How was traveling different in my twenties versus my thirties


Traveling in my thirties was different from what I did in my twenties. Neither was better than the other, as both were perfect for that stage of 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 the ways traveling was different in my twenties versus my thirties.

My goals have changed

Bai family
Friends I made again in my hostel days Bay, Thailand

In my twenties, my biggest goal was to last as long as possible, and at the lowest possible cost, to find as many thrills as possible along the way. I like to think of these as the Dharma Boom years. I was after freedom. There was nothing more fulfilling at that time. If that means staying in dorms only, eating street food only, and choosing 30 hours freight ferry Instead of a 3 hour trip to save a few hundred dollars, I did it.

It was often a sweaty and dirty way, but it was an adventurous way full of happiness. I was the classic backpacker who was so young, rich in time and poor in money, that I wouldn’t share these experiences with the world.

I participated more in my twenties

man on fire
Picked up at Burning Man 2014

Hostel culture tends to spawn parties. I loved it in my twenties. The social aspect of travel has often been more important to me than the destination. Everything else I was able to see and do along the way was an added bonus.

But somewhere along the way it stopped feeling like it was good to drink every night. Waking up with a hangover just got old, and I got older, too. Once I turned 31, I was stop drinking alcohol entirely. I felt like I got everything out of my system when I was in my twenties.

Now I like to be in bed before 10, until sunrise, and spend my money on experiences rather than drinks and bars.

I’ve gone from extrovert to introvert

Koh Yao Noi
I go back to Southeast Asia in my thirties and love it.

It seems to be a common experience for people to be more extroverted in their twenties, and in their thirties they come into it I love their loneliness. I’m still outgoing and love meeting people, but I no longer charge my batteries the same way. I used to get depressed if I wasn’t around other people constantly. I got my energy from social interactions and coming back, I think it was because I didn’t have a strong sense of self and needed other people to give me that.

But in my thirties, I know who I am. I recharge when I’m on my own, or with a very small group of people I know well. I have a much better time hanging out with Mother Nature than I do with a big group now, and although 21-year-old Kristen will be surprised and perhaps disappointed, 36-year-old Kristen is absolutely gorgeous with her.

Looking for a different kind of travel

I can now afford a better travel experience (taken New Mexico)

In my twenties, the social aspect of travel was really important. I didn’t want to go out and camp by myselfOr take a mountain trek on my own – two things I do all the time now.

In my thirties, my goal was more to do with adventure. I still like to be social, but I make travel choices based on a specific experience I want to have, a specific place I want to see, and a bucket list item I want to cross off my list. My priority is no longer to go as long as possible, but to get as much enrichment as possible for the trip with limited time and a bigger budget.

How do I meet people / Who do I seek

Hanging out with a local in the Philippines I met in a cafe

Meeting people in my twenties was easy. It was as simple as entering a hostel and getting a new group of robot friends.

I no longer stay in the hostel, mostly because I’m getting older and that’s not the feeling I want at this point in my life. Although I still occasionally meet people where I’m staying, it’s rare, and I’m more likely to meet people abroad. I’ve made friends at coffee shops, at hot springs, at campgrounds, and on day tours, to name a few.

They are not party friends, they are adventurous friends. I created amazing connections this way, and allayed all my fears that traveling in my thirties would be lonelier than my twenties. Fortunately now I have more control over my unit. I get it when I want it, and I can meet people when I want to too.

where I stayed

This place was so amazing!

I already mentioned this, but in my twenties I only stayed in dorms. The biggest surprise for me is that the type of accommodation I’m staying in has become very diverse and more interesting.

I’m more likely to stay in homes, like in French Polynesia, or find a unique stay like eco resort In the Philippines, the treehouses of the Pacific Northwest, or Earth I stayed in New Mexico. I’m also more likely to pick a tent or bed for my pickup truck in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes the place I’m staying is cool, but most of the time I want it to be fun. Where I slept before was exactly that – where I sleep, but not where I spent much time. Nowadays, where to stay is often my destination.

My budget is different

I couldn’t stand this trip in my twenties

One of the obvious differences is my budget. I initially bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok because I knew my money would take me farther into Southeast Asia. It was an added bonus that I love Asia and was excited to explore more of it. At the time, I was only traveling for savings because my blog wasn’t making money yet (Here’s the full story In case you’re interested in how it evolved into what it is today).

Gradually, I started traveling to more expensive destinations, and I will splurge more on bucket list experiences like Swimming with humpback whales In French Polynesia, taking Trolley around Icelandand spend more time Explore the United Statesand more things that I could not have tolerated in the past.

I still love cheap camping trips too, but I’m thankful that in my 30s, I have more options available to me.

Throughout the changes in the last decade, what I appreciate hasn’t changed. I have always strived to be connected, humble, off the beaten track as possible, make new discoveries, and try to have the authentic travel experience I can.

I’m sure I have my twenties to think about the kind of traveler I’ve evolved into today, but I doubt a lot of these things could have been true even without those nomadic years. How was travel different for you in your 30s?

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