thought I should be doing.
I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. You can miss me with all the “You’re not a real traveler if…” ideas and the “Only tourists go to…” thoughts. If there was something that I wanted to do that was deemed too basic I didn’t care.
By the same token, there were things that “everyone” said you absolutely must do that I skipped because I just didn’t feel like it.
For example, when I was in Italy I committed the cardinal sin of not visiting Florence. There were four dream destinations I wanted to see in Italy, but Florence wasn’t one of them. I had a set amount of time in the country, and I didn’t want to rush through the places that were important to me just to check an item off someone else’s list.
Backpacking in Your 30s Perk 2: Savor More
After taking trips in my 20s where I tried to cram as much as possible into each day I developed a travel style that allowed me to chill out a little more. In my 30s I felt that I was traveling in a way that let me savor more of my experiences.
Instead of scheduling a day down to the last minute I would pick one key site or activity for the day and leave it at that. I learned to let go of the pressure of trying to see everything in a given destination in one visit.
Cutting back on the number of things on my daily itinerary allowed me to explore with more flexibility. This also allowed me more time to really get to know people in the places I was visiting.
Backpacking in Your 30s Perk 3: Comfort Being Alone
Going backpacking in my 30s meant I reached a point in my life where I had an increased comfort level in doing more things on my own. I’ve always been a fairly independent person, but over the years there were more things I was willing to do without the company of others.
I felt comfortable renting a car and driving around Iceland by myself. I felt comfortable going to a concert on my own. And I felt comfortable enjoying a delicious dinner completely solo.
This isn’t to say I never encountered circumstances where I would have liked company, but by and large I really enjoy spending time with me, myself, and I.
Backpacking in Your 30s Perk 4: More Money
One very practical benefit of backpacking in your 30s is having more time to save up more money. This is just a math thing. Granted, someone could set aside money for a trip while they’re in college, but I didn’t. By the time I went backpacking in my 30s I had years’ worth of money from work put away.
While I kept myself on a budget during my travels, having those additional coins came in handy. It meant that when I was looking for a hostel I could spend a little more to stay in a place that wasn’t crowded with 18-year-olds. It also meant that every so often I could treat myself, like when I splurged on a boat tour in Venice.
Backpacking in Your 30s Perk 5: Deeper Appreciation
I think when I went backpacking in my 30s I appreciated it a lot more than I would have in my 20s. By the time I was in my 30s I’d lost my mom, worked a full-time job, and just experienced more of the “real world.”
The things I had been through by the time I got to my 30s made me exceptionally grateful to even have the opportunity to see more of the world. My ideas of what is important in life had shifted, and I felt that I was seeing the world through a new lens.
While I wanted to go backpacking when I was in my early 20s, I’m grateful for the additional years of growth and development that shaped the experience I had in my 30s.
It’s Not Too Late!!!
If, like me, you might think that you missed out on a 20-something backpacking trip please know that it’s not too late! It’s never too late to take a chance on yourself and pursue something that speaks to your heart. The world is out there and waiting to share what it has to offer, whether you’re 32 or 62.