Your twenties are one of the most inspired and formative decades of your entire life.
With that in mind, here are the types of trips to take in your twenties.
1. Pacific Crest Trail, Canada to Mexico
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a super long and amazingly beautiful trail that runs all the way from Canada to Mexico, through Washington, Oregon, and California. For context, it's the trail that Reese Witherspoon hiked in Wild, though true wilderness fanatics have been obsessed with this 2,650.1-mile route way before the film.
The PCT runs through 25 national forests and seven national parks. The cool part is that you can go at it as you please: Super hardcore hikers usually aim to do the whole trail, called "thru hiking," which takes about six to eight months, but you can totally do it for a week or two — or even just a day. More info on that here.
2. Patagonia, Chile and Argentina
Patagonia is a beautifully rugged section of the world, located at the tip of South America, in both Argentina and Chile. The main reason to go there is the outdoor wonder: It's got stunning natural beauty (see above!), with everything from rivers to deserts to glaciers to a portion of the Andes mountains. Not surprisingly, the hiking is INSANE.
A trip to Patagonia will undoubtedly leave you feeling like a tiny little dot in a great big giant world, as a large part of the land is truly vast and isolated. Prepare to have some very ~heady~ thoughts about your place in the universe when you go! More info here.
3. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is one of those places that's truly about both the journey and the destination. The destination is an ancient Incan village in Peru that dates back to the 15th century; historians believe that it was originally built as a huge estate for an Incan emperor. And the journey to get there is quite epic: Most people end up hiking the Inca Trail, a 26-mile path that ends at the famous ruins and typically takes around four or five days to complete. (There are also less popular trails, like the Lares Trail, if you want to try something different.)
More info here.
4. Andrew Molera State Park, Big Sur, California
Big Sur, a beautiful stretch of coastline in central California, is a popular destination for nature lovers all over. It's home to a ton of vast, nearly otherworldly rugged cliffs that will make you feel like you're on another planet.
And within this natural beauty lies Andrew Molera State Park, a lesser-known campsite that's basically on the beach. It has a path that leads you directly to the water, which is only accessible to people staying in the park (or people who have paid for a day pass). That means the beach is not as crowded as some of the other beaches in Big Sur, like Pfeiffer. More info here.
5. Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
The Canadian Rockies are known for their aquamarine waters and crystal-clear skies. When most people think of camping in them, they think of Banff National Park in Alberta — but Banff's neighbor to the north, Jasper, may be the better option. Not only is the drive from Banff to Jasper one of the most beautiful ones in the world, it's also harder to get to (and therefore less touristy), and is surrounded by more wilderness. All of this remoteness = a deeper, more soul-satisfying experience.
Jasper also has a nice mix of campsites and places to go backcountry camping, which requires a permit. More info on where and when to camp here. (Generally speaking, it's best to go between June and September.)
6. Zion National Park, Utah
When it comes to national parks, the U.S. is an embarrassment of riches. But Zion National Park in Utah is one of the best, likely because it literally feels like Mars. And who doesn't want to camp on Mars?
The park has three campgrounds total, and it's best to go from March through November. More info here.
7. Visit the home of your ancestors.
One of the best parts about America is that it's such a melting pot — meaning you probably have ancestors in pretty cool places all over the world. And there is no better time to get to know your roots than now.
Even if your ancestors are not there now, just stay in a hostel for a couple days so you can truly get a vibe of the people and the culture and the daily life. Simply being aware of your roots will make you feel more self-aware and connected to your family back at home.
8. Backpack through Europe (Western or Eastern) with a Eurail pass.
It's a classic for a reason. Europe has so many cultures and so much beauty, all jampacked into a tiny little space that's way smaller than the U.S. If you're trying to do it ~serious~ budget style, try spending more time in Eastern Europe than Western. It's much cheaper, and has just as much vibrancy.
More info on backpacking Europe here.
9. Take an African safari.
This one is a splurge, straight up. But if you're looking for that all-time, best, and most epic trip of all of your twenties — maybe even for your 25th or 30th birthday — consider a safari. You will learn so much about how animals behave in the wild, and also, you will SEE them. So many of them. So close to you. It will literally be ~wild.~
There are actually ways to do one on a budget, too. More info here.
10. Take the train or plane to spontaneously visit your college friend(s).
Because yes, they are animals. Admit it. And you know what animals love? Hanging in squads with their fellow animals. Make it happen...now's your moment!
