How To Travel When Young: Tips From a Veteran Traveler

I’m on vacation this week, but I’ve left you in the capable hands of some of my favorite bloggers from past BlogHouse events. First up we have Amber Hoffman from With Husband in Tow discussing her best advice for twenty-something travelers.

I once found myself surrounded by young, single, female travel bloggers for a weekend. I was thoroughly out of place. I am old. Now pushing 40. I’ve married for 13 years. Just because I am old, though, doesn’t mean I don’t have some tips on how to travel when young.

A conversation with those young travelers one night ultimately turned to boys. I imagined myself as a high school gym teacher, walking through the locker room, observing the behavior of the young women. Remembering how I used to be one of them.

Then, one of the girls suddenly turned to me for advice.

Now, I have not been on a date with a stranger, or “hooked up,” since the nineties. The mid-nineties. My husband and I met in 1997. So, what kind of advice or experience could I offer this young woman who was wondering whether to hook up with a guy she just met?

Yet, she turned to me and asked for advice. I gave it to her. I don’t know if she took it.

I felt wise. An elder statesman. After all, I have landed an amazing partner. I’ve been to 70 countries. I had a ten-year career as a tax attorney. And I’ve traveled the world for about three years, making me a veteran traveler. I know some stuff.

Thing is, I only have so many years ahead of me where I can provide wise woman advice before I turn into a cranky, crazy old woman, who’s been traveling for ages, and who has not put her finger on reality in at least a decade.

So, before I get too old, I thought I would share my tips for how to travel when young. These are the things I wish I knew then, that I know now.

 There’s More to Travel Than Getting Drunk

Travel When Young - There is More Than Getting Drunk

Okay, this is a little pot calling the kettle black, as I love my wine, beer, and cocktails, as much, if not more than, the next gal. That said, I see plenty of young people out on the road getting hammered every night and not enjoying the day. You can get drunk and pass out at home. Make the most of your experience abroad, and remember it. Okay, that’s my last bit of advice that makes me sound like your mother.

Not Everyone You Meet Has to be Your Best Friend

It’s great meeting people on the road, and I’ve met some wonderful people while traveling. Then, I have also met some real jerks. Life is short. Don’t hang out with jerks.

It’s Okay to Say NO to Things

It’s hard traveling, especially long term. There are moments where you want to do everything and say yes to all opportunities. But, there are times when saying no, to an activity you don’t want to do, or a person you don’t want to hang out with is totally okay. Spend your time doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. There may be few periods of time when you are older when you will have this kind of freedom so take advantage of them as you travel when young.

 It’s Okay to Splurge Once in Awhile

Its Ok To Splurge - Travel When Young

Remember that advice of how it is okay to say no? Well, don’t always say no solely based on the cost of something. Being on a budget is one thing, but missing out on what might be an amazing opportunity to save a few bucks might lead to some regret down the road. Build some cushion into your budget to allow for a splurge now and then. It will also help to keep your sanity when traveling long term.

Pack Light

There is no award for the traveler with the heaviest bag. Travel light. I’ve traveled the world with a 45L bag, which fits in the overhead bin, and weighs in around 11 kilos, or 24 pounds. What this means is that some stuff might need to stay home, like hair straighteners, and cowboy boots – yes, I’ve seen women travel with both.

Don’t Just Eat Spaghetti Bolognese

Don't Eat Just Spaghetti Bolognese - Travel When Young

Take it from me, a professional eater, there is so much wonderful food in this world, and many of it is cheap. I’ve seen too many people spending too many evenings in the hostel kitchen cooking up spaghetti and sauce, rather than exploring the local cuisine or seeking fabulous street food.The same thing goes for limiting yourself to banana pancakes and spaghetti bolognese at restaurants on the road. When you travel long term, sure there are times when you need a little comfort food, but don’t limit yourself.

Wear Sensible Shoes

See number 5. No cowboy boots. And you can probably leave the heels at home too. Unless you are a hard core hiker, big bulky hiking boots are unnecessary as well. Pack a sensible pair of walking shoes or sneakers, a pair of flip flops, and some cute ballet flats and you are covered for every occasion. Men, you can leave your ballet flats at home.

