So You Want To Be A Thirty Year Old Backpacker?
My first response is: good for you.
Next, let us start by quashing an assumption about backpacking that will flit across the brain of any wannabe voyager over the age of about twenty five.
People assume backpacking is only for gap year kids or students fresh out of university.
Well, thank God I’m here for you.
I’m going to call bull shit on that one for you guys. Let me reassure you that this couldn’t be farther from reality. I started travelling at the tender age of 26 and the first thing I noticed was that I was not the oldest.
On a related note, I’ve picked thirty as the age for this blog post somewhat arbitrarily. Because in reality, you can consider travel at any time in life.
Within the first few weeks of my backpacking life I crossed paths with travellers of all ages.
Sure, there will be eighteen year olds revelling in their new-found freedom in many destinations. But, I promise you that you will meet travellers in their late twenties, mid-thirties and even their sixties all rocking their own journey for their own personal reasons.
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A Different Set Of Fears For An Older Traveller
Choosing to backpack for the first time is a daunting experience for anyone, regardless of their age.
In my opinion I think choosing to be a thirty year old backpacker revolves about a different set of fears to those of a younger traveller. Ultimately, these fears may become too difficult to ignore and will dampen the spark igniting any burgeoning travel plans.
Let’s take a look at some of the concerns you may have as a potential thirty year old backpacker.
Do any of the below resonate with you?
1. Will People Think I’m Old?
At home you’re probably used to hanging out with people your own age most of the time. Unless you are part of a club or play team sports, the majority of your friends may tend to be of a similar age to you. Setting off to travel, you may worry that you’re going to be surrounded by 18 year olds who may notice the odd grey hair on your head or wrinkles forming around your eyes. Gulp.
**Side note** How good are you at guessing ages?
If you’re anything like me and the hundreds of people I’ve met, you probably suck. Before you get offended, let me reassure you that this is not a bad thing. I’ve found most people tend to be overcautious when guessing someone’s age and opt for a lower number so as not to cause offence.
I’m nearly 32 and last night was chatting to a guy who guessed my age at 23. Winning! Funnily enough, I didn’t have the heart to correct him.
2. Am I too old to stay in a hostel?
Hostels aren’t the only accommodation option available to you, but if you’re a solo traveller who is either travelling for a longer trip or budget conscious, then you may be considering a hostel. They may seem unsuitable if you’re worrying about feeling like an old duffer amidst a sea of young, party animals.
I’ve written a post about everything you should know about staying in a hostel for the first time. I talk about age limits and discuss what kind of options are open to you if you would like to give them a try.
3. Will I Have Anything In Common With The People I Meet?
The stereotype of the hard partying backpacker can be quite intimidating for the thirty-something used to a nice bottle of wine with friends or a lazy Sunday afternoon at the pub. It’s not like we don’t like to have fun, but two day hangovers are a thing now.
4. Will I Be Able To Adapt To A Travelling Lifestyle?
This one is biggie and covers several elements.
At home you may have a career, live with fewer people and be used to a more comfortable standard of living. Quite understandably, you may be wonder whether you will be able to get used to living on the cheap; giving up those weekly brunches and the Netflix subscription you’ve become to associate with your norm.
Angst also stems from the thought of whether you’ll be able to get used to sharing your space with a group of strangers in a way that I haven’t done since university? If you choose to stay in hostels – whether or not sleep in a dorm room (although this is often the cheapest option) – there will be communal facilities like showers, toilets and kitchens. How on earth will you cope without guaranteed access to clean tea-towels and a double bed?
Budgeting for a longer trip may not be something you’re used to. By now you’ve got the cheap weekend city-break down pat. You know where to score bargain flights and a reasonably priced hotel with good reviews and enjoy yourself with delicious meals out and entrance tickets to whatever you please. But how much will a longer trip cost and how will it feel to impose a daily budget and stick to it? Just how long will your money stretch?
5. Am I Wasting My Life?
If I choose to take this trip am I getting off the career ladder and jeopardising my future? Shouldn’t I be at home getting a mortgage and negotiating my annual bonus? What about all of my friends who continue to purchase new cars, have babies and score new jobs whilst I am waking up in new cities, in new countries and in new continents? What will they think of me and will I be left behind?
