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4 things I learned from travelling in my 30s

I remember a time when I thought being in my 30s was old.

Heck, I remember being 17 and mocking my sister when she turned 20, so to now be on the cusp of my 40s and thinking back on the past decade is still a little surreal.

A decade ago (gosh I feel absolutely ancient typing that) I wrote a post before about 5 trips you need to take in your 20s that I’m still quite fond of and stand by. In that time since, I’ve travelled some, experienced more and learned a few things along the way. So even though my muscles ache more after long haul transits and I sadly don’t qualify for European-youth discounts anymore, I don’t see my love for travel changing anytime soon.

So with this birthday being the last year I can introduce myself as a 30-something, here’s that requisite reflection post on the last decade or so and some advice I can impart as a slightly-older traveller.

Your travel style can and will change

Just because you started off as an intrepid backpacker doesn’t mean you always have to be one if the convenience of tour packages starts to be more appealing! Or maybe you’ve always loved solo travel but find yourself getting a bit lonely nowadays and need a travel companion, that’s fine too.

I think it’s easy to get hung up on a label or an identity you’ve created for yourself and feel like you have to live up to it, but your travel style will evolve as you grow, just go with it and see what new adventures come your way. As long as it makes you happy~

Vietnam Hanoi Overnight Train Bunk Me
I talk a lot about my very first solo trip to Seoul, but it was actually supposed to have been Vietnam! I planned for that trip very differently compared to what I do nowadays – by solely relying on a friend’s guesthouse rec vs a ton of internet research these days. But it was also 2011 and the internet wasn’t as vast as it is today. Here I am on an overnight train to Halong Bay!

Don’t skimp on what’s important to you

Hopefully in your 30s you have a bit more spending power compared to your 20s. Money may not be everything, but it can make your life a bit easier, which results in a more enjoyable experience and is something I value now that I’m older. I’m pretty unlikely to return to those budget backpacking days and shacking up in a cheap dormitory room as I’m happy to fork out a bit more for privacy and a good view these days.

It’s not about being more of a spendthrift, but knowing that some hardships just aren’t worth those pennies pinched.

Seville Welldone Metropol Room Bed End Me
Splurging on a nice hotel room with a private rooftop patio for my birthday in Seville. COVID did turn me away from shared dormitories and now it’s hard to go back to sharing haha.
Kenya Diani Beach Skydiving Me
I thought quite hard about whether paying about US$400 was worth it for a quick jolt of adrenaline, but skydiving over Diani Beach in Mombasa? Totally worth it for the memories after that and these epic pix

Leave some room to breathe

As an Occasional Traveller, I am very much about maximising my travel time and making the most of my trips – I like booking everything in advance which is great for saving money and peace of mind on the trip, but also means pretty strict schedules. It sometimes felt like I needed another holiday to recover from the trip I just took.

Cha Am Beach Deckchair View
Short weekend trips inevitably feel more packed, especially so if it’s a media trip or I have writing obligations to fulfil. But even then, I try to give some room to breathe, like this recent trip to Cha am, I had planned to see a lot in Hua Hin to maximise my time there as I was writing paid articles and so I could refresh my own Hua Hin post, but I decided ultimately to be less ambitious and just focus on Cha am and enjoy those places a bit more thoroughly than zip through everywhere

These days travel planning is a more relaxed affair. I still like booking all my flights and accommodation in advance, but I’m less hung up about following an exact itinerary or maximising my day. I’m more confident that I’ll somehow find something to do while I’m on my trip even if I don’t end up venturing far from my doorstep, and that taking the time for a much-needed nap on a holiday isn’t ‘wasting time’ but making sure I’m good to keep going.

Jeju Seopjikoji Beach WIndsurfers
I was hoping to scuba dive in Seogwipo, but because of potential weather issues and an unexpected park closure, I ended up visiting Seongsan Ilchulbong over 2 days instead of 1 and not having the time to dive. Still, it did end up with me making an impromptu detour to nearby Seopjikoji instead which was fun and relaxing!

Revisit old spots for a new perspective

Last I checked, my country count is around 55 as of now, and there is still so much more of the world left to see. I’ve always wanted to go further and see more – my Career Break saw me through 35 countries in 15 months but it was a real whirlwind as well. As I think back on my memories made in those places, there is a new urge to revisit places I’ve been before and see how time has changed them, how I’ve changed and what current me thinks about these old-new places.

Seville Plaza Espana Me
Me at Plaza España 16 years ago on my very first trip to Seville!
Seville Plaza de Espana Jumpshot
First post-COVID trip back to Seville in 2022 – I might have gotten older and put on weight but the plaza hasn’t changed much at all

I kinda have the urge to go back to Vietnam now – my 2nd ever solo trip was to Hanoi and the last time I was there was Ho Chi Minh in 2015, so perhaps time to revisit again?

So there we go, my words of wisdom for now. It’s fun to write posts like these and then come back to re-read them a few years on and see how things might have changed again, or how much the same they remain. Travel has changed a lot even in just the last 10 years and who knows what’s up next with all the talk about space travel and AI and etc.

One thing that I know for sure is that I’ll always want to see new places and cultures around the world, and I hope I’ll never stop being excited by that next impending adventure ahead no matter how old I am. Hopefully this blog will still be around in the next decade for my next reflection post!

I try to do something epic on my birthday when I can! See my latest birthday shenanigans~