11. Ring Road, Iceland
Iceland is one of the most crazy destinations in the world. Not only can you see the Northern Lights, you also see RIDICULOUS glaciers and fjords — and the people there actually believe in elves and trolls and other mythical creatures. But perhaps what's best about this place is that you can drive all the way around it on Route 1, also known as Iceland's Ring Road. It's 828 miles total, which typically takes about a week (you can take longer if you want). And you get to see and experience the beauty and character of Iceland along the way.
More info on the road trip here.
12. Route 1, California coast
The route runs along the coast of California, from San Diego to San Francisco (or from SF to SD, depending on which way you want to go), and typically takes about a week. On the way, you drive through Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, wine country, Santa Cruz, and more. In other words, you drive through some of the prettiest parts of America. Americana road trip playlists = essential.
More info here.
How can you not feel amazing in a country whose core DNA is infused with Bob Marley's classic song "Don't worry / about a thing / 'cause every little thing / is gonna be all right?" The country just ~oozes~ happiness and chillness, so there is really no way you will not return with a rejuvenated spirit and state of mind. Plus, there's lots of healthy food, as about 10% of the population is Rastafarian, which means they follow the Ital diet, a strictly vegetarian (and often vegan) way of life. And there are lots of lodges and farms, like Camp Cabarita Eco Lodge and Zimbali Retreats, that offer fresh, healthy nourishment for the body, soul, and mind.
Staying anywhere in Jamaica will be amazing, but if you want to avoid super resort-y towns like Montego Bay and Negril, head to Port Antonio on the opposite side of the island, or even stay in the Blue Mountains for the full natural experience.
14. Ojai, California
Stepping into Ojai is like stepping into America in the 1960s: The valley town, which is about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, is filled with old-school hippies who are firm believers in peace, love, and meditation. It's got lots of spiritual offerings, like chakra cleanses and detox body wraps, and the people there are folky AF. Historically speaking, it was a town for "seekers" of truth. (John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to be regulars.)
Although it's gotten much more popular in the past couple of years, Ojai is still one of the few towns in the U.S. that's maintained an authentically funky, boho vibe without seeming too trendy. You will leave feeling very zen, and (hopefully) at peace with yourself. More info on the Ojai vibe and what to do there here.
15. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is filled with yogis doing yogi things and surfers doing surfer things and juicers drinking juice-y things. That's because the country has two big climates — rainforest and beach — and both just exude wellness from all angles. The food is also super nutritious; it's possible to eat a diet solely of fresh fish on the beach, fresh fruit smoothies, and fresh coconut water straight out of the shell.
Head to southern Costa Rica, in towns like Uvita and Dominical, for the most authentic beach experience (northern tends to be a bit more touristy). Towns on the Caribbean side, like Manzanillo, are also less touristy and great for the body, soul, and mind. And if you want a rainforest vibe, head to Monteverde (the cloud forest), and Arenal, a big volcano that has healing mineral hot springs. More info here.
16. Finca San Juan de la Isla, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Nicaragua is like Costa Rica's less-touristy cousin. And within that not-so-touristy land lies Finca San Juan de la Isla, a hidden gem of a tropical fruit tree plantation and lodge on Ometepe, an island in Lake Nicaragua formed by two volcanos.
The staff there works so hard to not only make you feel at home on their farm, but also to give you a feel for the land and the people of Nicaragua. Stay there, and you'll gain a bigger appreciation for the people of the region, and what it means to deeply care about — and take pride in — what you love.
17. Try WWOOFING.
WWOOFing, which stands for World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms, is a network of nonprofit organizations all over the world that connects you with local organic and sustainable farms. The basic premise is that you go and volunteer on one of these farms — you can pretty much go for however long you want — and, in return for your work, the farmers put you up with room and board. They also take you on cool excursions during your stay.
Ultimately, WWOOFing is a great way to get in tune with the land and really get a feel for how much work goes into growing and preparing the food you eat. Plus, you'll meet other like-minded WWOOFers along the way.
18. The American South
You haven't lived until you have eaten a shrimp po' boy in the South. Or grits in the South. Or chicken and waffles in the South. OR EVERYTHING IN THE SOUTH. It is so good!!! New Orleans, Louisiana; Savannah, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee...these places all have delicious cuisine.
More info about exactly where to go here.
