30 Pros and Cons of Backpacking in your 30s

Light traveling is not for everyone, and backpacking is often seen as a young person’s game. Here’s my list of 30 pros and cons of waiting until you are in your 30s (or older!) to travel the world and live out of a backpack. Trust me. backpacking in your 30s is not insanity!


I don't really feel like we are backpacking, as much as we are traveling-with-backpacks. Are we "digital nomads" before we are making money? We aren't quite "flashpackers"... are we? Either way, I think many of these observations still fit.

These may apply to people in their 40s, 50s, and beyond, but we can only speak from our lived experiences. We would love to hear your thoughts!


Pros:

  1. My partner: we have known each other for years, have traveled together, and know when to give each other space. It’s cheaper per person if you travel in pairs, plus it’s safer for women. This isn't a given, but older people are more likely to have stable partners.
     
     "Stable"
     
  2. Confidence: There's less of a need to impress people when you're a bit older.
     
  3. Self-awareness: I like puzzles, bird-watching, and people-watching. In that order. In my early 20s I didn’t know that, and in my late 20s I was probably too embarrassed to admit it. 
     
  4. Sleep cycle: I’m fine with sleeping how most of the world sleeps – in bed fairly early and awake with the sun. Not so when I was 22!
     
    I try to make it to the bed.
     
  5. Friends in high places: or at least, fun places! If you're backpacking in your 30s, your friends have fancy guest rooms instead of stinky couches. Plus, the world gets smaller the longer you live in it, and you may be surprised how many people you know in other countries.
     
  6. Partying: or, lack thereof. It just isn’t as fun or important to be out all night drinking and dancing when you get a bit older.
     
    Not so much!
     
  7. Money: The longer you wait, the more you can save. Backpacking in your 30s means you can go a lot longer, and have a lot more "start-over" money for when you're done. 
     
  8. Credit: Building credit takes time, but with good credit, comes good credit card options. Cash in on your hard work and get a high-value travel points card with a great sign-up bonus.
     
     
  9. Points: If you’ve been traveling in your 20s, you should have some airline points racked up, and can use those to start your journey.
     
  10. Career options: The older you are, the more job experience you have, the more likely you can find a freelance or contract job, so you can make money while working from anywhere in the world.
     
  11. This ain’t your first rodeo: I’ve done a bit of serious traveling before our current long-term adventure. I wasn’t doing anything extreme, but I have certainly dipped my toes in the water. Backpacking in your 30s isn't scary, but it is still fun! 
     
  12. Health: In your 20s, you feel invincible. By your 30s, the small physical issues that we all have to deal with eventually (bad ankles, sun sensitivity, acid reflux) have already started to show. For most people in their 30s, they are aware of what will be a major issue, and have started to make lifestyle adjustments to prevent further injury or irritation. However, it’s not yet a game-changer for most of us.
     
    Toes are overrated  
     
  13. Humility: As my wonderful partner likes to point out, there are few people that know more and want to tell you all about it, than a 22 year old. By your 30s, you should at least be moderately aware of how insignificant and uninformed you are, which I believe makes you a much more respectful traveler.
       
    You're nothing.
     
  14. Privilege: You know exactly how lucky you are and that many other people just can’t do what you’re doing. 
     
  15. Friends and family: When you are at Uni or a regular bar fly, it seems like you have a million friends. How could you possibly leave and keep up with everyone?! In your 30s, your list of “important people” has shrunken significantly, making it much easier to keep in touch and visit them before you go.
     
  16. Age is just a number: When we were deciding whether or not to do this, the advice of a good friend was, “if you decide against backpacking in your 30s, nothing is stopping you from backpacking in your 40s or 50s.” Very true! 
     
  17. Packing is easier: You have learned what you like, what clothes look good on you, which shoes are comfortable, and what you can/cannot live without. 
     
     Not great for travel, but certainly looks good
     
  18. #NoFOMO: We still get jealous of people doing cool things, but we are also generally happier with the decisions we make. Life’s not a competition. We have way less FOMO than we did when we were younger. 
     
  19. Better pace of life: The older you get, the more you realize that *taking a nap IS an activity*. You only live once, but you also don’t need to do everything by the end of today. In your 30s, you’ve learned to rest a bit and just enjoy yourself.
     
