OK, where are you? Yeah, you. The traveller in your 30s. Where are you? What are you doing? Where are you hanging out? What are you visiting? Where do you eat? Where do you drink?
I’ve been noticing recently that the world might be full of travellers, but you don’t seem to run into many who are in their 30s. Plenty in their late teens and 20s, sure. And in middle or advancing age. But where are the 30- to 40-year-olds? It’s a funny age, I guess.
You’ve probably outgrown youth hostels by now, and you can certainly afford to stay somewhere nicer. You still like to have a drink, but you're not popping pills in Ibiza or dancing on tables in Mykonos - you're sipping wine with dinner or sampling cocktails in a bar.
You’ve got plenty of travel experience under your belt, so there’s probably no need to do a tour. And even if you did, it wouldn’t be one of the backpacker jobs – but then, it wouldn’t be one of the luxury river cruises either. It’d be something in the middle. Whatever that is.
You’re probably married by now. Maybe you’ve got a mortgage and you’re getting serious about your career, which doesn’t leave much room for long jaunts overseas.
You might have kids, too, which is why you’re not really on the road anyway. Or if you are, you’re looking at child-friendly destinations with babysitters and care centres inside the resort. You’re probably not heading off to do an overlander in Africa, or a backpacking trip through Central America.
If you’re free of offspring you’ll still be travelling, but with that huge chunk of disposable income you’re probably staying in cool little boutique hotels and eating at fancy restaurants. You’re not dossing in dorm rooms and cooking pasta in communal kitchens.
All of which means that you’re not meeting many people, but rather doing your own thing and minding your own business.
At least, that’s my theory. Because I travel a lot, and I meet a huge amount of people, but it’s rare that those people will be in their 30s.
I was having a chat the other day to a friend who was about to head overseas and was thinking about doing a tour, but didn’t want to wind up with a whole bunch of 19-year-olds, and at the same time didn’t want something that appealed solely to the grey nomad groups either.
“What’s the middle ground?” she asked. “How do you end up with people our age?”
That’s a tough question, and it’s probably one plenty of travellers in their 30s have had to ask. You’re a little old to be a dirty backpacker, but a little too young to be staying strictly in hotels. So what do you do?
Tour operators like Intrepid and Peregrine, with their mid-priced offerings and adventurous itineraries, tend to attract travellers in their 30s who are looking to get off the beaten track (as well as plenty who aren’t in their 30s). So that’s a good place to start.
Even the higher-end offerings from companies like Contiki and Busabout appeal more to an older crowd than the much cheaper camping or “hard top” tours.
Another option, particularly if you’re heading to Europe and going solo, is to book accommodation in the rising breed of flashpacker hostels, the slightly more expensive but still socially-oriented establishments that offer middle ground for travellers who don’t want to be the creepy old guy at every hostel. Instead, you’re one of lots of creepy old guys and girls.
I’ve also found that the further off the beaten track you go around the world, the more likely you are to meet older travellers. While it’s natural for first-timers to stick to safer destinations like the UK and Western Europe, or the US, or even the backpacker-friendly parts of Thailand and Indonesia, once you start heading to South or Central America, or East Africa, or the Asian sub-continent, you find that the people populating the hostels are of a later vintage.
That’s where your middle ground is.
And it’s also worth bearing this in mind: while you might have trouble meeting a lot of travellers in their 30s, there will always be plenty of locals around that fit the demographic.
Are you a traveller in your 30s? How do you meet people your own age? Where are the hotspots for 30-somethings?