Being 30 is strange. It kind of feels just like being 29, but it’s not. You’re a real adult, and you can’t pretend otherwise. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of your 20s – this is your last chance to be young, free and have the cash available to spend on yourself.
Here are the 24 trips I’d recommend you try before you hit the big 3-0. I’ve done 15 of them so far, and it’s now too late for me to reach the 24, so go, 20-something year old, go where I didn’t…
1. Travel through South East Asia
Backpacking in South East Asia either alone or with friends is the first trip for so many travellers, and for good reason. It’s easy to travel around, there are many other travellers along the route just like you, and you’ll usually know someone who’s done it before. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos are the usual suspects, do it!
2. InterRail Europe
Europe is incredible, and totally underrated, especially by us Brits (Brexit much?). There’s so much to see and do in every country, and there are many schemes set up to help the budget-minded stay for cheap. Get yourself an Interrail ticket and explore!
3. Hike Patagonia
Trekking Patagonia, through Argentina and Chile, has to be a top life goal for many a traveller. The scenery and terrain just look incredible. Yes, this is one of those trips I haven’t done, but dream of. Apparently, it’s here that you can really find yourself on those mountains and learn just how vast and incredible this world is.
4. Trek America
The USA has some of the most incredible scenery you could hope to see. The National Parks are home to some unbelievable views and the drives through are stunning. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail through California, Oregon, and Washington, or up the Half Dome in Yosemite Park or even Rainbow Point in Bryce Park, Utah.
5. Day of the Dead Festival, Mexico
We’re all going to die, some day, so why not celebrate the fact instead of mourn it? Mexico’s Day of the Dead is one of the most intriguing and fascinating festivals there is, with graveside parties, specially made bread and parades through the street all night. People get dressed up, and spend the 1st November singing in the cemeteries with Mariachi bands to keep the rhythm.
6. Mardi Gras in New Orleans
New Orleans is awesome. You might as well go the whole hog and visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras, when you get to party in the streets, watch the huge floats go by and try to grab the beads they toss at the crowd.
7. Ski somewhere awesome
The freedom of skiing cannot be emulated. I didn’t learn to ski until I was 23 and now I love it. That feeling as you cruise down, casual AF, the views laid out before you and knowing there’ll be a nice warm drink at the bottom of the mountain… it can’t be beat, I swear.
8. Explore India
India is all the things you’ve heard it is, guaranteed. You need a strong attitude and an even stronger stomach to make it through your visit.
The Dhavri Slum in India is one of the biggest in the world. I toured with a company who provides tours not to ogle at the residents, but to educate the droves of people who come to look. In fact, you’re not even allowed to take photos.
It’s trips like this that can also give you perspective, and can help you to realise just how damn lucky you are.
9. Newquay with your mates
I went to Newquay in Cornwall, UK three years running when I was a teenager. In fact one of my friends met her now husband at Sunnyside Holiday Camp – one of the dirtiest summer camps around – a quick Google tells me it’s now shut down.
A road trip in the UK with your long time friends from school feels kind of like those ‘coming of age’ American movies we’re bombarded with. Yet, this time, you get to be the star.
10. Island hop in Greece
Admittedly my first experiences of Greece were when I went to Kos and Kavos with friends on two super chavvy holidays. I don’t think we even left the main strip. Now I know you can do all kinds of things – Sail Weeks, trips to artsy places like Hydra, or tours round Mykonos and Santorini.
11. Get snappy at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
These are the salt flats that everyone takes those weird perspective photos on. Rent a four-wheel drive, or join a tour, and go explore and play. Then show off your clever and hilarious photos on social media for the world to see.
12. Visit Disney and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Florida
Leave it too late to do this and you’ll have to take your kids with you – boring! Go now and you can do exactly what you want, go on the rides you like, and have a ridiculous amount of fun without a child pulling at your sleeve.
13. Party in Amsterdam
A crazy weekend in Amsterdam is an awesome thing to do while you’re still young, free and ready to try new experiences. You can get there easily on the Eurostar, or get a cheap flight over. And once you’re there, you know Amsterdam allows things other countries don’t, right?
14. Drink at Oktoberfest
My week at Oktoberfest in Munich is one of my favourites. Beer for breakfast, lunch and dinner, wearing drindls, I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
15. Go for a once in a lifetime experience
Whether you want to go to a World Cup, an Olympics, SXSW, the World Series or Burning Man, you should do it. You could probably only ever afford to do them once in a lifetime, but if you really want to, it’s worth treating yourself.
16. Hike the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu
Granted, this is another one I haven’t actually done, but I’d love to. My ‘things to do before I’m 30’ opportunity is over a year out of date, but you can still travel at my age, don’t worry.
Hike Machu Picchu and you’ll get to follow the 15th Century path of the Inca Trail, enjoying the incredible views into the valley. It’ll be life changing.
17. Drink wine in Cape Town
Cape Town is one of the coolest and most surprising cities I’ve visited. Of course I knew about South Africa’s wine heritage, but I never knew how interesting and open the country would be.
Their disturbing racial history (and, unfortunately, present) is just one of the aspects that makes the country fascinating. People also visit for the art, the food and the adventure sports too – just a few of the reasons why Cape Town, and South Africa, is well worth a visit.
18. Costa Rica
Wildlife that can only be found here, epic forests and the fascinating local culture makes Costa Rica top of animal and earth lovers’ lists.
19. Ex pat in Australia
Oh Australia, so much to see and do, us Brits can’t resist spending a year or two there, can we?
There’s a reason thousands of under-30s get their Working Holiday Visa and head off Down Under – it’s got the familiarity of England, but the sun, the sand and the hot surfers. A year in Australia is a great way to experience a new culture and make some money at the same time. I know a lot of people who say that their year in Oz was the most fun they’veever had.
20. Travel the Amazon in a boat
I mean, can you imagine the adventures you’ll have? And the stories you’ll gather to tell everyone back home who’ve just been wasting their money on the weekend?
Spend just a few peaceful days on this incredible stretch of water in Brazil and you’ll probably see more wildlife than you’ve ever seen in your lifetime. It’ll be a trip to remember.
21. Visit Jerusalem
The epicentre of so many religions, and fought over every single day – Jerusalem has to be one of the most interesting places in the world to visit, right?
In order to see Jerusalem for what it is, and not as a particular political or religious party will lead you to believe, you’ll need to take a few tours here. Gather the facts and then decide what to think.
22. New York
The first time I went to New York I think I cried. I mean, it was 2002 and I was knee deep in wanting to be Carrie Bradshaw off Sex and the City. There’s just something so exciting about the Big Apple that needs to be experienced.
Tag NYC on to a big USA adventure, or just go for a long weekend when you’re feeling flash. Either way, go!
23. Explore Japan
Japan is without a doubt one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. You can ski, explore the future in Tokyo, the past in Kyoto, the beaches of Okinawa and also hang out with the monkeys in Nagano. There’s just so much to do here. And do not get me started on the food, or the robots.
24. Volunteering in the Third World
If you’re lucky enough to even think about doing some of the things on this list, I’d recommend you give back with a volunteering placement. You can find projects all over the world, from Costa Rica to Thailand, to India, the UK and beyond.