     

Cons:

  1. My partner: it’s just harder to meet people as a couple. 
     
  2. Standards: a lot of people stay in hostels and hitchhike well into their 30s and beyond. We are not those people.
     
    In my mind, this is a hostel
     
  3. Health and fitness: as you age it becomes more and more important to take care of yourself. We need our 8-9 hours of solid sleep or we get grumpy (we probably got grumpy at 20, too, but now we know to get enough sleep and we’ll be fine). Also, we seem to constantly have minor injuries (“Did I just sprain my wrist? I’ll know tomorrow…”). This mysteriously started happening after the big 3-0!
     
  4. Instagram: I’ll admit that I love Instagram, but I really don’t look like a hot bikini chick when I stand under a waterfall!
     
    Go find your own bikini chick, pervert
     
  5. Money: There’s this terrible mindset that is much too common in your 20s: *You’ll have more money when you’re older!* Sorry to break it to you, but you are older, and aging doesn’t pay the bills. A better understanding of the value of money really changes your budgeting and day-to-day splurges.
     
     
  6. Your stuff: The stuff you have is kind of nice now that you’re older, and a lot harder to get rid of. Fight the urge to get a storage unit and just sell it all online. It’s better that someone uses it, right? 

     
     That looks hard to give up, but the world is worth it! 

  7. Children: you either
    1. Have them, making travel more expensive and cumbersome but NOT impossible (check out MumTravelDiaries for some info on traveling with your kids),
    2. Are constantly explaining why you don’t have them, or
    3. Are distinctly aware of how much more difficult it can be to have them as you get older.
       
  8. There’s more to lose: The older you are, the more established your life has become. When you're in your 20s, it seems like you are taking a break before you even begin. Now, you have 10+ years of progress behind you. Your dream of backpacking in your 30s may require selling your home (or never buying one), quitting your job, or missing out on being a full-time aunt or uncle. 
     
    FaceTime helps!
      
  9. Fearlessness is gone: there are many things I did or would have done in my 20s that I absolutely will not do now. I’ll call it fearlessness, but it was probably also stupidity. You could see this as a “pro”, but you have to admit that it limits your adventures a bit. 
     
  10. Taxes: these are a lot easier when you are broke and/or only have one bank account. If you’ve had a professional job, you probably have a retirement account, and if you’ve taken the subtle hints from the finance books your parents have given you for Christmas, you also probably have savings/investments. Maybe even a health savings account (which I strongly recommend). Even worse, you may be a freelancer – ugh, taxes! Every year for a split second I wish I only had $1000 in my bank account from one part time job! 
     
  11. You’ve lost your mind: or at least, many people will think you have. "Grow up!" they say.  "You can’t just go traveling the world like a child," they say.

Learn to ignore them. 

 
Embrace the crazy!

That’s it! The pros clearly outweigh the cons.

 

If you didn’t have the money or opportunity to travel in your 20s, that’s OK. You can still go backpacking  in your 30s and beyond, so get out and see the world!

 

Comments

  1. 40s

    The idea of sleeping ANYwhere but your own bed provokes extreme anxiety.
    Dealing with extreme heat, extreme sun, extreme bugs, inconsistent water supply, lack of toilets, extreme smells, weird food... sounds exhausting.
    The Walking Dead and Project Runway are pretty much your best friends.
    Your shoes require orthotics.
    Your skin requires frequent hydration via a mixture of lanolin, shea butter, coconut oil, lavendar oil.
    You're used to thinking for 4 people when packing... now you have to do it all. the. time.
    Hearing "mom I'm bored" or "where's my tablet" whilst boating up a river in Borneo may provoke REDRUM.

    :) :) :)

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    Replies
    1. Man, you make travel sound like torture!!!

      I would propose that over time, you adjust to a lot of those things. Plus, I'm all about proper footwear and the occasional trash TV binge marathon -- that's possible anywhere with modern technology :)

      We both need to be better to our skin. I have been carrying a piece of pumice around that we found in Bali, so at least my feet are smooth!

      And finally... well, all I can say about the kids is that they'd be so distracted I hope they would forget about the tablet! A little redirection goes a long way ;)

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