“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years.
It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible.
Be selfish with your time,
and all the aspects of you.
Tinker with shit,
travel, explore, love a lot,
love a little, and never touch the ground.”
In your twenties, you’re in this suspended world. You don’t feel like an adult, yet legally you are. You aren’t expected to settle down and start a family yet, the idea of a day-to-day/9-5 job generally doesn’t sound appealing. These are, in fact, the years you get to be selfish with. You have the opportunity to find yourself- cliché, I know, but it’s true. Take these years and make the most of them. I have compiled a list of experiences every twenty-something-year-old should have below!
Alright, alright. I know what you’re thinking: but Allie, London is a place, not an experience. Ha! No, London is very much a place filled with experiences that would take up this entire list of experiences, so I have grouped it into one category. Spend every evening grabbing a pint in a local (note: local) pub on your trip and you will experience some really interesting things; my favorite thing I’ve watched in a pub was a group of guys celebrating a Stag Night (Bachelor Party). They all burst in singing and dressed in Hawaiian themed clothing to order drinks before heading off to the next pub. Experience the holidays in London; the city becomes alive with glimmering Christmas lights, Christmas markets pop up with all the cider to keep you warm, the holiday sales! One of my favorite experiences was the New Years Eve Fireworks over the London Eye; Big Ben’s bongs sounded at midnight and the whole crowd sang Auld Lang Syne after the conclusion of the fireworks show… it’s probably one of my all time favorite travel experiences. And to conclude, make sure you head to the Shard and grab a glass of champagne and cheers to spectacular views.
Last summer, my two sisters, one of their friends, and I all piled into a car with a steering wheel on the right side of the car to roadtrip a country driving on the left side of the road in one week. We ticked off major cities like Dublin, Belfast, Cork, and Galway; we wished we had longer in some cities, we wished we spent less times in others; we were sleep deprived but excited; there were fights, but there was also a lot of laughter. Whether you take the roadtrip with your sisters, with friends, or by yourself, a roadtrip around this country is an absolute must in your twenties! Hit up the Guinness Brewery tour in Dublin, the Titanic Museum in Belfast, random ruins along the road, take a drive through Connemara National Park to see the sheep, kiss the Blarney Stone… there are so many things to do in this country.
My first ever trip abroad was to India in 2016 to join the International Volunteer Headquarters for their Slum Teaching program in Delhi. It was, perhaps, one of the most rewarding trips I have been on in the last three years, and I’d very much like to spend my time in another of their amazing programs; they have 40 destinations across Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, North America, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific and programs dedicated to teaching, animal care, women’s support, medical, renovation, refugee support, and so much more. My IVHQ hosts were positively amazing, and the Delhi program was amazing. I spent the first week touring Delhi with IVHQ staff and staying in a hostel-like homestay in Faridabad with some other awesome volunteers; the second half of my stay was still in Faridabad, in Bhatola Village, in another hostel-like homestay, and volunteering at Tender Heart NGO and School. The second homestay I was in was hosted by Renu, the founder and directer of Tender Heart, and it was an incredible opportunity.
Go to a Wine Tasting
I have been to five different wine tastings over the past three years and they have all been incredibly educational, both historically and in how to properly taste, sniff, and drink wine. Even if you’re not much of a wine drinker, I highly recommend taking a tour to explore the tastes around the world; a wine tasting through Tuscany while in Italy is an absolute must, the self-guided wine tasting at Les Caves du Louvre provides an exciting interactive wine tasting in France, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina provides a gorgeous setting for wine that didn’t seem to stop flowing… I have developed a bit of deeper interest in wines since attending each wine tasting, for the history stretches all the way back to 4000 BC in Sicily.
Travel Europe by Train
Train travel in Europe is romantic, inspiring, comfortable, essential, and insanely easy. Each trip to Europe and the UK, besides a roadtrip in Ireland, I have mostly done train travel, with the occasional bus to small towns here and there. It’s as simple as downloading checking Rome2Rio for the cheapest and best routes, as well as booking tickets through apps/websites like Omnio, Trainline (my favorite for UK Rail), RailEurope, Bahn (German Rail tickets), and ItaliaRail (Italian Rail tickets). There are many advantages to train travel, as well: you arrive into the center of town and avoid the long lines in the airports, no luggage fees/restrictions, you can bring alcohol on the train, you can take an overnight train to save on accommodation, and you get some gorgeous views! Stay tuned for a more detailed post about train travel!
