Andrew Tipp is a writer and editor working in digital publishing. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering around the world, and has previously worked as a content producer for a travel website. He writes on behalf of Original Volunteers, the UK’s leading independent volunteering organisation.
When you’re a 22, it feels like you’ll be young forever. Sadly, you won’t. You’ll get old. It sucks. But being older doesn’t mean you have to give in to Sandals holidays; you can still be about the cool hostels, local buses, street food and the whole independent backpacker thing. But things will be different. Here’s how…
1. Your travelling windows are way, way shorter
In your 20s, work fits in around travelling. But in your 30s things change. You probably have a career. Commitments. All that boring stuff you said you’d never care about. And you’re probably restricted to a few weeks to travel each year. True story. But there’s no point getting down about it. You’ve just got to make it count.
2. You finally figure out how to pack properly
Most first-time twentysomething backpackers take tons of unnecessary stuff. You see them bulking out their bag with 18 kilos of towels, toiletries and t-shirts; emptying an entire aisle of Boots over their dorm bed.
Over time, you learn how to pack smart. It probably helps that your mum isn’t around to insist you fit an entire A&E department in your First Aid Kit.
3. Boutique hostels suddenly seem preferable to 18-bed dorms
‘Party’ hostels can feel like a great idea in your 20s. Sleeping’s for losers, right? Well, it turns out that when you’re older, sleep is actually pretty damn awesome. Hostels still rock at 30, but all-nighters have all but lost their appeal. Do we really need Avicii blasting out at 4am? Can’t we all just have a chilled beer and get an early night?!
4. You can’t hit the backpacker bar scene as hard as you used to
Exchange rates can be a wonderful thing. Especially when you’re a westerner bar-hopping in some exotic destination. But when you get older, hangovers get worse. Way worse.
Responsible drinking at Retox Party Hostel Budapest
So remember: just because a pint is 20p it doesn’t mean you have to drink the bar dry. Because waking up feeling nauseous in a tropical climate is not fun. At all.
5. You develop a surprisingly hardcore interest in museums
And galleries. And Cathedrals. And basically any other place where really interesting old stuff is kept. Why? Maybe it’s because you’re getting older and more interesting.
Or maybe there’s just a gene that kicks in at 30 that makes you appreciate this stuff – similar to the one that kicks in at 50 that makes you care about theatre and the National Trust.
6. A full-on day completely wipes you out
It might feel like your body will never wear out, but by 30 it’s already happening; the wheels haven’t fallen off yet, but the nuts and bolts are definitely coming loose. This means that an intense day of cramming in must-sees takes its toll. In your 20s you can do this stuff and then stay out all night.
In your 30s, you start thinking of days as either going-for-it-and-writing-off-the-evening days or chilling-out-and-saving-yourself-for-the-evening days. Which is kind of sad. But practical.
7. You’re less tolerant of backpacking bores
When you’re younger, you’re more open-minded when it comes to other travellers. You’ll probably talk to everyone. Make friends with anyone. But as you get older you can spot the annoying, bragging and competitive travel types from across the room.
This skill will help you avoid literally hours of being bored by someone who wants you to vicariously experience their amazing journey.
8. You feel more comfortable travelling solo
Most travellers are pretty terrified about going it alone when they’re young. Travel buddies. Travel mates. Whatever you want to call them, you usually feel a lot happier planning a trip if a friend’s coming along for the ride.
But once you’ve been around the globe a few times over a decade you realise that no matter how introverted you are, you’ve got what it takes to make it on your own.
9. You have to fight the urge not to compare stuff
There’s nothing like experiencing something mind-blowing for the first time. But once you starting experiencing your second wonder of the world, your third safari, your fourth continent, your fifth must-see monument, it’s hard to not compare them to something you saw 10 years ago.
But you know what? Don’t. Try to approach everything with fresh eyes. Don’t compare. And definitely don’t start comparing out loud. People will not like you.
10. You don’t freak out about not seeing everything
Most backpackers start their travelling careers with lists of all the things they want to see. Whether it’s a tick-box mentality or a genuine desire to experience everything, people can get obsessive over this stuff.
I have, at times. But when you get older, you realise you can’t see everything. You can’t go everywhere. So relax. Appreciate the stuff you do experience. Enjoy the ride.
11. Your wife/husband insists on travelling with you
Oh, yeah. You got married. Remember?