Your 20s is a period of self-exploration and self-discovery; a great era when you unveil things about yourself and grow into your own being. There is no better time to pack a bag, go out, and explore the vast world. Travel is the greatest teacher and the greatest gift you can give to yourself. It is the only thing you can buy that actually makes you richer. As you explore and work your way through the tumultuous years of your 20s, there is no better way to find yourself than to get lost in the story of an epic travel tale. Step away from your comfort zone and dive deep into the depths of your own soul. The best stories are found between the pages of a passport, and there is no better time in your life to pick up everything and go exploring while you have no roots tying you down. Here are 13 things that you should absolutely not miss out on while traveling in your 20s:
13 Meet New People
Be open to new experiences. Befriend your bunkmate in your hostel or speak to your neighbor on a walking tour. Talk to the cute guy at the cafe or joke with the pretty girl at the bar. Make connections across the whole globe. This network of friends will not only provide you with valuable information of the best places to visit next along your travels, but they will also provide numerous couches to crash on when you pass through their hometowns. Not to mention all the invaluable memories you will create as you wander through the world together. Don’t fear reaching out, because according to the NY Times, almost everyone reaches back. As you say "goodbye for now" or "until we meet again," you'll be surprised to find just how small the world actually is, and you really may meet up with these new found friends time and time again.
12 Befriend the Locals
No one will tell you how to get the best deals, where to find the most delicious food, or how to get to the most pristine, secluded beaches better than the locals. These people, obviously, know the place you're visiting better than anyone else. They're also typically more than happy to show off their home country to you so that you have the best experience ever. So, find someone that speaks your language, or even better, learn a bit of theirs, to get a real look at a country from a local's perspective. Surf, play backgammon, ride motorbikes, drink coffee, explore abandoned metros, go to dive bars, and see the whole town or city with them. You will not regret it. And, usually, if you buy them a drink, it'll be more than enough payment for all of their priceless help.
Want to give back as you wander? Volunteering abroad is fulfilling, meaningful, and inspiring. Nothing will teach you to appreciate what you have more than seeing how the less fortunate live. Teach English in Venezuela, work at a refugee camp in Europe, support an orphanage in South Africa, help establish a medical clinic in Cambodia, or rescue wildlife in Indonesia. There is no limit to the amount of volunteer work you can do across the globe. Helping those who are less fortunate, will not only put your own life into perspective, but also help you to grow as an individual. You will learn about politics, medicine, international affairs, public health, teaching, self-sufficiency, and most importantly, appreciation. And if that’s not enough, according to USA Today, volunteering abroad is a huge boost on your resume, as it proves to potential employers that you can think outside of the box, and responsively adapt even outside of your comfort zone.
10 Learn the Language
There is no better way to immerse yourself in a culture than to speak the native tongue. Learning a foreign language will not only help you on the road, but will be extremely beneficial when (or if) you return back home. Speaking a language opens the doors to so many new opportunities, whether it be getting the best directions, finding the most delicious restaurants, simply enjoying the pace of a culture, or landing your dream job. If you're not good with languages, at least learn a few key phrases like "hello" and "thank you" to help you get by and show your respect for being a visitor in their country. Learning a foreign language offers you a different way to view the world, and this will absolutely come in handy as you navigate through your 20s and expand your worldview.
9 Get a Job
Working abroad is not only the best way to fund your travels, but it's also a great way to completely immerse yourself in a culture and place all the way down to the "daily grind." Become one with the locals as you share the payroll and the burdens. There are so many advantages to this often-overlooked way of life that you wouldn’t even believe. Forbes Magazine states that working abroad cannot only create a great sense of adaptability and teach you to become bilingual, but it can also lead to faster career development and a strong international network within your career field. All of that, and the opportunity to see the world? There really is nothing to lose here - not even money!
8 Take the Long Road
It may take the longest, but going off the beaten track will be the cheapest and most adventurous way to travel the world. Switch buses 100 times, hop on the back of a motorbike, hitchhike in the bed of a truck, take the dubious 10¢ ferry, jump in a colectivo taxi, and ride the local tram or subway - take whichever method is the most scenic, adventurous, and takes the longest. When you're traveling, it's all about the journey, not the destination; so, take the long way around to see the countryside, explore the back roads of the city, cross the deepest water channels, and share your seat with a local who doesn't understand a word that you say, but talks to you anyway. Those adventures are always the most memorable and rewarding parts of your trip.
