So You Want To Be A Thirty Year Old Backpacker?

thirty year old backpacker solo female
So you wan't to be a thirty year old backpacker? Could you quit your job to become a solo female traveller. Read on for tips and advice.

​So you want to be a thirty year old backpacker?

My first response is: good for you.

Next, let us start by quashing an assumption about backpacking that will flit across the brain of any wannabe voyager over the age of about twenty five.

People assume backpacking is only for gap year kids or students fresh out of university.

Well, thank God I’m here for you.

I’m going to call bull shit on that one for you guys. Let me reassure you that this couldn’t be farther from reality. I started travelling at the tender age of 26 and the first thing I noticed was that I was not the oldest.

On a related note, I’ve picked thirty as the age for this blog post somewhat arbitrarily. Because in reality, you can consider travel at any time in life.

Within the first few weeks of my backpacking life I crossed paths with travellers of all ages. Sure, there will be eighteen year olds revelling in their new-found freedom in many destinations. But, I promise you that you will meet travellers in their late twenties, mid-thirties and even their sixties all rocking their own journey for their own personal reasons.

sunset australia beach

Rockingham, Western Australia

A Different Set Of Fears

Choosing to backpack for the first time is a daunting experience for anyone, regardless of their age.

In my opinion I think choosing to be a thirty year old backpacker revolves about a different set of fears to those of a younger traveller. Ultimately, these fears may become too difficult to ignore and will dampen the spark igniting any burgeoning travel plans.

Let’s take a look at some of the concerns you may have as a potential thirty year old backpacker. Does any of the below resonate with you?

Will People Think I’m Old?

At home you’re probably used to hanging out with people your own age most of the time. Unless you are part of a club or play team sports, the majority of your friends may tend to be of a similar age to you. Setting off to travel, you may worry that you’re going to be surrounded by 18 year olds who may notice the odd grey hair on your head or wrinkles forming around your eyes. Gulp.

**Side note** How good are you at guessing ages? If you’re anything like me and the hundreds of people I’ve met, you probably suck. Before you get offended, let me reassure you that this is not a bad thing. I’ve found most people tend to be overcautious when guessing someone’s age and opt for a lower number so as not to cause offense. I’m nearly 32 and last night was chatting to a guy who guessed my age at 23. Winning! Funnily enough, I didn’t have the heart to correct him.

thirty year old backpacker female travel

Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

Will I Have Anything In Common With The People I Meet?

The stereotype of the hard partying backpacker can be quite intimidating for the thirty-something used to a nice bottle of wine with friends or a lazy Sunday afternoon at the pub. It’s not like we don’t like to have fun, but two day hangovers are a thing now.

Will I Be Able To Adapt To A Travelling Lifestyle?

This one is biggie and covers several elements.

At home you may have a career, live with fewer people and be used to a more comfortable standard of living. Quite understandably, you may be wonder whether you will be able to get used to living on the cheap; giving up those weekly brunches and the Netflix subscription you’ve become to associate with your norm.

Angst also stems from the thought of whether you’ll be able to get used to sharing your space with a group of strangers in a way that I haven’t done since university? If you choose to stay in hostels – whether or not sleep in a dorm room (although this is often the cheapest option) – there will be communal facilities like showers, toilets and kitchens. How on earth will you cope without guaranteed access to clean tea-towels and a double bed?

Budgeting for a longer trip may not be something you’re used to. By now you’ve got the cheap weekend city-break down pat. You know where to score bargain flights and a reasonably priced hotel with good reviews and enjoy yourself with delicious meals out and entrance tickets to whatever you please. But how much will a longer trip cost and how will it feel to impose a daily budget and stick to it? Just how long will your money stretch?

Wellington New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand

Am I Wasting My Life?

If I choose to take this trip am I getting off the career ladder and jeopardising my future? Shouldn’t I be at home getting a mortgage and negotiating my annual bonus? What about all of my friends who continue to purchase new cars, have babies and score new jobs whilst I am waking up in new cities, in new countries and in new continents? What will they think of me and will I be left behind?

Thirty Year Old Backpacker

Woah, woah, woah, just hold on there just a damn second, I hear you cry. I thought the premise of this article was supposed to be encouraging? I want to be a thirty year old backpacker but all you’ve managed to do is make me want to drown my insecurities in a giant tub of ice cream and never leave the couch again.

Don’t worry.

