Traveling in my 30s has been way different than in my 20s. Neither has been better than the other, as both were perfect for that stage in my life. But there’s no denying that just about everything about my travel style has changed, from what I see, to who I hang out with, to how I spend my time.
These are all of the ways in which traveling has been different in my 20s versus my 30s.
My Goals Have Changed
In my 20s, my biggest goal was to go for as long as I could, for as cheaply as I could, finding as many thrills along the way as possible. I like to think of those as my dharma bum years. I was after freedom. Nothing was more intoxicating at the time. If that meant staying only in dorms, eating only street food, and opting for the 30-hour cargo ferry instead of the 3-hour flight to save a couple hundred bucks, I did it.
It was an often sweaty and dirty, but blissfully adventurous way to travel. I was the classic backpacker on a shoestring, who was time-rich and cash-poor, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
I Partied Way More in My 20s
Hostel culture tends to beget partying. I loved that in my 20s. The social aspect of traveling was often more important to me than the destination. Everything else that I got to see and do along the way was an added bonus.
But somewhere along the way it stopped feeling it good to drink every single night. Waking up with a hangover got old, and I got older too. Once I turned 31, I stopped drinking alcohol altogether. I felt like got it all out of my system in my 20s.
Now I like to be in bed before 10, up for the sunrise, and I spend my money on experiences rather than drinks and bars.
I Went From Extroverted to Introverted
It seems to be a common experience that people are more extroverted in their 20s, and in their 30s they come to love their solitude. I’m still outgoing and love meeting people, but I no longer recharge my batteries in the same way. I used to get depressed if I wasn’t around other people constantly. I got my energy from social interactions and looking back on it, I think it’s because I didn’t have a strong sense of self and I needed other people to give that to me.
But in my 30s, I know who I am. I recharge when I am on my own, or with a very small group of people whom I know well. I have a much better time hanging out with mother nature than I do with a big group now, and though 21-year-old Kristin would be surprised and maybe even disappointed, 36-year-old Kristin is totally cool with it.
I Seek a Different Kind of Travel
In my 20s, the social aspect of traveling was really important. I would not have wanted to go out and camp by myself, or trek in the mountains alone – two things I do all the time now.
In my 30s, my goal is more related to the adventure. I still love being social, but I make my travel choices based on a specific experience I want to have, a particular place I want to see, and a bucket list item I want to cross of my list. My priority is no longer to go for as long as possible, but to have as enriching of a trip as I can with limited time and a bigger budget.
How I Meet People/Who I Seek
Meeting people in my 20s was easy. It was as simple as walking into 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 vibe I want at this point in my life. Though I still sometimes meet people where I’m staying, it’s rare, and I’m more likely to meet people out and about. I’ve made friends in cafés, in hot springs, in campgrounds, and on day tours, to name a few.
They aren’t party friends, they’re adventure friends. I’ve made amazing connections this way, and it put all of my worries to rest that traveling in my 30s would be lonelier than my 20s. Thankfully now I just have more control over my solitude. I have it when I want it, and I can meet people when I want to as well.
Where I Stay
I’ve already alluded to this, but in my 20s I basically only stayed in dorms. The biggest surprise to me is that now, the type of accommodation I stay in has gotten so varied and more interesting.
I am more likely to stay in homestays, like in French Polynesia, or find unique accommodation like the eco resort in the Philippines, treehouses in the Pacific Northwest, or the earthship I stayed in New Mexico. I’m also much more likely to opt for a tent or the bed of my pick up truck in the complete middle of nowhere. Sometimes where I stay is fancy, but most of the time I just want it to be interesting. Where I slept before was just that – where I slept, but not where I spent much time. Nowadays the accommodation is often my destination.
My Budget is Different
One of the most obvious differences is my budget. I initially bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok because I knew that my money would take me further in Southeast Asia. It was an added bonus that I love Asia and was excited to explore more of it. Back then, I was traveling on savings as my blog wasn’t making money yet (here’s the full story in case you’re curious about how it grew to where it is today).
Gradually, I started traveling to more pricey destinations, and would splurge more on bucketlist experiences like swimming with Humpback whales in French Polynesia, taking a camper van around Iceland, spending more time exploring the US, and more things I could not have afforded in the past.
I still love cheap camping trips, too, but I’m grateful that in my 30s, I have more options available to me.
Throughout the changes in the past decade, what I value has not changed. I’ve always sought connection, being humbled, going off the beaten path as much as possible, making new discoveries, and trying to get the most authentic travel experience I can.
I’m sure I have my 20s to think for the type of traveler that I have evolved into today, but I suspect a lot of these things would have been true even without those nomadic years. How has travel been different for you in your 30s?