A year out was once the preserve of 18-year-olds seeking direction in life but today things have changed. Forget spending 12 months in a haze of alcohol, harem trousers and sunburn. Travel in your late 20s and early 30s is now an acceptable, and often far more rewarding, time to explore the world.
A year out is perfect for those seeking a new challenge, or anyone looking to discover our spectacular planet while learning more about themselves in the process. Travelling is an investment you’ll never regret, and will leave a lasting and powerful impression on your life. Here are a few reasons why travelling in your 20s and 30s is the new year out:
1. There’s no pressure to follow the crowds
One of the most liberating features of travel in your late 20s and 30s is that, while you might not have everything in your life sorted, you’re probably that bit closer to knowing what you want when you travel. Party your way through endless cities on the tourist trail? No thanks, you’d rather take it slow and find your own way instead.
And while top tourist sights are often incredible experiences, sometimes there’s nothing better than stepping out of your hostel and discovering a new city, country or landscape without the expectations of what others think you should be visiting weighing down upon you.
2. Your eyes are wide open to the world and its challenges
It’s easy on your first backpacking trip at the ripe age of 18 to waltz through countries in a haze of wonder, awe and confusion at the culture explosion that assails you from each new destination. But as a traveller in later life, you’ve probably got a clearer understanding of what you’re seeing, whether it’s the abject poverty you have to face in an Indian slum or the serious threats affecting the Amazon jungle that you visit in Peru.
Experiencing life’s inequalities first-hand will make sure that you never forget about the tiny, fortunate position you have in the world and will make you realise how your contribution as a tourist to the economy can have a valuable, lasting impact.
3. You know that too much partying – and the after effects – aren’t fun anymore
While backpacking in your late teens might have revolved around an ill-considered litre of cheap tequila, travel in later life and you’ll probably want to step away from that bottle and embrace some of travel’s other fine qualities.
Yes, a few glasses of delicious Argentinian Malbec won’t go amiss on a sun-laden terrace – when in Rome (or Mendoza) and all that – but staying up until 3am to bop drunkenly to Enrique Iglesias’ The Twilight Years in a seedy Peruvian nightclub might no longer be your cup of tea.
You might splash out on a four-bed dorm, or even a private room, so you can escape the party and get some kip. Not exactly wild, but practical: you’ve got a sunrise to admire the next morning, after all.
4. You’ve probably got more money – and know how to spend it
Now while your bank balance might still be optimistically awaiting that lottery win, chances are you’re in a better financial position to travel than ten years ago.
Backpacking is a wonderful lesson in budgeting, but there’s no shame in having more cash to travel with a little extra comfort. Being in the position to spend a little extra for that fully reclining seat and the luxury of a toilet on your 24-hour bus journey is something you won’t live to regret.
But, even if you’re still scraping around for the money to travel, go anyway. There will never be a time when everything is perfectly aligned, and no time is better than the present.
5. You’re more open to an adventure
Australia may have ranked top of our list of most popular gap year destinations, but for those in their late 20s or 30s, you’re probably ready for more of an adventure.
Grab your rucksack and encounter some of the globe’s most spectacular and under-visited destinations. Explore undiscovered India, learn about the revolution in Cuba, study indigenous languages in Bolivia, or engage with rich culture and community life in Uganda.
6. It’s a perfect time to push yourself – and reap the rewards
Ultimately, if you feel yourself stuck in a metaphorical rut in your career or life in general, travel might be the best way to spice things up again. Not only can travel be personally rewarding, but it’s life experience desired by many an employer these days. If you’re looking for a change, you could use a year out travelling to learn a new language or skill to make way for a new career when you return.
Live your forgotten dreams: conquer the odds and summit some of the world’s most challenging mountains, get involved in a body-destroying coastal trail-running and hiking event in Sweden, rent a vehicle and travel Namibia in your own four wheels or settle down for a few months and volunteer.
Inspired? For more gap-year ideas, listen to Episode 5 of The Rough Guide to Everywhere (iTunes; Soundcloud) where Tim Key shares stories from his time in Kiev and our very own editor Freya Godfrey tells tales from her stint in India.