6 differences between travelling in the teens vs the mid twenties
I have a confession: I am 24 and not the same person I was when I was 19, shocking I know. Strangely, something happened in that time. I'd like to think I grew up a bit, saw a thing or two, changed for the better, into a more well-rounded person and more sure of my character. I am not the same awkward teenager that only cared about clothes and music and boys. And just like your lifestyle begins to change, you start to look at the world a bit differently too as you grow. You start to see the bigger picture, questioning certain things, becoming more inquisitive, learning more about the earth and the people in it and there's no better way to do that than travelling.
After being lucky enough to have travelled (in the hostel and backpack sense, not the all-inclusive cocktails in the pool bar sense) in both my teens and my twenties, it has come to my attention that there are some fundamental differences in the way that the 'gap yah' mentality was handled in both. I may be generalizing here but I've also quizzed many travellers on this topic, and while each have their pros and cons, travelling when you're a teenager is very different to travelling in your mid-twenties, and here's why:
1. Changing Priorities
As a bright-eyed, bushy haired teenager exploring Indonesia, my days greatly involved sleeping and lounging by a pool. And while it is nice to relax and do nothing once in a while, I've found switching from lazy days and crazy nights to making everyday a memorable experience much more rewarding. Nowadays we're putting culture first, always up nice and early to reap each place of everything it's got to offer, instead of groaning out of bed to attend an excursion which I wouldn't have fully appreciated. Learning about the history, the people and the sights of each city, town or country we're in has become much more at the forefront of our itinerary.
2. Meeting People
When I was 19, I idolized any traveller that was making their way around the country selling jewellery and playing guitar, I thought they were the coolest and I wanted to join them one day. I also wanted to talk to everyone and anyone, and then would class them as my 'friends' even though we'd only shared one or two drunken dances and a trip to a temple together. Now? Meeting people along the way is classed as a bonus. If it happens it happens, if it doesn't... you get the picture. This way, I have found that we have actually met people who we have things in common with, who are interesting and have something more to say as opposed to just anyone who speaks English and is up for a laugh. By the mid twenties you're a better judge of character, you know yourself more and therefore know who you will get on with better. Obviously talking and being a generally friendly person to anyone you come across is a given but actually becoming friends with the people you cross paths with is a bit more realistic.
3. Finding Independence
During my trip as a teen I was left to my own devices, and I was terrified. I didn't want to go outside of the protected gates of the hotel or hostel and into the big wide world. The thought of eating alone or going for a wonder by myself filled me with dread. While many youngsters are more than capable and confident in their skin to go it alone, I was definitely not at that stage. You have to be incredibly comfortable and self-assured to do that at such a young age, so a huge well done to anyone braving it. Now in my twenties I feel I could manage it a bit better, my confidence has grown and while a friend in tow would be more ideal, getting around with just me, myself and I for company doesn't sound as scary.
4. Getting Streetwise
As a teen I was getting robbed left right and centre. I didn't have my wits about me and it was these experiences that taught me how to be a bit wiser in the future. After visiting some pretty rough places since, I've learned that a bit of common sense and knowing when to spot something a bit dodgy goes a long way and so far in my twenties nothing has been stolen (touch wood).
5. Sense and Money
Mapping out my budget plan as a teenager left little for proper meals, sightseeing and any added extras or mistakes that I hadn't budgeted for. This lead to a lot of instant noodles, crying over missing out and almost an early flight home (thanks to the Bank of Dad for that one).
Now it's all about the experience, and paying that little bit extra for a guaranteed good time and knowing how to make my money go further in the long run is certainly making for a better trip. Knowing where to cut back and where to splurge has definitely been a skill best learnt from independent living over the last couple of years.
6. Becoming Open-minded
Back in my hay day I didn't want to try anything new, if there was an English pub as opposed to an authentic restaurant I would be there, finger poised over the Spag Bol on the menu. If it was off the beaten track, I didn't want to know. I wanted what everyone else was doing, a cowardly sheep following the crowd. Now I want to seek out the unknown, places and people that haven't been stomped on by tourists. Obviously there are the odd sights that you have to get an obligatory selfie, but if there's an experience that let's me jump head first into that country's culture, that I can call my own and recommend to fellow travellers that no one else can, I'm there with arms wide open.
If some of these things all still sound appealing and you're pushing the mid twenties boundary that's absolutely fine, we're all still finding ourselves somehow, but nowadays I'm just searching in a different place to where I was 5 years ago. Who knows, maybe in 10 years time travelling will be even better, but for now, I'm going to relish in the knowledge that my 19 year old self got me to appreciate travelling in my mid-twenties that little bit more.
By Emily Rogers