Don’t Look Back in Anger

I know I am constantly going on about how your twenties are a great time to travel– well here is the flip-side of the coin. Today’s guest post comes from a thirty-something traveler, Scott Hartbeck, who has some regrets to get off his chest.

And so travel can wait. But can you really afford to make it wait?

When I wore a younger man’s shoes, which were flip-flops come to think of it, I didn’t worry about when I would get to travel and see the world. I knew it was something I would do eventually, but just never right then. I was content with earlier family vacations being the bulk of my travel resume as my 20’s approached. I certainly knew there was a great big world out there, and of course someday I would get to see all of it, but “traveling traveling” would be something I would do when I got older. In fact, it was one of the main things you did when you got older, wasn’t it? Traveling was a prize you were rewarded with later in life. After you had battled the business world for decades and emerged victorious with a home, family, and retirement fund, you were then free to move about the world.

Somewhere along the way though, I started to get a sick and sinking feeling that like many of the things in life that usually start with a “well, you know what they say”, this too may be a misguided mantra. The revelation started innocent enough. A travel documentary here, a spring break trip to Jamaica there, a bragging, backpacking, co-worker and suddenly it started to crystallize. Why would I wait to do these things when I can do them now? Now I am young. Now I am spry and energetic. Now there are no relationships, careers, and children to tie me down.

So what did I go out and do, you ask? Well, I did absolutely, positively, nothing at all.

I amazingly wandered down the path of wondering, wishing, and wanting to travel, but going nowhere. There was never a really good reason I suppose. I just simply didn’t hear my own advice loud enough to heed it. Weeks, months, and years went by and then it seemed the next time I looked up, I was about to turn 30. Only the sight of those two large numerals heading my way finally snapped me out of it and made me decide it was really time to do these things.

There were just a couple problems. First, I was now living on my own, so if I was going to take off to traverse the globe there was that little sticky thing of rent that needed to be dealt with. Also, with a few years under my belt at my job, would I just throw it all away for a backpack? Lastly, I was now a single parent of a basset hound and what would I do with her? I grappled with these factors and decided to move back home with the parents at 29, retire from the “two weeks of vacation a year” world and start traveling.


It started in 2006 with a two-week trip because I had to make it back for my best friend’s wedding. It then grew to seven weeks in 2007, but I couldn’t possibly stand going any longer than that without seeing my girlfriend. In 2008, with the pressure to move back out of my parents place growing, it became a two-week trip with a high school buddy who could only get two weeks vacation. As you see, it got complicated by waiting. Life got in the way. Now, I’m not positive the pastel-colored cliffs of Cinque Terre or the views from the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald would have taken my breath away any differently at 25. I’m also certain I held my own at Oktoberfest at age 30 and will run to catch a train with the best of them this fall. I just know it could have been a little better a little earlier.

As I sit near the close of my 32nd year and near the close of this cautionary tale, I have a three-week trip to Europe planned in September. This trek is to establish a small backpacking-oriented business. If plans proceed perfectly, this venture will afford me multiple trips in the future to far-flung global destinations. It is far from a sure thing though; the only sure thing is the fleeting benefits of twenty-something travel.

Scott Hartbeck is a thirty-something traveler trying to make up for lost time. When he’s not dreaming about the St. Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup, trips to New Orleans, or his next bloody mary, he’s working on starting a brand of backpacking-themed apparel and his three-week jaunt to Europe this fall to launch it. Follow his progress @Worldwide Scott.

25 thoughts on “Don’t Look Back in Anger”

  1. Yeah, I think alot of the issues I was trying to write about aren’t necessarily simply due to your physical age, but the inevitable entanglements of life as the years go by, and the burden they place on plans. For example, my gf (who i hope to make my wife one day), isn’t the travel addict I am, so my RTW long-haul dreams are most likely shot forever. I have gotten over it, but it still stings.

    Scott

  2. It’s really great to read other’s perspectives on the age and responsibility front. As I struggle with how “little” I’ve really seen in comparison to some of the other travelers out there, I often have this fear that all the years will slip away.

    It’s a constant struggle between the “need” to see the world and the “need” to fund it.

    I’m only 23 and I’ve set these goals of countries I have to see before I’m 30 but then I stop myself and realize that I’ll enjoy many of them just the same (if not more!!) past my 20’s!

    Best of luck with the travels Scott!! Keep getting out there!!

    1. Sometimes I really have to remind myself that life does not in fact end when you hit 30. I’m happy to be out in the world and having adventures now, but I hope that these characteristics will last me long out of my twenties!

  3. Monica at In Wanderment

    This Louisiana girl can absolutely relate. In my 20s, like Scott, I thought that travel was a “someday” thing, and now at 29, I’m making preparations to actually do it. And I’m happy to read in his tag line that he’s a fan of New Orleans and Bloody Mary’s. Woot!

  4. Great post! As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter how or when or where you travel, as long as you get out an explore the world somehow.

    But Paul has a good point — money and time are large factors, and ones that often hamper travel dreams. I recently went to Alaska with my family on a cruise, and while it was great to see older people on the ship, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit bad for those who could barely hobble along with a cane, or those confined to wheelchairs. I’m sure they had a good time, but would they have enjoyed the Alaskan wilderness better 50 years ago?

    I feel like a lot of people plan to travel once they retire… but that doesn’t mean your body will cooperate. That’s why I’m trying to take every opportunity to hop on a plane and have an adventure now. I don’t want to have any regrets later.

    1. What you mention here is pretty much one of my main arguments for traveling while you are younger. You may not have as much money but you will almost certainly be more agile and energetic.

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