Home » Didn’t travel in your 20s? No problem, here’s why it’s better in your 30s

Didn’t travel in your 20s? No problem, here’s why it’s better in your 30s

written by Jay Cockburn December 28, 2018

I thought ditching work and going travelling was something you did when you were straight out of university. If you didn’t do it then, you didn’t do it.

With that in mind I was both lucky and unlucky to get a job I loved soon after graduating. While my friends were beginning their travels I was beginning a career.

The job was great. It was at a desirable company doing work I was passionate about… but I was still in dreary old England.

My friends were living their adventures in places like Costa Rica, New York and Italy, but I was far too focused on my career to take any big breaks.

I didn’t do any serious travel for years, until a good friend of mine was dumped and decided to hire a car and take us both on a road trip around Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.


Loving life in Vienna

I realised that I didn’t miss out. My best traveling days are still to come.

Travel is just better as you get older.



A decade or so of settling into yourself turns you into a better traveler.

On my last solo trip, Lisbon, I stumbled upon a group of solo travelers in a bar in Cais do Sodre and we ended up drinking buddies for the evening. Perhaps because I am older and happier in my own company I find it much easier to make new friends. When I was younger I’m sure my awkwardness would have got in the way of meeting people and stopped me from enjoying being alone.


Lisbon tram

On a tram in Lisbon

You probably have a bit more money

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking the cheap option. Hostels and campsites are great places to meet like-minded travelers, but when I was on a camping tour in Botswana it really helped that I could occasionally splash out and upgrade to a hotel room with air-con. In Toulouse I could thank my host by taking her and her partner out to dinner and buying a decent wine. Money isn’t everything, but there is no denying it makes travel easier and just that little bit more pleasant.


You can make your job work for you

Once you have put a bit of a career behind you and proven your worth then a lot of companies are open to career breaks, and flexible working is becoming more fashionable. With solid experience you could go freelance, or maybe it’s time to just quit and start something new when you come back!

I know lawyers who took a year out from their work. A good friend of mine works in bio-engineering, partly from an office but partly from a laptop wherever he happens to be in the world. I’ve met nurses on career break overlanding across South America.

Amazon Jungle

The Amazon Jungle awaits

I make it work because my current job is shift-based so I can earn more annual leave and tend to have bigger gaps between runs of shifts. There are loads of ways to fit proper adventures around your career. If you’re reading this thinking you can’t because of work… well you can, you just haven’t figured out how yet.


You know your limits

Perhaps this is because my hangovers are worse now but I am far less likely to waste a day in bed after a 5am finish than I used to be. I still drink more than I should when I’m traveling (you have to try the local booze right?) but I know how to pace it out.

That doesn’t mean I don’t party… but I’ve learned the hard way that nothing good happens after 2am. Besides, hammered tourists making locals uncomfortable is not cool.


Toulouse: a city so beautiful you don’t need beer goggles to appreciate


You’ve know who your real friends are

If you choose to travel with someone then that travel partner can make or break an experience, but by the time you’ve made it to your thirties you have a pretty good idea of who you can tolerate for extended periods of time.

The party friends are ditched; you’ve stopped bothering with that one person who is really funny but always flakes on plans. You have a few, important people who you know and trust to take you to the ends of the earth.

And those new friends you meet in the bar? You figure out pretty quickly whether they’re worth keeping in touch with.

kayak BC, Canada

Kayaking with company in BC, Canada

Since my European road trip I have camped in the Okavango Delta, kayaked with seals off the coast of British Columbia and seen a quartet play Mozart in Vienna. I’ve traveled solo and with a partner. I haven’t had to quit my job and I’m not rich. But I am planning a really big adventure for this  year.

Now I’m glad I came to travel late, the only downside is that I have to pack a bigger suitcase because I have more stuff.

Ready to take the plunge and see the incredible world for yourself? Check out Intrepid’s range of top trips and destinations.

(Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel, Jay Cockburn x2, Intrepid Travel, Jay Cockburn x2.)

Feeling inspired?

You might also like


Nola March 12, 2020 - 11:29 pm

I certainly love travelling, touring the world has always been my dream. I am in my 20’s now currently navigating my career path and I hope soon enough, I will be well-settled to cross borders and continents.

Shahzaad Kamboh January 3, 2019 - 4:49 am

It’s a beautiful read. I appreciate all of your opinions, Jay.

Traveling in the 20s is cool. But traveling in confidence, with a little more money, and a dependable sense of knowing your limits or figure-out-ability is the way more cooler, I guess.

And after all, if not then why not now.

J. Argentin December 31, 2018 - 6:21 am

While it’s true that traveling older is wonderful and you have more money, the experiences are vastly different. I started traveling when I was 18. I backpacked Europe with a friend in the 1970’s. I had experiences then (and met other young people from around the world my age) that I definately wouldn’t have in my 30’s and 40’s+. Additionally, as I got older I was less likely to tolerate rough conditions that the type of traveling I did when younger required. For example, once in Paris all the hotels were solidly booked and I ended up spending the night on a park bench. Although it wasn’t my preference, I managed alright, but I was young (in my early 20’s). If I had to do that older, it would’ve been much more difficult for me. My point is it doesn’t get better or worse; just different. However traveling solo versus with a partner, no matter what age, is amazing and affords one to meet people that otherwise they most likely wouldn’t met. I’m now in my 60’s and still traveling and sometimes solo too.

Linda June 7, 2019 - 10:42 am

I read your post it’s very inspiring and would like to join in one of your trip in a near future

Marise June 9, 2019 - 6:30 am

Great distinction. Really not the same comparison just different experiences


Leave a Comment