As a 29.58 year old, I’ve fallen prey to a certain kind of viral article. I’m guaranteed to click on anything about 20s vs 30s. The writers over at Buzzfeed must also be pushing 30, as that seems to be a favorite topic right now. One of their latest creations is 10 Trips You NEED To Take in Your 20s.
According to this list (recapped below), it’s imperative that I do six of these in exactly five months:
1. Go on a road trip across the country with your best friends
2. Use a Eurail Pass to see Europe, preferably on your own
3. Go on a cheesy spring break (in your early 20s)
4. Lose yourself in Southeast Asia, preferably with new friends who you meet on the road
5. You should probably go to Burning Man, but if you can’t make it to Black Rock, Bonnaroo will do in a pinch
6. Go to the Himalayas and embrace your inner Beastie Boy
7. Go on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere
8. Spend a week on the beach with someone you love
9. Take a last minute trip on a train to see an old friend
10. Spend a week in Paris with a friend that you hope secretly likes you back
The do-it-while-you’re-young message here is spot on: un-tied-down early adulthood is a unique opportunity for travel and adventures. But this list doesn’t really align with my own 20s travels. Have I missed out on the essentials? Or have I just sought out something else?
For twenty-somethings like me who are looking for travel that digs a little deeper, lasts a little longer, and may be a little more enriching to yourself and to the people/places you encounter along the way, I came up with my own list:
Ten OTHER Trips to Take in Your 20s
1. Study abroad while you’re in college
As it turns out, only 1.3% of Americans study abroad in college. If you possibly can, broaden your education and prioritize a semester abroad as an undergrad.
Semester abroad in Central Mexico, age 20
2. Learn Spanish at a language school in Central America
If a semester abroad wasn’t in the cards, it’s not too late. There are other ways to spend time learning overseas. The Spanish schools in Guatemala, for example, are an affordable way to gain some language skills and some fun travel memories.
Miguel de Cervantes Spanish School in Guatemala
3. Volunteer with a non-profit in another country
Check out idealist.org or search online for a chance to get involved almost anywhere in the world. Not all voluntourism, however, is created equal. Research the non-profit and know the do’s and don’s of voluntourism before you go.
My stint with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala
4. Work at an ecolodge in exchange for room and board
Ecolodges and other kinds of lodging can often use a hand. Propose a work exchange where your payment is room and board. There are a number of ways to trade your labor for lodging and prolong your travels through work exchange.
The ecolodge I called home for five months
5. Challenge yourself to a multi-day mountain trek
Backpacking through alpine terrain teaches many lessons, like earning the panoramic views and carrying your own weight. If in a foreign country, look for non-profit trekking operators like Condor Trekkers in Bolivia.
Trekking a pre-Columbian trail in South America
6. WWOOF your way onto an organic farm
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a way to get as close to your food source as possible — and even have a hand in producing it. The country-wide networks of host farms in Australia, New Zealand and Canada are among the most vibrant and active in the world.
Harvest time at a ranch where I worked in Vermont
7. Make your income virtual and work from anywhere
How endless are the ways to eke out a living online? Take a look around oDesk and eLance for an idea. As a digital nomad, your office is wherever you make it.
A travel writer’s “office” in Laos. Photo by Cindy Fan
8. Pursue a natural phenomenon
Great Salt Flats in Bolivia. Iceland’s Northern Lights. Glaciers in Patagonia. Sea turtles nesting in Costa Rica. Seek an encounter with nature at its wildest and most rare. It may be the beginning of a lifelong love story starring you and the planet.
Great Salt Flats of Bolivia at sunset
9. Travel by bicycle across a region
The open road, reinvented on two wheels. Once you’ve toured by bicycle, car trips lose their luster and you’ll always be fantasizing about the next long ride.
10. Rediscover your own hometown
After the various prolonged travels that I’ve done in my 20s, I’ve found that coming home is the greatest adventure of all. I change, it changes, and there’s always something new to explore.
Sunrise on Mt Sherman in my home state of Colorado
The carriage doesn’t turn into a pumpkin once the clock strikes 30. Deep 20s travel shapes you and becomes a part of who you are. The adventure is never over because you’ll value travel for life!
This post is July’s addition to my Ambassador series for VacationRoost.com