19. Southeast Asia
You also haven't lived until you've eaten pho in Vietnam. Or pad thai in Thailand. Or papaya salad in Laos. OR EVERYTHING IN SOUTHEAST ASIA EVER. Bonus: It's all incredibly cheap. And you'll undoubtedly meet other awesome adventurers along the way.
More info here.
20. Jazz Fest or Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Aside from having amazing food, New Orleans also has amazing ragers. There's Jazz Fest, which is a fun and funky music and culture festival in springtime where the greatest jazz musicians come out to play. And then there's Mardi Gras, also known as "Fat Tuesday," which is a Christian holiday where you basically eat rich, fattening foods the night before the start of Lent, the fasting season. Though the holiday is celebrated around the world, it is often associated with New Orleans because the party there is legitimately epic. Think BEADS.
The prices for hotels go up immensely during these two holidays, so it's probably best to get an Airbnb or a HomeAway. Fortunately, New Orleans is a cute French town, and has some of the most well-decorated rental spots in America.
21. Full Moon Party, Thailand
Far far away, in a land known as Thailand, there exists the most magical and epic of parties. A party so great, it's worth traveling halfway around the world to get there. Called the Full Moon Party, this celebration was started by a group of travelers in Koh Phangan who realized that the full moon looked particularly amazing in that area. They started inviting people to come see for themselves, and now, there are about 10,000 to 30,000 at EACH one, EACH month.
Right at dusk, people on the beach light thousands of lamps, and then, when true night falls, the DJs come out, and the whole night turns into a trance-y, dance-y party, filled with multiple DJs and drinking and drugs. Think of it like an outdoor rave for the beachy crowd, with late-night munchies Southeast Asian style.
22. Queenstown, New Zealand
There is nothing like seeing your life flash before your eyes to make you feel like you're truly living. And Queenstown is the place to do it — the city has so many places where you can jump out of things. You can go skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping (which actually originated in New Zealand), bridge jumping, canyon swinging, and more — you name it, it's there.
More info on all the ways to jump out of things here.
23. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Like Queenstown, Jackson Hole is one of those rugged, outdoorsy cities that literally has nearly every adrenaline-inducing activity imaginable — except it's actually in the U.S. In JH, you can go river rafting and tubing, biking, skiing, paragliding, bungee jumping, skydiving, horseback riding, and more.
Read all about the adrenalin-inducing activities here.
24. Mendoza, Argentina
Since you are in your twenties, you presumably like Malbec. Because everyone in their twenties likes Malbec. Well, guess what: Mendoza, Argentina is FILLED WITH MALBEC. Seriously, a lot of the Malbec you probably drink is made in Mendoza. Bonus: It is also an insanely beautiful region of the world, where the good vibes flow like, well, red wine. And they have fun outdoor activities like hiking and biking, which are even more fun when you are ~wine drunk.~
More info on exactly what to eat, drink, and do in Mendoza when you're on a budget here.
25. Sonoma, California
If you are a wine lover who lives in America (VERY LIKELY), then it's basically your civic duty to hit up wine country in California. This is where the domestic wine magic happens, and it is also where you can learn to truly know your stuff when it comes to wine, so you can impress people at dinner parties by swirling your wine around and acting legit.
BUT! While most people think of Napa when they think of California wine culture, Sonoma is better for your budget — and it's also a bit more chill. And the wine is just as good. More info on what to do in Sonoma — and how to save money while you're doing it — here.
26. The Cenotes, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
In Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula — Tulum, Cancún, and Playa Del Carmen — there are these beautiful natural wonders called cenotes, which are underwater sinkholes that formed when limestone bedrock in the area collapsed. And the thing about these cenotes is that they are GORGEOUS to snorkel and scuba dive through. After all, you are swimming through underwater caves, with dappled light and rays of sunshine beaming through the aquamarine waters along the way.
More info on the best cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula here.
27. The Hawaiian Islands
Hawaii has eight islands total, but four main ones — the big island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. All of them are very different, so it's important that you choose the right one for you (or you could island hop and go to all of them if you have the dough).
Fortunately, there is amazing snorkeling and diving in all of them, so you really don't have to worry. But generally speaking, Maui is the most popular island for snorkeling. Many people claim that Maui has some of the best beaches not just in Hawaii but the world, and also has the most biodiversity to see while you're underwater. There are sooooo many different kinds of fish, and also gigantic sea turtles! Yes, turtles.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your 2016 trips now!
The world is waiting for you ...