“Your 20’s are your selfish years. Old enough to make the right decisions and young enough to make the wrong ones. Be selfish with your time – travel, explore, fall in and out of love, be ridiculous and silly, stupid and wild. Be twenty something.”
At the end of October, I’ll enter the last year of my 20s. There are a lot of things I’ve learned during this decade, but one of the biggest ones is to carpe diem.
For a lot of people, myself included, your 20s are a freeing decade. I’ve been able to explore things on my own, learn from my mistakes (and the mistakes of others), and take advantage of opportunities I may not be able to years from now.
One of the things I’ve loved the most about my 20s is how much I’ve traveled. Albeit, I haven’t had have some of the typical 20-something travel experiences, like backpacking through Southeast Asia or staying in hostels while traveling cheaply through Europe, I’ve had my own adventures, all of which I’ve loved- the good and no-so-great.
Although I’m a fan of traveling at any stage in life, because I believe it’s an intense method of learning and produces invaluable experiences, your 20s [and 30s ;)] are the perfect time to see the world.
Travel boosts your confidence. Travel forces you to be more independent. Travel helps you be more adaptable. Travel pushes you to step outside of your comfort zone. Travel lets you discover new passions.
In short: When you’re young, it’s the time to collect moments, not things.
10 Travel Experiences to Have in your 20’s
It doesn’t matter if you’re single, in a relationship, or married, I’m a firm believer solo travel is something everyone should try at least once.
So often, I hear people say, “I want to go ____, but I don’t have anyone to go with.” Just go! Stop waiting for life to hold your hand.
I actually prefer solo travel to travel with friends/in groups. My ideal trip usually consists of traveling by myself and meeting up with people along the way, but having the freedom to set my own pace and agenda.
I’m going to write more about solo travel after I get back from a few trips this fall, but I’ve never felt lonely or bored when traveling by myself. It’s liberating and rewarding in a way few experiences can replicate.
Traveling by yourself means you determine all the details (which is scary, but also exciting), and you learn things about yourself along the way you wouldn’t have otherwise.
And really, you’re never alone. In every destination I’ve visited, no matter the language or cultural barriers, I’ve found people will help you if you need it. Chatting up locals is actually one of my favorite things to do on a trip- some of my best memories are swapping stories at a bar with other travelers or talking to locals about the city I’m visiting.
Any time I’m feeling weary about visiting a new country or continent by myself, I come back to this quote from Jedidiah Jenkins:
“… It is easy to believe that we are without hope as a species. That this world is a nasty broken failure. But let me tell you this: I have been living in the constant presence of strangers in foreign countries for 11 months. I have probably met 2,000 people that didn’t know me or have any reason to be nice to me. But they were. They helped me, they fixed my bike, they let me sleep in their barn or their house. They fed me for free. They had nothing to gain from me but the chance to do good and share a laugh and some broken English or simple Spanish. Goodness is the norm on this planet. Kindness is king. The darkness is the exception and will ultimately lose every time. The world is, in spite of the shadows, a brilliantly bright shining place.”
Take a Road Trip
When most people in the US hear ‘road trip’, they think of a cross-country journey. I haven’t driven across the country yet, but I have done a fair share of weekend road trips, as well as a trip down the California Coast (Route 1), and another one that took me from Seattle to Yosemite and back. The West Coast is gorgeous- mountains, sunshine, beaches, desert- it’s awe-inspiring.
Internationally, the Romance Road in Germany and driving the Ring Road in Iceland are on my list of drives I’d like to do eventually.
Your 20’s are the perfect time to jump in the car with friends and drive for hours until you reach a destination. You won’t only explore the places you’re visiting, you’ll be creating memories for life.
Not sold? I don’t like driving, but can’t deny there’s something wonderful about experiencing the beauty of the route in relation to the journey.
Go for a Party
This one probably seems unexpected if you know me- I’m the person that goes to Vegas and leaves without going to a single club. But, you won’t find me passing up an opportunity to attend the biggest festival in the world, Oktoberfest. Who doesn’t like a good German beer?
