It’s the end of an era, folks. Just a few weeks ago I said goodbye to my 20s and hello to the next level of my life – the big 3-0. It’s somewhat fitting to be starting this new chapter with the decade coming to an end. I feel like our 20s are kind of an absolute mess, almost like a Jackson Pollock painting that we’re meant to get out of our systems before we truly become ‘adults’ when we hit our thirties.
Confession? I still don’t feel like an adult… but I think a lot of 30-year-olds don’t either.
Life comes with ups and downs, curveballs and straightaways. What matters is the knowledge you gain from these experiences. One of the biggest teachers for me has been travel. Whether it’s a local excursion or an international journey, there are so many things travel has taught me. I learned more than I can write in just one blog post, but here are 20 lessons travel taught me in my 20s.
What All Did I Do in My 20s?
When you see the NHL kids now almost a decade younger than you making hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes I sit here and go what the hell have I done with my life? Thinking back though, I really did accomplish a lot! Also, can you think of an example that’s any more Canadian? Let’s see a few of the things I got up to.
- Moved to the other side of the country, not knowing a single person in the entire province
- Backpacked across Europe visiting 22 countries in 111 days
- Travelled solo for the very first time (and plenty of times since then)
- Visited 9 provinces and 1 territory in Canada
- Went to Southeast Asia for the first time
- Checked off a number of bucket list items including staying in North America’s only ice hotel, seeing the Aurora Borealis in the Northern Lights capital of the world, and much more
- Explored 13 national parks across Canada
- Travelled alone in Europe for the first time
- Got my scuba certification during my trip to Cozumel, Mexico
- Started this beast of a travel blog which has given me so many opportunities to travel to destinations that may not have been on my radar otherwise
…and that’s just a few of my travel highlights, let alone life events like earning a diploma and a degree or adopting a cat! Time is so strange in that a year can seem so long yet so short at the same time – let alone a whole decade. I think if I met 20 year old me now, I’d barely recognize myself. I may look similar but I’ve definitely grown since then and a lot of that is thanks to travel.
20 Lessons Travel Taught Me in My 20s
I’m privileged to have travelled so much in this decade of my life. As travel does, it has also taught me so much. It teaches you life skills you can’t learn from books or in a classroom.
It’s Okay to Not Have Your Whole Life Figured Out
Societal constructs lead us to believe that we’re supposed to know what we want to do by the time we graduate high school as we dive into this throughout university and come out at the end as a fully functioning adult where we begin to contribute to society, grow up and live happily ever after. I don’t know about you, but here I am at 30 and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I never thought I’d work in Vancouver, Miami and take a term off to backpack in Europe. Once I did that, I didn’t believe I’d end up back in Waterloo Region after graduating from university. Right now, I have no idea where I’ll be in 5 years which is unheard of to many… but that’s okay. I think that’s part of the magic of travel. An opportunity might arise which will take you in a whole new direction – and I’m excited about that uncertainty!
Everything Happens for a Reason
The more days I live on this planet, the more I believe in this in all its entirety. The universe was a weird way of figuring things out, but in some way, shape or form, you’ll understand why. When another door closes, another opens. It may not always be great right away, but you’ll soon find out that it gives you the skills so that when that door you truly want does open, you can walk right on through it with gusto.
People Come and Go… and That’s Okay
The people who were my closest friends in university are now a distant memory, let alone my friends from grade school. I sometimes wish I had that childhood bestie where we could reminisce about our childhood. However, more often than not I see those people in a toxic friendship that’s held together by the idea of “well, we’ve been friends since we were 3 so that’s just how it is.”
I’ve grown a lot over the years (it sounds cliché but I mean it, if you met me in middle school you’d NEVER think I’d end up where I am now) and as such, my interests, goals and confidence have too. The people who I’m now lucky to call my close friends are those who understand this and push me to be better, to reach for the stars and to put myself out there. I’m thankful every day that the universe brought these friends and I together, and I can’t wait to see who else I meet in the future.
Say Yes As Much As You Can
While I wouldn’t go as far as Jim Carrey in Yes Man, I’ve never regretted saying yes to an opportunity. Have I been nervous? Of course. Thrown outside my comfort zone? 100%. It can be stressful but having the guts to say yes has led me to so many opportunities including trying my hand at ice climbing, the biggest bail of life on Ottawa’s infamous Buseater rapids, and even having the honour of experiencing a traditional sweat lodge in Bawating (Sault Ste Marie). These experiences have inspired confidence in myself, have taught me about the world and changed me for the better. So next time opportunity knocks – just say yes!
