Travelling the world certainly doesn’t come with an age limit, however your 20s really are the perfect time to get out there – it’s the decade where you have the least amount of responsibility and most amount of freedom. Plus they’re the years where you’re willing to sacrifice comfort for the challenges and adventures that come with budget travelling and backpacking! Personally I can’t imagine myself wanting to share a $5 a night dorm with 10 20-somethings when I’m 50 years old- but that’s just me.
Deciding to travel around the world in my 20s was the best decision I could have made, it opened my heart and broadened my mind in more ways than I could ever have hoped – and the adventures that came with it were unparalleled. After the chaos of COVID-19 subsides and the international borders open, here are just a few of the amazing affordable trips I recommend you taking. The world is still out there waiting for you – so get dreaming, start planning and begin saving!
In no particular order:
Follow the gringo trail through Latin America
This is a big one and maybe a trip worth saving for when you have the time – as you need at LEAST 6 months if you want to visit most countries. Follow the trail from Mexico through Central America before moving onto South America. Whether you start in Brazil or Guatemala, it really is one of the most exciting, challenging and culturally rich trips in the world and a must-do for any traveler seeking real adventure.
Explore Europe by train
This is a more attractive option if you’re not quite ready for a Latin American adventure. Interrailing around Europe is seen as a right passage for people in their late teens and early twenties and with good reason. Get on a train with your pass and you can go almost anywhere in Europe; visit the canals of Amsterdam, the remnants of the Berlin Wall or visit the beautiful buildings of Prague within a matter of days! If you don’t fancy the train life, hire a car or overland it with buses and you will have just as good as an experience. Every country has something unique to offer and it certainly isn’t just about drinking your way around Europe…although the beer halls of Munich are 100% worth a visit!
Voyage across the spectacular vistas of Iceland
This may be less budget-friendly but certainly a trip worth doing if you only have a couple of weeks to spare and depending on what time of the year you plan to visit you’ll be able to find great deals on flights and accommodation.
Iceland is a place of mystery, with earthy landscapes of distinct beauty and endless vistas of green mountains, volcanic sand and cascades of water. With reliable infrastructure and accessibility, Iceland is the perfect destination for a road trip adventure. You may even catch a glimpse of the northern lights if you’re there during the winter months!
Discover the endless wonder of South-East Asia
There is no better time to see South-East Asia than in your twenties; it is by far one of the easiest and most welcoming areas of the world to travel around and if you’re new to the backpacker life and feeling a little nervous – you’ll never be far from a familiar voice because this is a very popular circuit for British, European and Australian backpackers. Whether you’re here for three weeks or three months, there is much to see and enjoy; from exploring the lush green territories of Vietnam to lazing on Thailand’s island beaches and maybe even hiking active volcanoes in Indonesia – there is something for every kind of traveller and with everything being considerably cheaper than at home (food, alcohol, transport etc) you’ll find that your experiences and money will go much further than you expected.
Trek to Everest Base Camp
Everyone should complete one amazing trek in their life and Everest Base Camp should be at the top of any hikers list. The trek is more affordable than you may imagine (£1,500 with a little more for flights) and whilst it requires a decent level of fitness – you don’t need to be a world class athlete to complete it. You will finish the trek with memories and friendships to last a lifetime and a real sense of achievement having walked amongst the giants of the Himalaya and having witnessed the highest point of this earth with your own eyes. A must-do for any person looking for a soul-searching adventure, not just a bucket list check.
Find your way to the famous Citadel Machu Picchu
Whilst we’re on the subject of great walks, this list wouldn’t be complete without a journey to the famous Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu. Whether you decide to do the historic Inca Trail or the physically demanding and equally visually stunning Salkantay Trek, these epic multi-day treks to Machu Picchu will leave you with an appreciation and respect for the cultural heritage of Peru and its beautiful mountain regions. The Salkantay route is perfect for travelers on a budget or who have arrived in Peru without a plan ( you can book the Salkantay trek a few days in advance whilst the Inca trail requires bookings almost a year in advance). No matter the trek you decide to take, your efforts will be rewarded with a trip back in time to see how the Inca people lived and thrived during the 15th Century. And if you get there for sunrise, prepare yourself for a magical experience like no other!
Drive the East Coast of Australia
From Melbourne all the way up to Cairns – this significantly famous route is popular with backpackers and young travelers all over the world and you can see why. Explore the wonder of Australia’s east coast and enjoy a mix of buzzing modern cities, adrenaline activities, chilled beach towns, sandy havens and some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. Though this isn’t the most budget-friendly of the trips on this list, if you’re wise with your money you can make it go far. Australia isn’t cheap but the memories you make will be priceless!
Head to Middle Earth for the adventure of a lifetime
If rocky mountain vistas are more your cup of tea, head to New Zealand! Consider a working holiday visa to help support yourself whilst in the land of the long white cloud because similarly to Australia, NZ isn’t cheap. Having said that, it’s worth every penny saved – take your time exploring this incredible country and soak up its natural wonders, pacific coastline beaches, endless mountain ranges and lush greenery. I’d recommend renting or buying your own cheap car to get around and really explore the two islands at your own pace – especially if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan. No trip to New Zealand would be complete without ticking off all of those stunning film locations! Remember to pack for every season and stock up on that factor 50 as the sun in this part of the world takes no prisoners…
For the bold and daring…a motorbike loop through Northern Vietnam
This is really one for those daring travelers looking for an adrenaline adventure like no other and there is no better way to feel the winds of freedom than on a 4 day motorbike loop through the wild mountain passes of north Vietnam. The Ha Giang Loop is cheap and very popular with young travelers – even if you feel too nervous (or too sane) to do it on your own, you can just hop on the back of an “easy rider” who is sort of like an experienced motorbike tour guide and they will safely get you around the 4 day loop. As these excursions are arranged through the same company, you’ll be among other travelers and staying in the same huts along the way and therefore a unique opportunity to make new friends, share food and drink and make memories that will last long after you’ve returned home.
For a cultural awakening like no other – head to Japan
Spend three weeks enjoying the rollercoaster that is Japan; get lost in the electric mayhem of Tokyo, hop on the Shinkansen and feel the weightlessness of riding the world’s fastest and most efficient trains. Explore the streets of Ancient Kyoto and perhaps catch a glimpse of a real Geisha, witness Mt Fuji with your own eyes, eat your weight in Gyoza and Ramen, visit the historical sites of Hiroshima and find your Zen in the green highlands of Nikko. Japan is a land of both immense history and futuristic bliss, the contrast alone is enough to make you fall in love with it. If you’re looking for the ultimate cultural awakening, this is the place to come to.
The world is still out there waiting to be explored and whilst the future may seem uncertain and foggy as COVID remains prevalent, the borders will ultimately open again and countries will need conscientious travelers to help lift up their economies. Keep dreaming of those distant lands and start planning your own post-COVID adventure, it is never too early or too late to go!
I have been travelling the world solo since March 2019. I’m currently “stuck” in New Zealand because of COVID. Follow me on Instagram for all of my updates – I’m always happy to make new connections!