While we believe in seizing every opportunity to travel, we can also attest to the fact that some destinations are best suited for certain phases in our lives. You may not fully appreciate a tour of Europe’s greatest museums until full moon parties and pub crawls are out of your system. Likewise, your senior years may not the best time to trek up to Everest base camp.
We know how magical it feels to be in the right place at the right time in your life, so we’ve written up a list of the best destinations for each decade, starting with your teens.
Sure you’ve been on family vacations to Disneyland or Palm Springs, you need something different. A chance to explore without your parents taking cheesy photos or babysitting your younger sibling. An opportunity to gain a new perspective of the world.
At this stage of the game, where you go isn’t quite as important as the fact that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in an unknown place. Sign up to volunteer abroad with a trusted organization or travel with a sports team. Wherever you go, you will experience a new culture, meet welcoming locals, and make a positive impact. But watch out… you will probably catch the travel bug (sorry, not sorry!)
Rough it in hostels. Rent that scooter and risk road rash. Now is the time to #YOLO and embody all the catchphrases associated with living your best backpacker life. Make use of your summer holidays to head to South East Asia, South America, or Europe for a month or two.
For temples, street food, and island life, jet to Southeast Asia. Start in the Philippines, where you’ll find pristine beaches, crystalline waters, and old Spanish colonial towns — not to mention an abundance of welcoming English speakers to ease the transition.
For sandy beaches and lush nature, kickstart your journey in Machu Picchu, Peru. It offers an exotic feel alongside established tourist infrastructure. It is also a crossroads for many travellers, so you can get tips and inspiration from other seasoned nomads.
For culture, art, and history, embark on a Eurotrip. Start in Berlin, where history meets unparalleled hipness. Berlin offers some must-see attractions but finding its hidden hangouts, underground clubs, and local gems will set you on course for digging deeper at your next destinations, rather than scratching the surface with tourist traps.
In fact, if your student loans aren’t too outrageous, go to all of these places. Take that gap year, study abroad, or try the digital nomad thing. And while you’re at it, give solo travel a go — you won’t regret it!
Go on a journey of self-rediscovery in India. By your thirties, you’ll be experienced enough to handle the challenges of Indian travel and still young enough to rough it. India is an enormous country made up of diverse regions; as a result, it is a beautiful place that offers enough history, culture, cuisine, architecture, and nature to offer something new to the most seasoned backpackers. There’s something for everyone — whether the physical challenges of the Garhwal Himalayas, the spiritual stimulation of Varanasi, the cultural highlights of Rajasthan, or the psy-trance scene of Goa.
Plus, your thirties are an important period for dedicating time to yourself, focusing on personal growth, and re-aligning your priorities. If you’re prepared for a true challenge, sign yourself up for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation. (Pro tip: End your Indian adventures with a side-trip to the Maldives, where you can luxuriate, relax, and reflect on your experience.)
Explore the natural wonders around you. You’ve likely focused your travels abroad, so this is the perfect time to visit national parks and reserves that you haven’t got around to seeing. For North Americans, this includes Banff, Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Zion. For a wilder experience, consider Tombstone or Denali National Parks up north. If you can swing it, drag all your loved ones along with you and create lifelong memories.
Now is the time to visit the places you couldn’t before — and guess what else is stuck in their 50s?
Travel back to a ‘simpler’ time and unwind amidst vintage cars and candy hues. Let charming streets, flowing rum, live music, and salsa dancing spark something special. Just make sure you have some spotters in place if you try that Patrick Swayze lift… you know the move we mean.
Toto aside, reconnecting with nature on an African safari is a great way to celebrate six decades on the planet. Treat yourself by retreating into the wilderness for peace, tranquility, and rare natural wonders. We promise that no matter how many times you’ve seen Planet Earth, nothing compares to the real deal.
Cruises can take you to exotic locations while taking stress out of the equation. Enjoy onboard accommodation, dining, and entertainment. Take advantage of outdoor pools and spa treatment while staff members plan thrilling land excursions for you. Invite family or friends along, or connect with other travelers onboard. If hot weather isn’t your thing, cruise on up to Alaska in the summertime instead.
Once you’ve achieved 80, you’ve earned the right to do just about anything — and that includes being a tourist in your hometown.
It’s time to cross off the places you always meant to visit but never got around to. Find exciting attractions you forgot about or revisit special places from your childhood. Take the young ones in your family along and use the opportunity to pass on hobbies and memories. (Or, get the gang together for one last hoorah in Vegas. Your call!)
Got other ideas for where to spend each decade? Let us know in the comments below!