There’s More To The World Than Southeast Asia

Especially for Americans and Canadians who travel when young, exploring Southeast Asia is a dream destination. It’s far away, it’s exotic. Tons of backpackers flood the region every year, with Lonely Planet guide in hand, island hopping in Thailand, or knocking back beers in Saigon. But, try some of the lesser visited locales in the region, like Myanmar. Better yet, explore Eastern and Central Europe, for some more unique experiences.

Make Sunday a Travel Day

This is my golden rule in Europe, Central America, well, really all over. But, particularly in the Christian parts of the world. So many attractions and restaurants are closed on Sunday. Try having a nice lunch in an Italian hill town, or planning a pleasant dinner at your new favorite restaurant in Barcelona, and the place is deserted, if even open. In fact, it’s hard to learn the rules about when to eat in many of these countries, but Sundays are always a problem. Make Sunday a travel day, and enjoy a nice leisurely train ride or bus ride to your next destination instead.

Take The Risk. Travel When Young.

Take The Risk. Travel When Young.

It’s okay to escape the predictable life. I wish I did when I was younger, instead of waiting until I was 35. Although I took my first trip overseas when I was nine, I just automatically marched down the path of college, law school, married, condo, career, and before you know it I was stuck. I am envious of the people who travel when young and know that they want to explore. The people who move overseas with little savings, and they just make it work. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Take the risk and travel when young.

After 10 years as an attorney, Amber left her job at the largest law firm in the world and decided to start living her life. She is now a recovering tax lawyer, travel writer, photographer, and eater, traveling the world With Husband In Tow.  Her passion lies in understanding the link between food and travel, and she is always looking for new Adventures in Food.

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12 thoughts on “How To Travel When Young: Tips From a Veteran Traveler”

  1. I enjoyed this article, although for some of it I’m clearly not the target audience!

    I just have to say though, in reference to “There is no award for the traveler with the heaviest bag.” … There is also no award for the traveler with the lightest bag. Despite the fact that it seems like a bragging right to have a lighter bag than the next traveler, why can’t we all just agree to take what you are comfortable to carry and lug around with you?!

    1. Hey Jarratt, great point! I think if you are comfortable carrying it, go for it. I think as I get older, though, my back just can’t handle the wait, and I’ve realized how little I can get by with.

  2. I loved this piece! I especially agree with the ‘splurge once in a while’ tip, I was almost not going to bungee jump when in New Zealand due to cost but I gave in and it was the best thing I’ve done so far 🙂

    1. Hey Student Travels, that is the perfect example of what I am talking about. It is something that if you look just at the cost, you think it might be too expensive, but it is just one of those things that you should just go ahead and do!

  3. Really enjoyable piece… I feel similarly about wishing I’d travelled more when I was a bit younger, but no regrets eh? Making the most of it now!

  4. Being of a more, um, advanced age I can definitely relate to all of these. I would like to add one item – don’t skip something you want to do or see and say, “I can do it when I come back”. As you get older life can have a bad habit of getting in the way of our plans. You always need to assume you won’t be able to visit again and plan accordingly. If you do manage to make it back – bonus points for you! If not, well you didn’t miss anything the first time. (Please don’t ask me how I learned this!)

    Great article.

    Cheers!

    Dale Hampton

    1. Dale, that’s a great one to add! We have a tendency of saying “next time” and more often than not, we know the places we will definitely be back to again and again. Then, again, there are times when I know we need to make the most of a place right from the start.

  5. I think the best rules for traveling at any age are: 1. No drugs (no drinking, no smoking, no illegal substances) 2. No sex addictions (no strippers, no call girls, no porn, and no one night stands). 3. No gambling (enough said). 4. No confrontations with locals (walk away, don’t fight if you can avoid it). 5. Avoid impulse shopping. 6. Stay with the group. There’s safety in numbers. 7. Watch out for opportunists (pick pockets, purse snatchers). 8. If it feels like something is wrong, trust your instincts — it is, and get out of there quick. 9. Never run off from the group, get into a car with, or separate yourself from the group for a complete stranger. 10. Know the country you are visiting (the language, the laws, the local customs and practices), and do your best to be respectful of their culture, laws, and beliefs while you are visiting. I think it’s great for young people to travel, but I think one can have a sense of adventure at any age.

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