The One Piece of Travel Advice I Wish I’d Known at 20
Though I have I’ve been lucky enough to travel more often than most 20 year olds, I realize that there are many things in this world that I’ve left to see and experience. So much so, in fact, that it’s a bit overwhelming at times. While it’s impossible to know in the moment if a decision will be the best choice in the long run, you can’t help but wonder. I find myself wondering things like,
To what extent should I actively seek adventure, and to what extent should I just let it find me? What mistakes am I currently making that I don’t realize? When I look back on my travels, will I have any regrets?
Well, the best way to get an answer to any question is to ask it! I reached out to travelers with a little more life experience than I, and posed the question: If you could talk to your 20-something self, what is the one piece of travel advice you would relay?
Of the many responses, the following were the insights that resonated with me most deeply. So, young travelers, heed this advice and learn from the those who have come before us! And of course, this advice doesn’t only pertain to those in their 20s — travelers of every age can benefit from this advice, even if it is just a reminder.
I had an outpouring of responses from travelers of all ages, but below are the pieces of advice that really resonated with me! The general consensus was: be present. Which is simple yet profound advice, as being present in our lives is often forgotten.
And of course, this advice is relevant for all ages. It’s never too late to travel like you’re 20.
This collaboration has definitely put travel more into perspective for me, and hopefully it will for you as well! Click each photo to link back to each contributors home blog links.
BE A “YES” PERSON.
If you’re in Bangkok and you run into a group of young travelers that are going to a full moon party, go with them. If you’re in Argentina and a group of travelers are going dancing, go. If you’re in Dubai and you find a group of people going sky diving, go.
I’ve backpacked around the world in my 20s and had an amazing time, but looking back there are a few times where I, for some strange reason, thought about all my actions. Tried to be somewhat of a responsible traveler. Don’t be like the young me. Take each chance, each opportunity, be a “yes” person. Thankfully, I changed my perspective by the time I was 23 and I’ve said yes to everything. Currently living in Colombia as I’m writing this! Take chances and have fun, you’re only in your early 20’s once.
Princess Walsh, The Traveling Princess, 27 years old.
A large majority of people tend to plan trips by browsing extensive lists of typical tourist attractions. A roller coaster of activities, sightseeing, and restaurants, which are often squeezed into increasingly tinier schedules. Thus, recently I have made an effort of exploring what each place also naturally has to offer. And this is something I wish I had learned when I first started travelling.
To make plans, but be as flexible as possible about them. To enjoy being able to sit in a park to observe the locals in their daily routine. To stroll around cities and learn how to pay attention to what surrounds me. To hear from locals suggestions for restaurants and places to see – some completely off the beaten track and rarely mentioned in my supposedly great guide. It may require a certain commitment to allow a trip to be detached from claustrophobically packed schedules, but it is certainly worth it.
Filipe from Loose Translations, 29
PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE!
Especially these days with the ability to consistently be in touch with home through social media, Whatsapp etc., I think its very easy to focus on what you’re missing out on rather than experience where you are. This is something I wish I had been told [when I was 20]. And even though I have frequently been told it over the years, including in a text from one of my lovely friends just this morning, I still struggle to escape FOMO (fear of missing out)!
Focus on the here and now without rushing yourself, and don’t be content with just experiencing life over the top of a cell phone screen. When you get home, you’ll appreciate it.
Lottie Reeves, Princess in a Caravan, 33 years old.
YOU AREN’T “TOO YOUNG” TO TRAVEL.
I didn’t really start traveling until I was 24 or 25. If I could go back to being 20, I’d tell myself “you, right now, are fully capable of traveling on your own to any place you wish.” I think at 20 I felt very young and tentative! I lacked some of the confidence I have now, and the knowledge that many, many young women travel safely around the world. In short, the advice I’d give myself is “you are ready”.
Amy, Two Drifters, 29 Years Old
TRAVEL FOR THE EXPERIENCE, NOT FOR THE PHOTOS.
Being from the Philippines, a trip to Europe is such a big deal for me. All these beautiful places that I only see on TV and read in books, never have I imagined that I’d be able to actually visit them and see for myself. So on my first European trip, I spent 7 days in 3 different cities – Paris, Rome and Munich. Looking back at it now, I’ve no idea how I managed to put all those cities in a week.
I was there for the photos. I wanted to make sure that I’d be able to capture each and every move that I do in my camera without really experiencing the place itself. As long as I had a photo of myself in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican or at the Marienplatz nothing else mattered. In the end, I didn’t really enjoy it. For me, it was like a race against time because I had to be able to cover as much places as I can so I could take a photo of it. Now that I think about it, it didn’t really give me any valuable experience except for a sh*tload of photos that I took. I wasted time and money on that trip – I wish I stayed only in one city and explored and learned about it in depth. I think that’s what a good traveler should be.
Noemi, Pinay Flying High, 32 years old
DON’T LET EXCUSES STOP YOU FROM TRAVELING.
There are plenty of excuses why we shouldn’t travel – you can work on your career, buy a house, settle down, and stay close to home where everything is easy and “safer”. We hear this message from the people around us and sometimes even echoed in our thoughts.