As I stated at the start of this, I fully believe that a city can be an entire experience, and Paris is one of those places. Every 20-something-year-old absolutely must visit Paris at least once- but preferably more than once. Visit solo, visit with friends, visit with a lover; just because it is affectionately titled the City of Love, you absolutely do not have to visit with a lover. If you’re solo, fall in love with the city, the people, the wine, the history; if you’re with friends/family, let Paris teach you how to love and appreciate each other. Taste escargot, try the wine (please, god, try the wine!), embrace the culture, visit the Louvre and learn to appreciate art, wander the tiny streets and fall in love with Parisian architecture, taste the most amazing chocolat chaud at Angelina, see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night… There are so many experiences for you to have in Paris, and I encourage it fully!
Take a Solo Trip
This one, I cannot stress enough. At least once in your twenties, venture out in the world solo. You’ll learn things about yourself you wouldn’t learn at home, you’ll realize just how strong you are, you’ll find happiness in enjoying moments alone… I wrote a full post on Lessons I Learned Through Solo Travel. You’ll be nervous, frightened, you’ll even get lonely, but it’ll be so worth it in the end. I traveled through India, England, Scotland, and for a brief time in France solo, and I am so grateful for the people I met doing so, the pure joy I experienced doing so, and the fact it encouraged me to truly find and embrace who I am personally.
Eat Your Way Through Italy
Not to be that cliche traveler, but to be that cliche traveler, let us all pick up a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and flip to her pages about her journey through Italy. “I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.” “Finally, when I had fully absorbed the prettiness of my meal, I went and sat in a patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor and at every bite of it, with my fingers, while reading my daily newspaper article in Italian. Happiness inhabited my every molecule.” If Elizabeth Gilbert’s book taught me anything, it was to eat everything in sight in Italy and do not feel guilty about it nor think about the weight you could gain. I didn’t think about it, I enjoyed every bite, and “happiness inhabited my every molecule.”
I feel as if there is a constant debate: Scotland vs Ireland. If I’m being completely honest? I’d choose Scotland everyday. I spent nearly two weeks in Scotland, and I think I could spend an entire year there and never get bored. My first stop was Glasgow, where I walked the entire city for a day- I visited People’s Palace to see how Glaswegians lived, worked, and played, I explored the Glasgow Necropolis for stunning views and interesting grave-sights, I wandered the cobblestoned back streets hunting for Tchai-Ovna House of Tea. After Glasgow, it was up to Inverness, Dores, and Loch Ness- I took the train from Glasgow to Inverness to drop my bags at a cute hostel before boarding a bus to the tiny town of Dores on the shores of Loch Ness. I regret not spending more time in Inverness and not having enough time to delve further into the Scottish Highlands, but my next, and final, stop was Edinburgh. Edinburgh is steeped in history and filled with so many incredible things to do- walk the same halls Mar, Queen of Scots, did in Edinburgh Castle, hunt for Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh, spend time walking the Old Town, take a historic ghost tour… I fell in love with Edinburgh and didn’t want to leave!
Spend a Long Weekend Off the Grid
I desperately wanted a weekend away before heading into the busiest time of year at both jobs last year, and I wanted it to be a quiet weekend with beautiful scenery. I packed my bags, rented a car, and made the five hour drive to Asheville, North Carolina: a cozy hipster town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And it truly was off the grid. The Airbnb I rented had no WiFi, I turned off my phone’s data, and spent the next few days hiking in the mountains, wandering Biltmore Estate, tasting my fair share of southern food, and wandering through the cutest boutique shops. When I returned home, I was refreshed and ready to jump back into 60-70 hours work weeks and holiday celebrations!
Hike a Mountain with Your BFF
When I went to Asheville, I was determined to do some hiking, and Mount Mitchell seemed to be the spot… and I brought my roommate/best friend along for the ride. We spent half a day hiking up to the summit of Mount Mitchell, and it was probably the most proud we’ve been of ourselves fitness-wise. In your twenties, I highly recommend heading out to do some hiking with your friends: you spend quality time with nature, you have company during the long hike, and you’ll have inside jokes and memories to last a life time. Don’t forget to bring along some tunes- specifically Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye.
Have a Girl’s Weekend in Toronto
When it comes to a girl’s weekend, my first choice is always Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The city has so much to do with your girlfriends, on a budget, between quirky bars, its very own castle, one of the coolest concert venues (Budweiser Stage, I’m lookin’ at you), local shops, cool graffiti, amazing food, venturing out to the Scarborough Bluffs… it’s perhaps one of my favorite places to spend a long weekend with a couple of friends. To top it off, you can also snag some really cool AirBnbs to hang out with the girls with a bottle of wine and some board games. Treat yourselves to a fancy dinner at the 360 Restaurant at sunset, to rotate around with stunning views of the city at sunset, then the twinkling city lights after. Every twenty-something-year-old deserves a good, old fashioned girl’s weekend like this.
