In my twenties I spent a few years travelling solo and backpacking. I loved it: the freedom to travel, the spontaneity, the partying, the sense of immortality. It blew my little mind!
Image by james on flickr
Nowadays my world is more about family and friends, work and bills, but I had a revelation last week: travel now is just as good, if not better.
1. I’m not swept away by the novel and new
“A huge new tower with an eye-bending viewing platform, and it only costs £50 to be herded up there – AMAZING!”
“A restaurant that pre-chews your food for you – wah, I LOVE it!”
Um, no, that’s not me anymore. Getting older has given me a greater perspective. I’m calmer, more observant, assessing things and responding accordingly. I see new experiences for what they are: fads and well-honed marketing campaigns, nice to try but not something that will change my life. That’s not to say I’m immune to shouting from the rooftops when I do find something new that I love – it’s just that it’s more worth listening to me when that happens!
2. I interact with people in a different way
I’m more interested in a wider range of people. When I was in my 20s I wanted to meet people like me, fellow backpackers to party with and travel with. Now, I want to chat with everyone: the shopkeepers, the local tourists and commuters, the housekeepers, and my fellow travellers, even the young ones (who, truth be told, rarely want to speak to me as much).
And these people I meet on my travels respond to me differently. Far fewer try to sleep with me(!); they listen to my questions more attentively and answer them more thoughtfully; and they are more interested in my life. After all, I have more stories and experiences to share nowadays.
3. I have a bit more money to spend than I did in my backpacking days
Good lord, I slept in some dodgy places. Fleapits, dormitories with 20+ people crammed in up to the rafters, hammocks swinging beneath holey mosquito nets. I’m glad I’ve done that. But I’m even gladder I don’t have to do it anymore! Now I’ve got a better job, I have a little bit more in the bank so I can choose nicer hotels, splurge on a taxi when I’m tired, and I don’t have to pick between the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock.
4. I don’t feel the urge to do everything
“Bonus travel tip: Ditch the backpack! In my late twenties I did the same style of travel but with a wheelie suitcase and it was a revelation.”
5. I don’t view it all through a lens, rose-tinted or otherwise
I have a camera by my side but I don’t feel the need to snap and film everything, and my experience is valid without it getting a hundred likes on Instagram (although I do admit to feeling a little buzz when that happens). When I see an incredible view, my first instinct is to drink it all in with my own eyes, rather than preserve it digitally. I think that makes my experiences more real, more memorable.
Image by UN Women on flickr
6. I have less time, so the experience is more intense
I can’t spend months on the road anymore. But that just means that my trips are more thought-through. I know more about my destination before I go, I have a clear idea of what I want to do when I’m there, and I’m going to make daamn sure I do it (see point 4, above). And because I take a break between trips, I have time to absorb and digest the experiences so they stay with me for longer.
7. I choose my travel buddies more carefully
When I was in my 20s, I was simply grateful for company, and pleased when someone else actually wanted to travel with me. Whether or not I wanted to travel with them rarely entered my thoughts.
Now I’m far more selective. It’s not that I’m scared to travel by myself – I’m not now and I wasn’t then – but I appreciate the benefits of a well-chosen travel buddy: someone to encourage me to venture beyond my comfort zone, who will do her share of the planning, is reliable, has good chat and likes a giggle, and most importantly, someone I want to keep in touch with when the trip is over so we can share memories.
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