While traveling solely to party may not be my main motivation, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience some of the world’s greatest festivals and parties. What would be on the top of my list (besides Oktoberfest)? The Full Moon Party in Thailand, Yacht Week in Greece or Croatia, Tomorrowland festivals, and of course, living it up on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. And, don’t get me wrong- Vegas is a great city for nightlife. I’m just the kind of person who would rather spend the night checking out the Neon Sign Museum, or drinking a giant margarita and watching the Bellagio’s fountain show. 🙂
Explore More of Your Home
Too often I hear my friends who live elsewhere say they wished they lived in a bigger city. I’m grateful to live in a city as vibrant as New York, but even when I lived in a small town in Indiana, I took advantage of opportunities to explore different parts of the state or surrounding area.
I’m a tired and true staycation advocate. Often, I’m too busy during the week and a typical weekend to experience what New York has to offer. Every few weeks, I’ll designate one weekend as a “staycation” and use those days to check-out restaurants, bars, museums, shops or places on my to-explore list. Local adventures, no matter how big or small, are a great way to reap some of the same benefits of travel- and you may even discover a new favorite spot along the way.
Travel Somewhere You Don’t Know the Language
I’ve been to ten countries where I didn’t speak anything beyond basic greetings, and each of those trips helped broaden my perspective. While not speaking the language can be frustrating, there’s no need to be afraid of it.
In every country I’ve visited, I’ve found if you’re nice to the locals, those who speak English will converse with you. These exchanges can actually be a great way to learn more about their culture.
That said, I’d always recommend knowing basic phrases before you travel (Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You, how to ask key questions, etc.). Beyond being courteous, it may also come in handy if you need help.
Get Close to Nature
I’ve been camping once in my adult life, and I have no interest in going camping again. When planning our Seattle to Yosemite trip, camping at the Redwoods and in Yosemite sounded like a great way to appreciate nature (and save a few bucks).
In theory, I like the idea of camping- toasting marshmallows over a crackling fire, falling asleep to the sounds of nature and waking up beneath the trees, but ultimately, I’m the kind of person that would rather sleep on a floor than in a tent.
I’ll easily spend an entire day hiking or exploring nature, but need to sleep somewhere with structure. The point though, is that I tried camping and learned it’s not for me.
Go with Friends
I may have raved about the benefits of solo travel above, but I also love a weekend away with friends. Traveling with some of my good friends has helped us become even closer, and taught me more about myself and how I interact with others.
A group trip is something I don’t have much interest in, I’ve gotten used to the luxury of being on my own schedule. However, it is something I’d like to do for the right occasion.
Travel Somewhere Customs Are Different From Your Own
In this digital age, it’s easy to look at Instagrams and watch Snapchat stories about other people’s trips, and feel like you’ve seen what there is to experience in a place. But, trust me- you don’t fully appreciate another country until you’re there visiting it.
The majority of the travel I’ve done to date has been throughout the US, Europe and Central America. I’m looking forward to heading to Asia for the first time next year, and hopefully South America later this fall. I’m craving an experience that truly puts me out of my element. I’m at a point in my 20’s where I’m fortunate enough to have flexibility, and sometimes that means sacrificing my own comfort for the experience of visiting a new destination.
Go Somewhere with a Killer Beach
Before traveling to Tulum, I’d never taken a “beach” trip. Sure, I’d been to beaches dozens of times (Costa Rica, Jersey, California, Florida, Georgia, etc.), but on those trips, the beach was only a part of the itinerary. I’d usually spend a day or so at the beach, then move onto other things.
In Tulum, I stayed beachfront and spent a significant amount of time on the beach every day. It was by far the most rejuvenating trip I’ve ever taken. Now, I’ll be adding a trip, where the main intent is to spend time at the beach, to my yearly travel plans.
In addition to sitting on the beach, I also love going to amazing snorkeling locations (anywhere in the Caribbean, Belize, Costa Rica, Hawaii). Before I head to Thailand next year, I’m getting my diving certification- a trip prep item I never thought I’d see myself doing, but am pretty excited about.
Travel to Eat
Ask me to name the favorite thing I ate in any city I’ve visited and I’ll probably list at least five things because more often than not, I just can’t choose.
In the US, a few of my favorite cities to visit for a foodie getaway: Austin, Chicago, LA, Charleston, New Orleans, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco…the list goes on and on. Internationally, Paris, Copenhagen and Hong Kong top my list thus far.
If you’ve traveled anywhere awesome in your 20’s, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or send me a message on social.
Read More: How to Travel More