If you think you’re alone in feeling this way then you’re wrong. I pretty much panicked over everything listed above. But I didn’t let it stop me and here I am, five years later, assuring you that I’ve been exactly where you are right now.

thirty year old backpacker female travel

La Rioja region, Spain

So I want you to shelve all those worries for the moment.

I’m not saying they’re not valid, but what I want you to do now is realise that for every doubt you may have about being a thirty year old backpacker there is a counterbalance. A whole host of positives are out there waiting to be discovered as soon as you commit to taking your trip.

Let’s have a look at what they could be…

The Positives Of Travelling In Your Thirties

Age Is Just A Number

You will meet many amazing self-aware, mature eighteen year olds and some staggeringly immature thirty somethings. We all know that we shouldn’t stereotype and travelling can be the refresher course you may need to challenge some narrow minded views that may be lurking in the back of your head. From the widowed, sixty-something woman embracing her retirement to the forty-something teacher making the most of a long summer holiday, I’ve met all sorts on the road. All these different people add another unique stitch to the pattern of your journey.

Your Goals Are Personal

Age aside, what you will get out of travelling will differ from the next person. However, it is safe to say that the older you get the more taking time out to travel seems like A Big Thing. Whether you choose to spend your trip drinking from coconuts and doing sweet FA or not, your decision to travel is unlikely to be one you’ve taken lightly.

Your Travel Style Is Purposeful

A lot of younger travellers are looking for established backpacking methods and the bright lights of big cities. For example, they may not be so interested in the out of the way places in the Tasmanian wilderness or the jungles of Borneo. Being slightly older, you may have no problem with forging on alone to travel the same country and see an entirely different place.

Spain-mountain-travels-backpacking

Sierra De Gata, Spain

It Can Be A Game Changer

Travel will help you view yourself and your life in a whole new light. How liberated would you feel if you realised that you didn’t have to remain set in the life and image that you have developed for yourself up until this point?

Adopting A Minimalist Lifestyle

Backpacking forces you to embrace a minimalist lifestyle as your whole life must be reduced down to the size of a bag. Decluttering your life is freeing not only on the road but back home in your day-to-day world where you can take the opportunity to review belongings and old routines that may have been slowing you down.

You Are Not As Old As You Think You Are

When you do let your hair down and party with backpackers of all ages, you realise you don’t have to spend as much time on the sofa with a bottle of wine when you get home. Maybe don’t consign yourself to a life of slippers just yet.

Arthurs Seat Scotland Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

“Mo Money, Mo Problems”?

You might decide to spend your money in different ways when you get home. Travel could help you place less importance on material items and prioritise different experiences in your life.

You’re Doing Better Than You Thought

When you see your life through younger traveller’s eyes you realise that you have achieved more than you thought. They may ask you questions about your life up to this point with the kind of wide-eyed reverence that only the young can muster. You don’t know how inspiring you are to other people. Allow yourself the opportunity to step back and review your life, patting yourself on the back for getting to this point. You’ve done ok.

Nelson Falls Tasmania

Nelson Falls, Tasmania

When was the last time you have taken a leap of faith into the unknown or done something that scares you? It’s likely that as you’ve gotten older the direction of your life has taken a more predictable route.

So if you want to be a thirty year old backpacker (or a twenty seven year old or a forty three year old), remember that it’s been a while since someone has held your hand every step of the way. Whatever the hesitations that block your path to travel may be, no one else but you can overcome them.

It’s over to you! I’m really keen to hear what you think about whether age affects the concerns you have about travel. Do you feel differently about travel the older you get? Has age changed the way you choose to travel? Share any thoughts with me in the comments!

Do you know of anyone who is about to embark on their first trip? Share this with them if you think they may need a bit of a boost.

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So you wan't to be a thirty year old backpacker? Could you quit your job to become a solo female traveller. Read on for tips and advice.

34 Comments

  1. February 8, 2017 / 5:08 AM

    AWESOME article. We are 40 something…and have two girls. We introduced them to backpacking when traveling to Singapore. Met a lot of Grey Hair Nomads that were doing the same thing. 😉 Maybe we should do an article together talking about Back Packing for the Senior group! 😉

    • February 10, 2017 / 3:47 AM

      I’m sure I will still be backpacking when I can call myself a grey nomad! I think it’s important to encourage travel no matter what your age so it’s great that you introduced your daughters to it. So happy that you loved the article. Happy to contribute ideas towards an article, although I wouldn’t call myself a senior traveller just yet! 😉

      • February 11, 2017 / 4:35 AM

        I just met a Finnish 60-year-old couple who were backpacking in South America for three months, without speaking even a word of English or Spanish! They seemed to be doing just fine, snapping photos with their ipads and talking to locals in body language 😀 (I’m 34 and cycling across South America at the moment.)