At the Same Time, Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
This is the biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year or so. Sometimes you just have to say no. It might be because you’re incredibly overwhelmed or feel as if you’re being taken for granted. No matter the reason, if your gut is hesitant about something it’s because there’s a reason. In this past decade, I’ve cut ties with people who I thought were friends and even fired a client. While it was nervewracking and stressed me out at first, removing this negativity from my life has helped me in the long run. If anything, I wish I did it sooner.
Burnout Is Real
Gone are the days where I can power through a day on 2 hours of sleep or go full throttle for days on end. While early in my 20s I may have bounced back, I quickly learned in the past few years that yes, there is such a thing as too much travel. My get up and go sometimes gets up and leaves me behind, which left me occasionally frustrated by my lack of energy. What I first attributed to ‘oh garsh I’m just getting older’ is actually the fact that I’m a better traveller now. Blogging has turned me into an epic researcher where I comb through pages upon pages of websites and guides to find all of the incredible things to do in a destination. This often has been bouncing from place to place as I try to cover as much ground as possible, taking up way more energy than just wandering with ease. This means while I may not have the energy to go for days on end, it means I’m seeing more of a destination and that’s awesome – but I need to plan some downtime after or I’ll fall flat on my face.
Schedule Time For Yourself
As someone who is constantly go-go-go, I never seem to take some downtime until it’s too late and completely necessary. In the last year or so, I’ve started actually scheduling a few hours and even days off into my calendar. If you struggle to make time for yourself like I do, I highly recommend doing this. Are you always going to stick to it? Of course not. Things come up and schedules get pushed but it will keep self-care at the top of your mind.
It’s the same while on the road. Take a few moments in the evening to do something for you! Catch your breath with a few minutes of meditation. Get take out or order room service and eat dinner in bed. If you don’t take the time to recharge, your exhaustion is going to compound and you won’t be able to enjoy your adventure as much as you’d like to!
Take Time to Appreciate the Little Things
As the years have passed, the days seem to get busier and busier. They’re jampacked whether I’m out adventuring or hanging out at home with friends and family. I used to breeze right on through a day, not taking any time to reflect as I was on a mission to see and do as much as I could. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s also something to be said about the little things in life. Enjoying a latte at a cafe as opposed to taking it to go while rushing to your next stop. Ditching your plans to hang out with new friends you’ve made while on the road. It’s those fleeting moments that I appreciate now more than ever, and they’re often my favourite memories from my days on the road.
Everything in Moderation… Even Moderation
Balance is important, but sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. There will be days when we need that comfort food or to splurge on something that makes us happy. We need to be responsible and make good choices but it’s okay to overindulge every once in a while. So yes, go and run 5km every day or train for that marathon. At the same time, go ahead and have that extra helping or treat yourself to a little getaway. Everything evens out in the long run as long as we try and keep a good mindset.
Travel Teaches You Tolerance
Venturing to different corners of the earth exposes you to different cultures and traditions. It gives you a greater understanding of the world which you then bring home. It teaches you to not judge a book by its cover, have an open mind and to look at something from different angles. First impressions are important, but it also shows you that things are not always what they seem. Travel taught me to take those first impressions with a grain of salt and look deeper before forming an opinion.
Age Is Arbitrary… To An Extent
I’ve gone from always being the youngest kid in my class to often being the oldest throughout university. Even now to this day, I have friends that are a few years younger than me and some that are 5, 10 even 15 years older than me now. As you get older, you realize that age really is arbitrary – as long as your interests align. I’ve learned so much from friends both younger and older than me. We all have our strengths and weaknesses! Age can make or break a travel partner or even a friendship if you don’t have similar outlooks on life. You don’t have to agree on everything, but you have to respect that you may want different things. As long as that’s understood, age really is just a number.
The ‘5 Year Rule’
There are always going to be times when we’re stressed, sad and upset about what life throws at us. It’s inevitable. What matters is how we approach it. Whenever I feel like this, I take a step back and go – 5 years in the future, am I going to care? This mindset has really helped me let go what really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. If you’re not going to worry about it 5 years down the line, then why let it bother you now?
