Solo travel is incredible at any age. I highly recommend every individual, and females in particular, experience at least one solo trip in their life. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m looking back at how solo travel is now versus how solo travel was in my 20’s, when I first ventured abroad.
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I remember thinking to myself, “Well if they can do it, why can’t I?”
I was in college – in art school to be exact – and working a waitressing job at a Lebanese restaurant, which still holds a special place in my heart. I had two male coworkers that traveled abroad together from time to time.
But it wasn’t until after exploring a lot of my home country that it struck me – it felt time for me to travel abroad.
And, if those guys that I worked with could do it together, why shouldn’t I be able to do it alone? I dove headfirst into a trip to Southeast Asia and frankly, never looked back.
I may have been full of confidence and independent thinking, but there was certainly a lot I didn’t know! The learning curve of that first adventure was steep.
I was on a college student’s budget and came from a family that had never traveled overseas, heading abroad for the first time ever. I learned so much about myself and about travel in my 20’s! But I have to admit that things look a bit different these days.
Below I will compare what solo travel in my 30’s looks like compared to solo travel in my 20’s.
Solo Travel in Your 30’s Versus Solo Travel in Your 20’s
I’m Way Better at Speaking Up
Traveling alone, whether you’re in the United States or abroad, you will attract unwanted attention from time to time. Unwanted male attention, if you’re female.
I remember in my 20’s, I didn’t always know how to deal with these encounters. Not on the spot anyway. I knew when something felt wrong, whether it be a pushy salesman or a taxi driver not running the meter or a male pushing for a date after I’d already said no.
But back then, I was still learning to be bold. To speak up and speak my truth, no matter whose feelings I hurt. Though I would eventually get there, I did hesitate.
Nowadays, in my thirties, you bet I speak up. I second-guess myself less and I trust my gut more. In all kinds of situations.
From someone mishandling my credit card to a driver losing luggage to fighting for a refund I legally deserve. I’m quick to speak, I’m confident in my words, and I don’t worry if it ruffles some feathers.
I’m Willing to Spend More on Accommodations
In my twenties, I used to book hostels most of the time (remember that college student budget I mentioned?). The community aspect made everything feel safe and sharing travel tales with fellow travelers was great.
While some aspects of hostels are great – built in friends, daily tours or events, and fun staff members to direct you here or there – others are not always ideal.
I’ve never been a big drinker, so the pub crawls and the drunk roommates were meh. A twenty-bed room with ten snoring guys was never ideal for a light sleeper like me. But, the price couldn’t be beat! And as a student with not much money in the bank, dorm rooms are what made travel possible.
Nowadays, I usually pay for private lodging. Budget private lodging most of the time, but private lodging nonetheless.
There have been exceptions, even in my thirties, for expensive cities like Reykjavik in Iceland. But more often than not, the price difference is worth the privacy, the security, and the better night’s sleep.
In my thirties, I guess a good sleep feels more important than making friends! (Half joking here. But only half, haha).
I’ve Gotten Better at Travel Hacking
On my first trip abroad, I began collecting airline miles. However, I had no idea what to do with them in my twenties – at least not in the early half.
But in that decade, I learned so much about how to earn, save, and use miles for the best return possible. I now consider myself quite good at getting free flights and have done exactly that to many different countries.
I have no doubt that I could be even better at it – the rules and values are always changing – but I’m quite content with how it’s all going.
I’m Much Better at the Nuts and Bolts
The first time I went abroad, I didn’t know that you had to call your bank and alert them that your card would be used in another country. I didn’t realize that this could flag fraud or cause a problem.
I didn’t know about immunizations suggested or required for certain destinations, and I didn’t even know there was such a thing as travel insurance.
I didn’t even know what a visa was back then.
Luckily, a trusted connection I had passed on these tips to me. But if they had not, you can bet that I could have been stuck with a useless bank card just waiting to get a tropical disease. I joke, but hey, who knows what could have happened!
Nowadays it’s all standard practice for me to check entry requirements, visa requirements, required vaccinations, and alert any banks and cards of my upcoming trip. Luckily, cards are requiring this less and less, but back then it was a big deal.
All of the basic nuts and bolts take a matter of hours, whereas I’m sure I stumbled through the details back then over a course of weeks.
Learning About Local Life
One of the reasons I love to travel is to connect with locals. After all, I’m in another country to see something different, right? So learning about a place directly from those who live there is ideal.
I remember those two coworkers, eyes wide, asked me why the heck I’d bought a ticket to Southeast Asia on my first trip abroad?! That I should have started with somewhere more Westernized like Europe.
But even back then, that didn’t interest me. One thing I love about travel, for always and ever, is to experience a vastly different way of life. To see how different parts of the world live.
I love to listen, I love to observe, and I love to explore. I learned that about myself on my very first day in Southeast Asia, walking, people-watching, and observing foreign customs.
Now, one thing I can say is that has never changed, in my twenties and thirties alike, is making friends with the locals. I became friends with the owner of my guesthouse, and got to see first hand where the locals traveled in the mountains of Malaysia. I’ll never forget it!
For better or for worse, travel in your 20’s versus travel in your 30’s will likely look drastically different for most.
I wouldn’t be who I am today without all of the travel experiences I had in my twenties. They’ve shaped me in ways I’m thankful for.
They’ve taught me to travel smarter. To learn what I value. What I’m willing to spend money on, or not. And, what really drives me to explore and to learn.
I’m curious to hear about your experience – what would you add to this list?