        • February 11, 2017 / 1:01 PM

          This is fabulous! I hope to be as intrepid as that Finnish couple one day! (And you, go girl, you rock!) What an incredible journey you must be on, enjoy.

  2. curiouspidge
    February 11, 2017 / 12:12 AM

    Great and inspiring post! I’m 40 next year and while I can’t myself giving up my job to travel, I still prioritise it over acquiring stuff (apart from camera gear which is a legit travel essential…!)

    • February 11, 2017 / 12:47 PM

      Thank you so much! I totally agree that the camera gear should be a travel essential. Happy travels!

  3. February 11, 2017 / 12:36 AM

    Love this! I quit my job when I was 27 so I could go travel and my favorite part of being an “older” traveler was that I had worked and saved money, and though still on a budget, had the funds to do everything I wanted to. I felt bad seeing some of the gap year travelers so tight on money that they couldn’t even eat. But more power to them, gotta make it work!

    • February 11, 2017 / 12:51 PM

      This is a great perspective, Cali! This actually a really great point in favour of waiting a few years to travel. Being more financially stable is such a huge benefit to a traveller on the road.

  4. February 11, 2017 / 1:42 AM

    Yes to all of this! I have traveled a lot over the years, but this is my first solo trip at the age of 33. I am learning so much about myself along the way. I know that doing it now is giving me an entirely different experience and perspective than I would have had at 23, for example. Plus, I’m still making out with 22 year olds, so it’s a win win! 😉 Haha. Thanks for this!

    • February 11, 2017 / 12:56 PM

      Excellent work, Asia! I also think that my travels would have been totally different if I’d started when I was 18 or 19. I would have been even more terrified to start with, plus very naive. It’s incredible how much of a learning curve travel takes you on. Have a great time on your trip!

  5. February 11, 2017 / 3:19 AM

    Great article! I’m a few weeks from 26 and felt that a little bit on my last backpacking trip. This was also the trip that I did start to realize some of my standards were changing a bit. My boyfriend and I hit up AirBnb’s more often than hostels and still managed to stay on a low budget because of the magical powers of a kitchen and not wanting to drink every night because of those two day hangovers you mentioned lol. I have friends all the time debate this though but in all reality, age is just a number 🙂

    • February 11, 2017 / 1:00 PM

      I recognise that my travel style is also changing as I get older, but it’s all for the better as I learn more about myself every day. I totally agree with you that cooking your own meals and forgoing a few nights out saves a lot of money in the long run! Happy travels!

  6. February 11, 2017 / 4:45 AM

    Aye aye to this, I love it! Pondering over hostels (can I really do dorm rooms or shared bathrooms) is something I do frequently lately because I’m trying to cut my costs for an upcoming Scandinavia trip. Thank you for the honesty and putting our fears and anxiety into words!

    • February 11, 2017 / 1:05 PM

      Thanks, Kristine, I’m so glad you liked the post. The upcoming Scandinavian trip sounds incredible and well worth a few nights in a dorm room for the overall experience I would say. There are some good ones out there and I find myself booking the ones where the reviews say it’s known to be quiet – I’ve gotta have my sleep as I get older! Haha. Enjoy your trips!

  7. February 11, 2017 / 5:11 AM

    I’m on my first backpacking trip at 34 years old right now. Everything I’ve been thinking and feeling from making the decision to my first night at a hostel – you pretty much nailed it on the head. Great article!

    • February 11, 2017 / 1:08 PM

      Oh, Brittany, I’m so excited for you! You will be in for an emotional rollercoaster but I’m positive you’ll love your first trip.

  8. February 11, 2017 / 5:49 AM

    Awesome post. I’m 28 almost 29 and too often than not people think I’m 21. That’s because I’m small built. Traveling has been a big part of my life and age doesn’t make a difference. I hope it ever will.

    • February 27, 2017 / 2:01 AM

      I don’t think it ever will, Penny. Your travel goals and style may change over time but the desire to hit the road, meet new people and have new experiences shouldn’t diminish. Happy travels!

  9. February 11, 2017 / 10:30 AM

    I would love to be a 30 year old backpacker, unfortunately I’m a 44 year old one, with a 56 year old hubby in tow! A great article, age is just a number, if it’s your heart’s desire, just go! We expect to backpack for a fair few years yet!

