With just a few short weeks before I turn 25, I have a confession to make to you all: I am a complete failure.
I haven’t yet been to the Giza Pyramids, climbed up Machu Picchu or swam along the Great Barrier Reef. I bypassed San Diego on my California trip due to time constraints, and I haven’t even gone to the Bolivian Salt Flats!
See? I am a 100% failure.
For, according to numerous ‘Things You Absolutely HAVE To Do Before You’re 25’ lists I keep seeing popping up on my Facebook feed, these are all things I should have done by now.
Never mind that I’ve been to some pretty kick-ass places over the last quarter-century, like bathing in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, taking a tour out to Nevada’s Valley of Fire, and visiting one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilisation.
I will admit that, having seen so many articles like this over the last few weeks, I’ve felt the odd pang of guilt. Am I letting myself down by not having visited these places before I turn that elusive 25? Should I just quit my job and tick off all these sights that people say I should prioritise?
While I’m all up for a motivational article and punchy headline, these articles have started to grate on me. After all, it further perpetuates the myth that travel is only for the young. I mean, what is really going to happen to me if I visit one of these places when I’m 26? Will I suddenly be arrested by the age police? Will my Anticipation Gland shrivel up and die? Will I find myself drinking a gin and tonic in a bar thinking, “If only I had done this 3 months ago, I would have enjoyed it so much more”?
And then again, what makes me so well-equipped to climb to Machu Picchu at the age of 24 than at 26? Maybe I’ve spent those few years in between getting fit and ready to take on the climb of my life? (Stranger things have happened, I guess.) But why place such an arbitrary age on experiencing a place?
There are so many bloggers out there busting this myth that’s so prevalent in society today. You’ve got couples who travel with their young kids, career women balancing a 9-5 with the urge to see the world, and then you’ve got people over the ghastly age of 30 who dare to travel wherever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want. You only have to look at Facebook groups like Girls LOVE Travel to be inspired by people from all walks of life.
Heck, even my nan, who’s 83 years old and riddled with various health ailments, has been on a Northern Lights cruise, a two-week tour of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and flown out to Spain to catch up with family and friends – all within the last few years! And this is exactly what I’m intending to do when I’m in my 9th decade.
Even once you’re well over the age of 25, you’re still subjected to lists. Lists everywhere. ‘Things You HAVE to See Before You’re 30.’ ‘Things You MUST SEE Before You Have Kids.’ ‘Things That You’ll 100% Miss Out On If You’re Rude Enough Not To Travel Before You Die.’
It’s just relentless.
I get that these articles are a great source of incentive for many (myself included on occasion), but why should we subscribe to the notion of thinking that they continue to immortalise: that travel is for the young, and everyone should travel in exactly the same way.
Life is filled with so much disappointment at every corner, that we really don’t need more thrust in our face. More than anything, we should be celebrating our achievements and all our success, rather than acknowledging our ‘failures’. So what if we haven’t done something a 20-year-old backpacker has done? Everybody has different lifestyles, different preferences, different ambitions. These ‘blanket’ lists should be taken as inspiration rather than a requirement.
By all means, let’s all make our own plans of things we hope to achieve in the next 12 months, decade or 50 years. But let’s tailor it to our own needs, wants and desires, rather than be swayed by others we don’t know that we should be experiencing something else.
Take my very own #25before25 list of things to accomplish before I turn this ‘magical’ age. Among the things I’ve written include “make a blanket fort” and “learn to knit”. (Which pretty much already proves my point that you shouldn’t let your age dictate what you are and aren’t allowed to do. If you want to act like a child or an OAP in your 20s, then go ahead and do it, I say!)
But when I write about how I got on with my list in a few weeks time, I’m not going to be berating myself for only having visited 3 new countries instead of 5. I’m going to be patting myself on the back like, “Hell yeah, you managed to single-handedly organise a two-week trip of America to some kick-ass places you never thought you’d ever see.”
Now, who’s with me?