The Reality of A Thirty Year Old Backpacker
Woah, woah, woah, just hold on there just a damn second, I hear you cry. I thought the premise of this article was supposed to be encouraging? I want to be a thirty year old backpacker but all you’ve managed to do is make me want to drown my insecurities in a giant tub of ice cream and never leave the couch again.
If you think you’re alone in feeling this way then you’re wrong. I pretty much panicked over everything listed above. But I didn’t let it stop me and here I am, five years later, assuring you that I’ve been exactly where you are right now.
So I want you to shelve all those worries for the moment.
I’m not saying they’re not valid, but what I want you to do now is realise that for every doubt you may have about being a thirty year old backpacker there is a counterbalance. A whole host of positives are out there waiting to be discovered as soon as you commit to taking your trip.
Let’s have a look at what they could be…
The Positives Of Travelling In Your Thirties
1. Age Is Just A Number
You will meet many amazing self-aware, mature eighteen year olds and some staggeringly immature thirty somethings.
We all know that we shouldn’t stereotype and travelling can be the refresher course you may need to challenge some narrow minded views that may be lurking in the back of your head. From the widowed, sixty-something woman embracing her retirement to the forty-something teacher making the most of a long summer holiday, I’ve met all sorts on the road.
All these different people add another unique stitch to the pattern of your journey.
2. Your Goals Are Personal
Age aside, what you will get out of travelling will differ from the next person.
However, it is safe to say that the older you get the more taking time out to travel seems like A Big Thing. Whether you choose to spend your trip drinking from coconuts and doing sweet FA or not, your decision to travel is unlikely to be one you’ve taken lightly.
3. Your Travel Style Is Purposeful
A lot of younger travellers are looking for established backpacking methods and the bright lights of big cities. For example, they may not be so interested in the out of the way places in the Tasmanian wilderness or the jungles of Borneo. Being slightly older, you may have no problem with forging on alone to travel the same country and see an entirely different place.
You may be interested in:
4. It Can Be A Game Changer
Travel will help you view yourself and your life in a whole new light.
How liberated would you feel if you realised that you didn’t have to remain set in the life and image that you have developed for yourself up until this point?
You may like to read:
- How visiting Australia changed the way I travel
- Planning vs going with the flow
- The art of slow travel.
5. Adopting A Minimalist Lifestyle
Backpacking forces you to embrace a minimalist lifestyle as your whole life must be reduced down to the size of a bag. Decluttering your life is freeing not only on the road but back home in your day-to-day world where you can take the opportunity to review belongings and old routines that may have been slowing you down.
Read more about embracing a minimalist lifestyle:
- What is life like living out of a bag?
- The travel resources every first time backpacker needs, regardless of age.
6. You Are Not As Old As You Think You Are
When you do let your hair down and party with backpackers of all ages, you realise you don’t have to spend as much time on the sofa with a bottle of wine when you get home.
Maybe don’t consign yourself to a life of slippers just yet.
7. “Mo Money, Mo Problems”?
You might decide to spend your money in different ways when you get home. Travel could help you place less importance on material items and prioritise different experiences in your life.
8. You’re Doing Better Than You Thought
When you see your life through younger traveller’s eyes you realise that you have achieved more than you thought. They may ask you questions about your life up to this point with the kind of wide-eyed reverence that only the young can muster.
You don’t know how inspiring you are to other people. Allow yourself the opportunity to step back and review your life, patting yourself on the back for getting to this point.
You’ve done ok.
When was the last time you have taken a leap of faith into the unknown or done something that scares you? It’s likely that as you’ve gotten older the direction of your life has taken a more predictable route.
So if you want to be a thirty year old backpacker (or a twenty seven year old or a forty three year old), remember that it’s been a while since someone has held your hand every step of the way. Whatever the hesitations that block your path to travel may be, no one else but you can overcome them.
It’s over to you! I’m really keen to hear what you think about whether age affects the concerns you have about travel. Do you feel differently about travel the older you get? Has age changed the way you choose to travel? Share any thoughts with me in the comments!
Do you know of anyone who is about to embark on their first trip? Share this with them if you think they may need a bit of a boost.
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