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A Twenty-Something Turns 30: Reflections on Travel

The following guest post is by Adam Costa.

Trekking hikingTen years ago–shortly after my 20th birthday–I began my first round-the-world adventure. Before the trip was over, I was deported from Vietnam, strip-searched in New Zealand, had tremendous fun in Amsterdam, and wandered in and out of London pubs.

At 30, I’m much calmer. Late-night parties and 18-bed hostel rooms don’t hold the same appeal. I tend to plan more, sleep comfortably, and pay attention to how much I drink (usually).

Things have changed. Travel has changed. Hell, I’ve changed. The term “digital nomad” didn’t exist ten years ago; now it’s a tidy little way to summarize my lifestyle.

I don’t know how this happened. But it did. Somewhere over this ten-year span, the world opened up in ways borders cannot segregate, or walls keep divided. It’s a historic time, but also an uncertain one.

Yet as a traveler/writer, I can’t deny one simple fact: anyone who loves to travel and write is living in the best possible time in history. Never before has travel been so accessible; never before have writers been in such demand.

Consider this: Ten years ago, there was no YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or StumbleUpon. Heck, Google was less than a year old at the time. And this sudden migration to the online world meant two things: location became irrelevant for many jobs, and the need for content exploded. Suddenly, anyone with a laptop (or mobile phone) could become a publisher.

By the end of 2009, there were over 126 million blogs. Admittedly, most weren’t worth the bandwidth, but many, many people discovered creating online real estate was both personally and financially rewarding.

And it’s not just blogs. E-commerce sites, eBooks, mobile apps, freelance gigs are just a few ways smart travelers fund their lifestyle.

At 20, none of this seemed possible. Back then, backpackers primarily saved up for trips, and/or worked odd jobs abroad (WWOOF anyone?). Nowadays, I hear a lot of terms like “social nomad,” “freelance ______,” and “Internet marketer.”

People gladly trade offices for remote locations, but did travel suffer as a result? Instead of spending each day abroad immersed in my surroundings, I spend a good (bad?) amount of time searching for Internet connections, building websites, and networking online.

Is that what travel should be? It depends. If your online presence enriches offline living, then yes. But if you’re dragging baggage (literally and figuratively) around the world, it’s time to close the laptop and hit the road for real.

Looking back these past ten years, I’ve had some amazing experiences. Wreck-diving, Himalayan trekking, Indian meditation courses, Vietnamese cooking classes, and more cultural faux-paus than I care to admit.

But there’s been a noticeable difference between travel in my early twenties and now. The strange thing is: I’m not sure if it’s me or the world that’s changing faster.

So, as this 20-something turns 30, I’m forever grateful for this decade’s advancements, as they’ve provided a seemingly impossible lifestyle. But with those advancements comes a challenge: travelers must remain travelers, and not just create a bigger cubicle for themselves.

Because travel is not about location, it’s about experience. Looking back, I spend more time replaying those experiences in my mind, savoring the flavors of yesteryear. And all the while, my backpack sits comfortably in a corner. Waiting.

About the Author: Adam Costa is a former travel agent turned travel writer. He is the author of Business In A Backpack, a book on how to travel the world while building a business. You can find him on Twitter at @MrAdamCosta.

A generation 'y'er from Ireland, living his dreams and convincing you to do the same. Traveling through more than 90 countries around the world and showing no signs of slowing down