Backpacking for the over 30s

Why should the youngsters have all the fun?!
The hot sun beats down but you are shielded by a huge parasol. The smell of the local produce fills your nostrils, as you look around and take in the amazing sights of the exotic country you are in. You open your eyes and think it must be a dream, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a reality.

It is a common assumption that backpacking trips are for the young 20-something students or graduates. While this age range is in the majority when it comes to backpacking trips, there is no reason why the ‘young at heart’ amongst us can’t don the backpack and walking boots and explore the world.

Backpacking is often associated with young people, sleeping bags, dirty hostels and consuming lots of alcohol. In reality, any type of travelling is what you make it, and backpacking is just one way to visit a variety of places often on a tight budget, without having to take your entire wardrobe with you.

Teresa Large, 52, loves travelling but isn’t so keen on the idea of backpacking as such. “I wouldn’t do ‘backpacking’ – there wouldn’t be any room for my travel kettle which goes everywhere with me, I do like a cup of tea in the mornings and I wouldn’t go back packing as I do like en-suite. To be honest I have been like that all the time, not since I have gotten older! I like a decent bed and I am not so keen on sharing a dorm with others either. I did do camping with the girl guides, but that is as far as roughing it I have done. But that said if money was short then I would consider any option as travel is very good, it truly does broaden the mind and soul.”

Taking a career break or even a retirement trip can be just the boost needed to motivate yourself. It can be a perfect time to achieve some of those ‘life goals’ you have put on the back shelf for other things such as family commitments and jobs. If your children have left home and maybe even gone travelling themselves, why not be inspired and take the plunge? Make the most of an empty nest and see the places you’ve always dreamt of seeing for real rather than on a computer screen or television show.

TUI travel consultant, Kim George, describes some of the different ways of traveling for the over 30s: “Most popular is hiring a motorhome and driving the route 66, we’ve had lots of enquiries about this because of Billy Connelly’s programme on BBC. The national Parks routes are also popular. Older people are generally able to travel in style and actually stay in nicer hotels.”

One of the most common fears experienced by women leaving a job to travel abroad are associated with affording the trip. If you own your own home and have the option of putting it up for rent, why not do so. Not only will you be making the most of the empty space but you will also be funding your trip whilst away. Having that bit of extra money from working and saving up will be an added bonus as well, compared to the younger person travelling, and as a result you will have the possibility of staying in nicer hotels if you want to, rather than completely roughing it.
Paula Baker, 49, went travelling when in her early 20s and doesn’t feel the pull to go again: “I don’t think I would choose to go backpacking now because I don’t think I have as much energy as when I was younger! Personally I prefer a more relaxing sort of holiday! If I had never done any travelling I would consider pushing myself to do it with a likeminded person to spur me on!! … Oh to be 21 again.”

Often it feels like we can only envy the lifestyle of the young, but this is not necessarily the case. There is nothing stopping the more mature woman from backpacking, either solo or in a group. If you are a bit unsure about taking on the world on your own travelling with a companion is the best way to do it! It can also provide a great motivational push if needed towards the end of a busy trip! Hostels aren’t the scary, dodgy places they are sometimes referred to as, rather they can be great places to meet like-minded travellers and to make the most of the many tours and trips often on offer. By reading online reviews and customers’ ratings of hostels you can get a pretty good feel for the place before you’ve even left your living room.

Carole Ray, 45, is a well-travelled backpacker experienced in exploring the world on her own. She shares a few pros and cons of travelling alone as a 30 plus woman.

“Staying in dormitories in hostels is a great way to meet people – it’s also much cheaper. I think it’s particularly good for older travellers, who might already feel a bit isolated because of the age difference. It’s so easy to chat to people and chances are you’ll naturally be invited out to dinner, on day trips etc. Always trust your instincts! The beauty of being a bit older is you know yourself.

“You’re never alone for long (unless you want to be!) Travelling on your own is a brilliant way to meet people – you will talk to so many more people when you’re alone than if you’re travelling with a friend. And you have complete freedom to be alone should you want to be. It’s good to treat yourself occasionally, be it a room on your own or hiring a taxi to drive you somewhere instead of taking a train or bus. Especially if you’re on a tight budget, rat-infested rooms and cramped night buses can sap your energy – plus you will have a different kind of adventure.

“There will be times when you feel very conscious of your age and times when you don’t… If you are comfortable with yourself, others will be too… None of us should be defined by our age, our gender, our nationality – and travel is a fantastic way to break down all those barriers and stereotypes – people are people, plain and simple!”
She shares some of the highlights and lowlights of her trips: “It was hard having to explain over and over and over again that I’m unmarried and have no kids, in Morocco, but also pretty much everywhere! Sometimes I’ll actually wear a wedding ring and make up a husband just to make life easier for myself!

“A highlight was having the confidence and experience to be put in front of a class in Nepal and be their teacher for a month – with no help from the staff and no textbooks! I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t older, with 20 years of various kinds of work and experiences behind me. Also hanging out with lovely people in Nepal who were full of enthusiasm and energy, but not defining them, or myself, by age like you might at home and seeing them simply as people, despite the fact I could be their mum was great!”

As Carole has experienced, both travelling alone and travelling as a 30 plus woman can be immensely rewarding experience. While it’s not for everyone, if exploring and discovering new places, meeting new people and learning more about yourself and the world around you appeals to you then why not give it a try? is a great site for the over 30 year old looking for a fun filled trip, they advertise themselves as the ‘new name for gap years for grown ups’, and cover anything from volunteering to adventure travel, learning a skill to a conservation trip. There are so many types of trip that backpacking encompasses, that the possibilities really are endless!

Backpacking is what you make of it. You can stay in nice hotels or grubby hostels, eat out every night or cook you own food… but the bottom line is the same. Travel. Seeing the sights, natural wonders and man-made, is something some only dream of. If you have a list of things you want to see but have resigned yourself to the idea that you’ve missed your chance then create the opportunity. Take a month or two out of work, maybe take a career change, or save up and travel when you retire. If it’s something you want to do then no one else can make it happen for you. Seize the moment. Be inspired.


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