    • February 11, 2017 / 1:09 PM

      “If it’s your heart’s desire, just go!” Couldn’t have said it better myself, Nicky. Enjoy many more years of travels!

  10. February 11, 2017 / 1:55 PM

    Great article! I think backpacking is for anyone, it’s all about how you do it! And you’re right when you’re older you can do it however you like and you’re not so worried about missing out on the top party places 😀

    • February 27, 2017 / 2:02 AM

      I’m totally not bothered about the party scene now, haha! Too interested in getting my sleep and waking up fresh in the morning! But I agree with you that there are travel styles to suit everyone. You’ve just got to listen to you heart and hone in on what will make you happy. Thanks for your comment!

  11. February 11, 2017 / 2:06 PM

    I’m struggling with your point about what I “should be doing.” Getting married, having kids, making tons of money at a boring desk job and wasting my life away. I feel the pressure to “grow up” and settle down. I’m also 32 and no one in my life seems to support a backpacker lifestyle anymore, but I’m not happy with my life staying in one place, especially after living abroad for a year and getting a taste of the backpacker lifestyle! Supportive posts like this help me realize I’m not alone in this though 🙂

    • February 13, 2017 / 4:17 AM

      You are so not alone, Lyssie! I think most nomadic chicas feel this struggle internally through the external pressures of societal expectations. It’s tough to have the courage to choose a path that doesn’t seem ‘normal’ to many others in your life. But what’s not to say you won’t have the relationship, job, kids, house and all the other things you want in life incorporated into a lifestyle that makes you happiest; one that includes a lot of travel? I wish you all the best! Thanks for reading!

  12. February 11, 2017 / 6:01 PM

    I am 34 now and still backpacking the world. My age has never stopped me from travelling. I met great people on the road. Some younger, some older. Age really is just a number.

    • February 27, 2017 / 1:57 AM

      Couldn’t agree more, Ellis! Age is not a factor when meeting great new people when you travel. Enjoy your travels and thanks so much for reading.

  13. February 11, 2017 / 9:30 PM

    Excellent post! I’m 30 but to be honest, I’ve never been cut out for backpacking even when I was a student haha. But age is just a number and shouldn’t make a difference!

    • February 27, 2017 / 1:56 AM

      Cheers, Caroline! Finding the travel style that suits you is definitely part of the whole adventure. Not everyone enjoys donning the backpack and sleeping in hostel (sometimes not even me, haha!) Age is definitely just a number and no one cares about your age when you’re on the road, least of all you.

  14. February 12, 2017 / 1:15 AM

    Hi Meg! I love this post. I am 31. I have done some backpacking here and there in my 20’s but I want to do more. You’ve made me feel a lot more at ease with getting out there and traveling despite my age.

    • February 27, 2017 / 1:52 AM

      Hey, Kara! I’m also 31 (soon to be 32) and I definitely don’t feel too old to travel. Most people I meet on the road don’t believe my age and I often find that I’m not the only one in my thirties travelling. Hope you pick up the backpack again soon. Thanks for reading!

  15. ravenoustravellers
    February 13, 2017 / 4:38 AM

    an inspirational post and a great read! i have many friends older than me who always say they are ‘too old’ to travel because of the ties they have created at home, it’s just not true!! You should never think you are too old to see the world. I’ll be sharing this with them!!

    • February 27, 2017 / 1:50 AM

      There’s definitely no age limit to travel. If anything, travelling when you’re older may mean you appreciate it even more as it’s something you’ve dreamed of and worked towards longer. I’ll admit, having ties and responsibilities at home are an obstacle, but workarounds can be put in place to help you achieve your goals if your desire is strong enough!

  16. April 7, 2017 / 5:18 PM

    Excellent post! It is refreshing to see a take on backpackers and travelers who don’t fit the “just out of college” mold. I took my first year around the world at 30, another at 32, and a third six month trip at 34. Even now at 42, I’m still having adventures, although I’m enjoying having my girlfriend come along. We’re looking at another 6-9 month trip in the next year or so before she hits the big 4-0. We may not stay in dorms any more, but neither are we looking at all-inclusive resorts. There’s a happy medium somewhere in there that keeps you close to the locals without having to put up with the 20 year old partiers.

    • April 16, 2017 / 9:39 AM

      There’s definitely a travel style out there to suit everyone! Glad that you are enjoying your adventures, Henry.

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