It is easy to get scared and give in to these excuses, which is exactly what I did when I was in my early twenties. I was trying so hard to be responsible that I missed a lot of great opportunities for great adventures. Now that I am older and wiser, I travel as much as possible. Traveling has taught me so much about the world, helped me grow exponentially as a person and has brought me countless moments of joy.
It is possible to travel and still have a career, be safe, buy a house and maybe even settle down one day. I would encourage anyone else who is yearning for more travels, to go for it and not let any excuses get in the way!
Chantell Collins, Adoration4Adventure, 30 Years Old
Time goes fast, so don’t wait for others to have the time, the money, and the similar interest in the destination you want to reach to go on an adventure. I waited 2 years for a friend for going to Morocco. When she had time, she had no money, so we always changed the travel to Morocco for a road trip around Spain. It was nice but I haven’t visited Morocco yet… And then I had three free months before starting my new job in Italy: I wanted to travel but no one else had vacation time.
Today, I’m doing a solo backpacker trip around Australia! It took me 8 years to discover that if I want to go somewhere I don’t need to wait for other people. So, if you want to go somewhere, just go solo!
Esther Sanye, Trip to Adventure, 28 Years Old
Try not to worry too much when things don’t go the way you expect, because they often won’t. Choose to see the adventure within the misadventure. Sometimes, it’s those moments when nothing seems to be working out that end up turning into some of the greatest memories of your life.
When I was 20, I left my job in finance, packed a backpack and bought a plane ticket to Australia. I spent months traveling the country in an old van, which was an absolutely incredible experience. 6 years later, the moments I find myself looking back on most frequently are the ‘misadventures’. You know, those times when life throws you a curveball and everything just seems wrong? In retrospect, those curveballs usually led to some of my greatest moments, but I didn’t realize this at the time.
If I could give my 20-year-old self some advice, it would be to allow spontaneity to take over more often. When things go wrong, don’t complain. Instead, ride it out to see where life takes you. You never know, it could turn out to be your best adventure yet.
Courtney Lee, Jetset Brunette XO, 28 Years Old
It doesn’t matter how near or far you are to a new destination! A short distance travel to a place you haven’t been to will still bring you new experiences! More often than not, travelers tend to overlook the advantage of going to nearby places. We tend to always think of the beyond — the far away. Since we tend to prepare just for the big trips, why not take it slow and give short day trips a shot?
I bet you haven’t encircled the entirety of your hometown. Wake up early on a Saturday. Drive your car or take the bus. Go on your own or let your friends come with you. Go to that one place everyone has been talking about but you haven’t tried yet, or go to that place you’ve been fancying for so long but haven’t gotten the chance to visit. Grab every traveling opportunity there is, may it be a grand one or not.
Carmela Del Espiritu Santo, Carlades, 23 Years Old
YOUR SAVINGS WILL TAKE YOU FARTHER THAN YOU THINK.
By 20 I had already spent 5 months living abroad in Sydney as an exchange student, and I knew I wanted to explore more of the world. But I was under the impression that my savings wouldn’t take me very far, and that if I wanted to really explore the world I would have to live and work in another country for an extended period of time. I didn’t realize backpacking and being nomadic for a little while was an option. As a result, I decided to teach English in Bangkok full-time. Yes, it was stimulating to be in a new country but what was I doing? I was working 50 hours a week living in the city – I wasn’t exploring, meeting new people, trying new things.
So overall, my advice is that if you want to go traveling and you have money saved up or can save up some money at home (which is usually more lucrative and faster than trying to save money while working abroad anyways) then DO IT! Your savings will take you farther than you think.
Michelle Vogel, Mish Vo in Motion, 25 Years Old
TRAVEL NOW! SORT THE REST OUT LATER.
Sometimes I feel like my twenties are “reversed”. At 28, I’m unfettered by possessions and exploring the world but at 20, I had a car and a house and was two years into college and a career path. It’s not that my life was “boring”; I loved my friends and had an active social calendar (a.k.a. worked all day, partied all night). But I was doing the things a lot of people don’t do until they’re 25+, and I was doing them in a tiny, conservative town with little to no diversity.
I was always restless. Deep down traveling’s what I’d always wanted to do, but I talked myself out of it so many times because I was concerned with doing what was “right”, rather than what was “right for me”. Maybe it’s a case of “If I’d known then what I know now”, but traveling is so educational and rewarding on so many levels and I can’t even imagine where I’d be (or where I’d have been) if I’d chucked it all sooner.
Natasha Peterson, The Boozy Backpacker, 28 Years Old
DON’T BE IN A RUSH TO SETTLE DOWN.
The one piece of travel advice I wish I’d known at 20 is: take your first trip before you plant your roots, even if you have to go alone. When I graduated high school I immediately started to build a future settling down. I didn’t think twice about the things I wanted, just the things I was “supposed” to want.
Now, many trips later, and 22 years old, I realize what makes me happy isn’t the societal norm. I am working on paying off a car and student loan debt, while also having bills to pay in my efforts of achieving a traveling lifestyle. A life that, had I taken my first solo trip a couple years earlier, would be a lot easier to achieve.
Jessica Beck, Beck What The Heck, 22 Years Old
What travel advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
Leave it in the comments below!