7 Soak in the Culture
Visit the opera in Italy, catch a play in London’s West End, see the Peking Opera in Beijing, or watch some kabuki theatre in Japan. Eat at a soda in Costa Rica, join in on a sacred aboriginal festival in Australia, visit famous museums in France, or hang out with hipsters in Germany. Go to underground music festivals in Bangkok, have a drink overlooking Dubai’s skyline, participate in a parade in Bali, or drink good coffee in Melbourne. Wherever you end up, find the best cultural experiences and learn and grow and grow. Seeing the world from an international perspective changes how you view everything, and learning different cultures is of vital importance to understanding the world and people surrounding you.
6 Check Out the Local Nightlife
Whether it's clubbing in Berlin for Halloween, or toasting champagne on Sydney Harbor for New Year's Eve, or partying on the beach in Thailand at the Full Moon Party, or simply having a summer’s night out in Beirut, wherever you are, there is always something going on at night. Check out the local underground newspapers and magazines, or search online to find the hottest spots for nightlife. Grab a group of friends or fly solo and rock out all night to good music and good vibes wherever you are. You may miss out on some sleep during your travels, but those are the nights you’ll remember. It will be well worth the bags under your eyes the next morning.
5 Take a Cooking Class
Of course, taste the local cuisines as you roam, and indulge in all the delicious offerings. But why not bring those back home with you? Take a cooking class to learn all the secrets of a perfect Indian curry or a succulent Polish pierogi. Practice frying chickpeas to make Israeli falafel or study the art of making Italian homemade pasta. Savor the recipes to your favorite Latin American platanos maduros or learn how to fry grasshoppers in Vietnam. Sample the food specialties of each country you visit and learn how to make them so that you can bring your favorites back home with you.
4 Pick Up a New Hobby
Whether it's surfing, fishing, salsa dancing, jungle trekking, mountain biking, rock climbing, scuba diving, beer brewing, or yoga, learning a new hobby while you travel will help you to find your identity. You'll also meet amazing, likeminded people along the way as you grow within that world. Lifehack.org states that hobbies are healthy habits that allow for creative outlets. As you grow and mature through the years of your 20s, you’ll find that you may need this stress-reliever more and more. So as you wander the globe, discover what sports, activities, and hobbies people do that appeal to you, and dive head first into them, absorbing them into your daily life and your identity.
3 Celebrate the Local Holidays
Release lanterns into the sky in Thailand for Loi Krathong Festival, or eat mooncakes in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year. Explore the millions of glowing lanterns in South Korea for the Buddha's Birthday, or march down Champs-Élysées for Bastille Day in Paris. Celebrate Día de los Muertos in Mexico, and observe Ramadan in Jordan. Odds are, wherever you go, whatever the time of year, something is happening! Grab a guidebook or google the dates and find out what is happening where you are. You wouldn't want to be the only one in town to miss the Diwali celebration in the streets!
2 Be Curious
Respectfully visit the local Holy house. Put on a headpiece and visit the Blue Mosque in Turkey, or cover your arms and legs and enter the beautiful Orthodox churches of Cyprus. Explore the synagogues of Jerusalem, pray in the ashrams of Nepal, and do not miss the magical Buddhist temples of Myanmar. Wherever you are, explore the local beliefs and religions. Understand the way others view the world. Understand the beliefs held in religions that aren’t yours. The more understanding you create, the more tolerance and respect you establish for both yourself and for others, and these are invaluable tools to navigate through your 20s and the rest of your life.
Turn off your wifi. Close Facebook. Disable Instagram. Take some time in your travels to unplug. Live in the moment without any filters or hashtags. Go out into the jungle and meditate with nature. Scuba dive and breathe deeply underwater. Allow yourself to disengage and disconnect to truly engage and connect internally. Take a mental photo instead of an actual one. And remember the moment instead of recording it. Watch the sunrise with #nofilter. Enjoy the sunset without a geotag. Look through your eyes, not your screen, and watch the magic that unfolds as you hop from country to country, city to city, place to place, and dinner table to dinner table. Meet friends, create family, and remember all the little moments. Forget the knickknacks of shot glasses and bracelets to bring back home. Instead, focus on these things that will actually last. These are the memories that will always make you grow nostalgic and make your heart beat a little faster and produce a little buzzing in your ear wondering when and where the next wanderlust adventure will begin. And just be careful, because once you've caught the travel bug, you will never be immune.