When I told people I was quitting my job to travel for a year it was met with a lot of shock and oh my goodness, I don’t know if I could do that. I felt like I was doing something pretty unique and epic. But as I got onto the road and began to meet other travellers I learned, I am hardly alone on this journey. It’s actually rare to meet someone who is just on a 2 week holiday, it seems everyone here is travelling for a minimum of 3 months.
But the one thing that differs between myself and these many travellers I meet is age. Mostly, I meet young travellers on a gap year – either having just finished high school or university. They are taking that time of exploration before entering the daily grind of the rest of their lives whereas I have already been in the grind for the past 5 years and am just taking a break.
It’s certainly easier to take a gap year at a younger age before you have any responsibilities like a job, a house, a car payment, a pet, etc. However, after noticing how my travel style differs from those in their early 20’s, I am so happy that I waited until my 30’s.
Backpacker Vs Flashpacker
Because we waited to travel until we were 30, we worked for 5 years and built up savings for this adventure as opposed to the 20-something who is living on a shoestring of a budget. There is a term used for people like Tom and myself, it’s flashpacker. That means we’re backpackers and we live on the cheap but we have a little more money and can afford some luxuries.
Instead of staying in 12-bed dormitories, we stay in air-conditioned guest houses. Instead of just living off fried-rice, we can afford a nicer meal once in a while (though we still eat our fair share of fried rice). And we can afford a few expensive excursions that might blow a backpackers budget – like our hot air balloon ride or rock climbing. And we can choose to fly instead of taking two overnight trains to our next destination.
I think budget backpacking comes with a lot of tales of adventure but flashpacking means we aren’t limiting ourselves on what we can do. I’d hate to travel across the world and not have the money to leave the hostel and actually experience the world I travelled to see. And the luxuries like a nice cappuccino in an air-conditioned cafe once in a while are a really nice perk.
Getting Up, Not Going To Bed at Sunrise
Just because I’m 30, doesn’t mean I’ve completely given up having a good time. I’ve managed a couple of party nights and experienced the nightlife but more often than not, you will find me watching Netflix in bed at 9 p.m. with an alarm set for 5 a.m.
The younger 20-something crowd focuses more on partying and less on actually seeing the country that they are in. Partying can be fun and meeting other travellers is great but it’s not the reason I gave up my job and left my family and friends behind. I travelled so I could experience local culture, see amazing sunrises, and soak up the quiet and peaceful moments. And so, I may feel old when I stay at a hostel and skip out on the free whiskey in favour of my bed but when I’m out the next morning exploring while the others are nursing a hangover, I know I made the right decision. There’s a lot of value in waking up for sunrise instead of staying up and partying until sunrise, I’m not so certain my younger self would have seen it that way though.
Past Travel Experience
Young and stupid…it’s a phrase for a reason. When you’re young you have less life experience and don’t know any better. When Tom and I were in Thailand he kept remarking on how his first trip 7 years ago was a lot different and how they made so many travel mistakes.
By this point in life, I have travelled a fair bit and so I have a lot more confidence in travelling. I know when I’m getting ripped off and can find a better deal elsewhere. I know what the typical tourist traps and scams are so I don’t fall privy to them. I am ready to leave behind the guided tours and find my own way to see the local attractions and sights. And I have far more experience problem solving when things go wrong.
I am in no way knocking the 20 somethings taking a gap year. I think they all have a fabulous time and make amazing memories. But I see now how lucky I am that I waited until my 30’s for this adventure. It’s a lot more challenging to taka a year off at this stage in life but I guarantee it’s going to be a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Have you noticed a difference in your travel style as you age? Do you check out the nightlife or head to bed early on vacation?