Photo: Steven Guzzardi
LAST JULY, I TURNED 30. I wasn’t bummed to be getting older. My twenties were fun chaos, and turning 30 meant a bit more stability and a bit less instant ramen. The one thing that my twenties did offer, though, was an insane amount of travel. In the third full decade of my life, I visited 25 countries. I lived on three different continents. I tried new foods, learned new languages, met new people, and got food poisoning more than once.
My twenties ended, more or less, when I got married. I’d met my wife in London, and we travel, but we both have careers we want to pursue, and neither of those careers pay a ton early on, and I’ve tired of staying in hostel dorms. So the rapidfire, quit-your-job budget travel of my early twenties is no longer in the cards. I won’t make it to another 25 countries this decade. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have plans. Here are my thirties travel goals.
1. Death to bucket lists.
Nothing ruined a trip more in my twenties than trying to cram too much in. 5 days in Japan? I tried to hit 6 cities. 1 day in Paris? No problem — let’s hit the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Shakespeare and Co., and about 3 dozen public restrooms to deal with that food poisoning.
The bucket listification of travel planning isn’t a totally bad thing — it helps you research places you want to go, and it helps you prioritize. But it also adds “DO THIS BEFORE YOU DIE” to every single thing you want to do. This forces me to rush: there’s a ton of the world I want to see, and I have to see it before I do something stupid and get myself killed. Maybe others fear death less than me. Or maybe they do fewer stupid things. Either way, no more bucket list travel.
Travel is to be done slowly and deliberately in my thirties. I will enjoy the places I go. I will sit at bars and cafes and read and people watch. I will have leisurely, sunny strolls along plazas with my wife, chatting about the deep and mundane as if we were characters in a Linklater movie.
2. I will chill the eff out about traveling kids.
We plan on having kids in the next decade. Most of my friends seem to think that kids and travel are incompatible, but I was raised by a travel agent, and I work with people like Cathy Brown, who has elevated traveling with kids to an art. I’m not worried about little tykes cramping my style. I will undoubtedly be a much bigger cramp to theirs.
But I haven’t always been patient with kids on planes. I will admit to be annoyed when a parent gets on the plane.
And this isn’t really fair. Parents and kids have just as much of a right to travel as I do. So: in my thirties, if a kid is acting up on an airplane, I am going to assume that the parent is having a worse time than I am, I am going to give them a supportive smile, and then when the kid goes to sleep, I am going to buy them (the parent, not the kid) a well-deserved drink.
3. I will travel with more regard for the environment.
There’s a scene in the show How I Met Your Mother where the character played by Jason Segel gets kicked off his flight, and his horrified when he realizes that he’s going to have to drive a Hummer-size SUV from Minnesota back to New York. The character is an environmental lawyer, and doesn’t want to spend time in a gas guzzler.
When I first saw the show, this made sense to me. So I made it to 27 without realizing that airplanes, depending on how far you travel and how many people you travel with, are actually worse carbon emitters than most cars, and that it would’ve been silly for an environmentalist to throw a fit over driving an SUV and not over flying in a plane.
With the new administration coming in, it’s doubly important that I don’t let my personal desire to see the world be complicit in destroying it.
4. I will behave like a guest, not like a customer.
My twenties were marked by a pretty arrogant attitude towards travel: I was paying to be there, I was giving money to the local economy, so I was a customer and they were a seller. And the customer is always right. Cue a lot of heavy drinking and loud partying.
Except this is a super messed up way to look at travel — not everyone I come into contact with is getting money from me, and people should be treated like people regardless of what you’re purchasing off of them. In my thirties, the mantra will be “I’m a guest.” I will be polite, I will not leave a mess behind, and I will not overstay my welcome.