Catch a Music Festival
If you like live music, I highly recommend heading out to a music festival in your 20’s. In 2018, I attended Lollapalooza in Chicago, and it was probably one of the most amazing things I’ve done; I got to see so many artists that I love, I got caught in a mosh pit, I ate my weight in cheese fries, I’m pretty sure I did some heavy damage to my liver, I sweated glitter, and I covered my entire body with glitter. Music festivals are pretty much one of the few appropriate places for you to basically bathe yourself in glitter, dress in some crazy outfits, and try out some crazy hairdos. They’re fun and exciting, you’ll hardly sleep, and you’ll leave the weekend feeling completely blown away. I’m pretty sure it took an entire week to regain my hearing properly and to recover; it took about a month for me to stop from finding glitter in some seriously strange places; and the memories have yet to stop making me smile.
In 2016, I created a list of things I wanted to do before turning 21, and Skydiving was number one on my list. It was a very strange January, weather wise, and on the weekend before my 21st birthday, it was over 70 degrees Fahrenheit! As I hadn’t completed this extremely important task on my list, I booked a skydiving venture and drove 45 minutes with my friend-now-roommate to launch myself out of a very sketchy airplane. It was amazing. I have no words for how I felt sitting at the edge of the plane, knowing that in only 5 seconds, I’d be plummeting to the Earth. The moment my feet hit the ground, I had to contain my giddy laughter and nearly asked the man if we could go again!
Spend the Holidays in Europe
Nowhere does Christmas and New Years like London and the rest of Europe. Christmas Markets, Boxing Day Sales, Christmas lights, New Years Eve Fireworks, mulled wine… I love, love, love spending my holidays in Europe. It’s the definition of romantic: fairy lights lining the buildings in snow covered tiny towns. Spending the days walking around and catching great sales, then the evenings seeking out Christmas lights and Christmas Markets, and warming up with glühwein. If I could freeze time in a location, it would be at a Christmas Market in Europe. Every twenty-something-year-old should experience this magic.
Go International with Your Siblings
In 2018, my sisters and I embarked on a trip to Ireland, and it was very eye-opening, to say the least. We had arguments, we had bonding moments, and on our return to the States, I can honestly say it brought us a lot closer. We’ve always had family dinners and family vacations, but, as adults, the three of us had never properly traveled together. In your twenties, you’re starting to discover who you are as an individual, and that’s probably someone your family might not recognize fully. I believe that it is extremely important to take some time to spend with those family members to get to know each other as adults.
A Weekend Away with Your Mom/Dad
As I stated above, I find it extremely important to get to know your family members as an adult, as someone who is finding themselves. As well as taking a trip with my sisters, I treated my mom to a long weekend in New York City. I wanted her to know just how much I appreciated everything she’s done for me, but I also wanted to introduce her to the world of discovery traveling had introduced to me. She is not stranger to travel herself, but for us to travel together outside of family vacations from when I was younger… I found it very important. She got to see a side of me that’s passionate and excited, because she got to see me doing something I love. I am so grateful for this time we got to spend together, bonding over good food, good wine, and photography- one of her passions.
Winter in the Swiss Alps
I’m sure summer is absolutely stunning in the Alps, but my dream had always been to go skiing in the Swiss Alps; while I didn’t exactly ski, my friend and I made the journey from Zürich to Mount Titlis to experience the Swiss Alps. While on Titlis, we reunited with the childish side of ourselves that lingered, despite encroaching on the ripe old age of 23 and took to the kiddie area of sledding and ice skating. It was so much fun to be able to feel like a kid again when faced with this wild adult world of bills and responsibility, and I truly think going back to things like sledding, ice skating, and gorging on pizza truly helped us do that!
See a Wonder of the World
While technically the Taj Mahal is a New-7 Wonder of the World, I find it extremely important that you see at least one of these things in your 20s. They aren’t titled Wonders of the World simply because they’re beautiful, but they are masters of history and have amazing history behind them. Seeing the Taj Mahal was an incredible experience, and it truly made me appreciate everything fully. Hard work and dedication went into this gorgeous building, and I like to think seeing these things and learning just how much work went into them really encourages hard work in your day-to-day life.
Appreciate Your Hometown
And, lastly, let’s not forget to appreciate the town you grew up in while having these amazing experiences all over the world. Traveling to many different countries may make that hard to do, but this is the place that built you. Be a tourist in your own town every once in awhile and enjoy it from a fresh pair of eyes. But, do not forget to go back to places you frequented as a child to appreciate the memories you hold from there. You’re off to new and exciting things, but this is your origin place. Appreciate it.
Thank you for reading! What experiences would you recommend to people in their twenties? Do you agree with my twenty experiences? I’d love to hear your opinions, so pop a comment below!