Returning to a Destination is Just as Awesome As a New Place
It seems like more often than not, we’re itching to go somewhere new. A new city, a new country or even a new continent. While the curiosity and wonder that comes with a new destination is always incredible, returning to somewhere you been can offer that same sense of wonderment. It allows you to truly get to know a city or area and offers less stress as you’re already familiar with the destination. You might even make friends along the way which just adds a whole other layer. I’m forever thankful to the locals I’ve met that I’m lucky to now call my friends!
Travel for Travel’s Sake
The journey is just as important as the destination. Since becoming a blogger, I find that I’m often thinking of ideas for articles or social media posts. It’s as if I’m always analyzing my adventures rather than just enjoying them. Lately I’ve been trying to plan trips that allow me to just enjoy and then later on, if I feel so inclined, I can write. I focus on being in the moment and enjoying the adventure in the here and now without the pressure of documenting the trip.
Experiences Over Things
I was much more concerned about gadgets and gizmos, make-up and clothes when I was younger than I am now. Moving every 4-8 months for five years during university taught me that material items are not nearly as important nor permanent than experiences. While I still have more clothes and shoes than I really need, I’m more conscious about my choices. If I want something, I equate it to travel. Is spending $50 on this worth it? That’s half a night in a hotel. More often than not, I find myself leaving empty-handed where later that money goes towards an adventure that gives me much greater joy than that material item ever would.
Stop Waiting and Start Doing
Too many times I sat there, waiting for friends to commit to an adventure only to have them bail at the last minute. Don’t get me wrong, sh!t happens, but more often than not it’s because of life choices (or a lack thereof) that plans fall through. It’s not uncommon for me to hear how can you afford to travel so much? Or how do you find the time? It’s because I make travel a priority. More often than not, these friends have oodles of superficial things, go out to eat 5 times a week, hit the bars a lot, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I try to keep these to a minimum so I can travel more. It’s a matter of making sacrifices or making decisions based on what you want. From tricks to save money for travel to even this blog, combined they all allow me to explore as much as I can for as long as I can.
Travel Gives You Self Confidence
In my 20s I went on my very first solo adventure while visiting the east coast of Canada. It was one of those times where I made a tough call to say no to a toxic friendship and it opened so many doors for me. This trip was a pivotal point in my personal development and if I had to, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. It’s thanks to the confidence I gained during this journey that I’ve been able to be more comfortable with myself, go hiking alone, even travel in other countries where I don’t speak the language. If it wasn’t for me taking the chance on myself and going up Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, I don’t think I’d have the confidence to be who I am today.
Make Time For Family
Life can change in an instant. In my 20s I had to say goodbye to beloved family members and wrestle with a scare where I could have lost another. One of the downsides to travel is that you can’t always be there – and you never know what can happen while you’re gone. Coming home to the news of my grandmother passing and to my father having a heart attack are the two toughest moments of my 20s. You’re constantly beating yourself up for not being there when it all happened, but it just reinforces the fact that life is precious. You can’t control what will happen when you’re away, but you can control when you see your family when you’re home. Make that time. Do those family dinners and coffee dates. Take those road trips. Come home after an adventure and tell your family about everything you did. You’ll never regret the time you spend with them.
The World Will Always Leave You Speechless
No matter how many sunsets you see or waterfalls you chase, the world will always surprise you. Whether you’re across the globe in a new country or in your own backyard, travel truly makes you appreciate what’s around you. It teaches you to see the world through a deeper lens. It’s made me thankful not just for natural wonders both local and abroad, but thankful that I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to see them with my own eyes.
Be You – Everyone Else is Taken
Gone are the days where I tried to ‘fit in’. Everyone has their strengths, weaknesses, perks and quirks. What matters is learning to love you for who you are. Your true friends will love you for who you are, no matter what. Those that don’t? Well, it’s their loss. Whether they didn’t take the time to get to know you or your interests just don’t align, that’s okay. Life would be boring if we all liked the same things. No matter where this crazy journey called life takes you, just ensure you’re being true to yourself and everything else will fall into place.
Okay 30, Let’s Do This
While I don’t think I can get away with going to the bars with $2 shots where you don’t look up at the ceiling (my KW folks, you know where I’m talking about) and my hanger issues seem to get worse as I get older, I think I can live with that. I think the past decade can be summarized perfectly with this quote:
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai
Every adventure, every experience, every mishap has become a part of me. It’s taught me about myself and the world, showing me that while I’ve learned so much, I still have plenty more to find out. I know I can accomplish as much as I did in my 20s and I guarantee the adventures will be bigger and better than ever. Bring it on 30 – show me what you’ve got!