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Heather Magee Headshot

What I Learned Travelling in My 20s

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My 20s were all about three things: hustling, partying and traveling. Hustling to move forward in my career, partying with my ever-growing network of friends, and traveling as much as my bank account would stretch. The three pillars of my 20s, you could say. Granted my values and motives haven't shifted too much in my 30s, but my approach to travel most certainly has.

Traveling was a much different experience in my 20s. Some of these things were, of course, influenced by budgetary restraints, but I wouldn't trade them for the world. Buying a one-way ticket, traveling for months on end, having zero itinerary and landing where ever the wind blows you are luxuries that are unattainable with a mere four weeks of holiday per year. Lack of time off aside, there are so many experiences I would have missed out on had I not hit the road during my more impressionable years.

I couldn't see myself partying through the night until noon at a full moon party on Koh Phangan like I did when I was 22. Not because I'm incapable of pulling an all-nighter at this age, but because no one wants to see a 30-something staggering down the beach, donning glow sticks in a drug-induced haze.

I probably wouldn't travel across Cambodia again on the back of a motorcycle with a guy I met moments before while crossing the border on foot. I doubt I'd hitchhike across Cape Tribulation again when I could just rent a car. And I definitely wouldn't dream of spending the night in the Geneva train station with a couple of guys from Boston I met at a bar an hour earlier, because all the hostels and hotels were booked solid. None of these things, which all translated into great adventures, would happen now that I'm in my 30s.

On the flip side, there are little luxuries that I deeply appreciate when I travel now. Like the fact that I don't have to stay in hostels anymore, although I still do from time to time because it's a great way to meet other travellers.

I don't have to deal with being awoken by someone having a shag on the bunk above me or dirty communal bathrooms. If I run into trouble (read, run out of funds) I don't have to call mom and dad to PLEASE SEND MONEY. I can just throw some cash at the problem and go. In addition to all the great sights and sounds of each place I explore, I can also experience the dining and nightlife to the greatest extent. Something I would have considered frivolous in my 20s. Why waste money going to nice restaurants, when those funds could translate to an extra week on the beaches of Bocas Del Toro, for example.

Having the means to travel comfortably is something I'm grateful for, but the experiences I had traveling in my 20s are priceless. They shaped and influenced my ability to adapt and fueled my curiosity for new people and places. And while I've traded my backpack in for sleek carry-on luggage, my voracious appetite for adventure is alive and well.

Are there any adventures you wish you had embarked on in your 20s? Anything about traveling on a shoestring budget that you don't miss?

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