Traveling in my thirties was very different than in my twenties. neither was better than the other because both were perfect for this stage in my life. But there’s no denying that pretty much everything about my travel style has changed, from what I see, to the people I interact with, to the way I spend my time.
These are all ways travel was different in my twenties than it was in my thirties.
My goals have changed
In my twenties, my biggest goal was to drive as long as possible and as inexpensive ly as possible, and to find as much excitement on the road as possible. I like to think of these years as my Dharma bum years. I wanted freedom. Then there was nothing more exciting. If that meant staying in dorms, just eating street food, and opting for the 30-hour freight ferry instead of the 3-hour flight to save a few hundred dollars, I did it.
It was an often sweaty and dirty, but blissfully adventurous way to travel. I was the classic backpacker with little money, who was time-consuming and money-poor, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
I celebrated a lot more in my twenties
Hostel culture tends to party. The social aspect of travel was often more important to me than the destination. Everything else I could see and do along the way was an added bonus.
But somewhere along the way, it no longer felt good to drink every night. Waking up with a hangover got old, and I got older too. When I turned 31, I stopped drinking alcohol. I felt like I had gotten everything out of my system when I was 20.
Now I like to be in bed before 10 am, ready for the sunrise, and I spend my money on experiences instead of drinks and bars.
I went from extrovert to introvert
It seems a common experience that people in their twenties are more extroverted and in their thirties love their loneliness. I’m still extroverted and enjoy meeting people, but I don’t recharge my batteries the same way anymore. I got depressed when I wasn’t around other people all the time. I got my energy from social interactions and looking back I think it’s because I didn’t have a strong sense of myself and I needed other people to give that to me.
But in my thirties, I know who I am. I fill up when I’m alone or with a small group of people I know well. I have a much better time with Mother Nature than with a large group, and while 21-year-old Kristin would be surprised and maybe even disappointed, 36-year-old Kristin is totally fine with it.
I am looking for a different way to travel
In my twenties, the social aspect of travel was very important. I wouldn’t have wanted to go camping alone or hiking alone in the mountains – two things I do all the time now.
In my thirties, my goal is more connected to adventure. I still love being social, but I make my travel decisions based on a certain experience I want to have, a certain place I want to see, and a bucket list item I want to cross off my list. My priority is no longer to travel as long as possible, but to make the most enriching trip possible with limited time and a larger budget.
How I meet people / who I’m looking for
Meeting people in my twenties was easy. It was as simple as going to a hostel and having a new group of automatic friends.
I don’t stay in hostels anymore, mostly because I feel old and it’s just not the mood I want to have at this point in my life. Although I still sometimes meet people where I live it is rare and I tend to meet people on the go. I made friends in cafes, in hot springs, at campgrounds and on day trips, to name a few.
They are not party friends, they are adventure friends. I made awesome connections this way, and it took away my worries that traveling in my thirties would be lonelier than in my twenties. fortunately, I now have more control over my loneliness. I have it when I want it, and I can also meet people when I want to.
One of the most obvious differences is my budget. I initially bought a one-way trip to Bangkok because I knew my money would take me further in Southeast Asia. It was an added bonus that I love Asia and looked forward to exploring more of it. At the time, I was only traveling with savings because my blog wasn’t yet making money (here’s the whole story, in matter you’re curious how it grew to where it is now).
Along the way, I started traveling to more expensive destinations and became more involved in bucket list experiences like swimming with humpbacks in French Polynesia, a motorhome in Iceland, more time to explore the US, and more things I couldn’t afford in the past.
I also still love inexpensive camping trips, but I’m grateful that I have more options in my 30s.
During the changes of the last ten years, what I appreciate has not changed. I’ve always been looking for connection, to be humble, to get off the overcome path as much as possible, to make new discoveries, and to try to get the most authentic travel experience I can.
I’m sure I’m in my twenties for the kind of traveler I’ve become today, but I doubtful many of these things would have been true even without those nomadic years. How was traveling different for you in your thirties?