World trip / sabbatical - what is the ideal age?

What is the best age, timeframe or different life section for extended travelling, for vanlife and overlanding? Or an Worldtrip? A gap year as a sabbatical?

What is the best age for starting an world trip or sabbatical in our life?

What is the ideal age for a world trip? This question has reached me from all age groups and even parents have asked me this regarding their children's travel plans. I think anything up to a year can be done without a major impact.

As with the cost of a trip around the world, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But there are some factors that you can consider.

In my eyes there are two ideal time windows for a longer world trip: Directly after the end of training / studies up to an age of 26 and then again as a pensioner. Long-term travel in between has its own opportunity costs that are not only monetary.

Not without reason most backpackers leave after their education high school graduation or completion of studies. Many still live at home or in a shared apartment/student apartment and it is easy to leave everything behind for some time.

What is the best age a gap year and for extended travelling, for vanlife and overlanding?
On a backpacker world trip you meet this age group therefore also most on, on tours, in the bus and in the cheaper hostels.

The self-drivers are usually a tad older, but this is due to the fact that the acquisition costs at the beginning of a quick start usually impossible and the nice time you need to optimize and expand the travel vehicle to their own needs.

But back to age. I have met and talked with travelers of all ages.

What is certain is that there are higher opportunity costs to travel extended at an age of 33 and older. On the one hand, you are already in full working life and generate a higher income. Money that you don't earn while traveling.

In addition to the money that is not earned, there are also the payments into the pension system that are not made. Also, it is an age when one usually advances one's career and seizes new opportunities. Family planning, marriage and children are another issue that those who leave later often put on the back burner.

In addition, as you get older, it becomes harder and harder to let go of what you have achieved. One usually has an apartment, furnishings, circle of friends and is much more deeply embedded in society.

The whole has not only monetary values but also immaterial values that are difficult to weigh. If we look at our life holistically, insert an average age of 80 - it would probably be most optimal to travel when it does not play a big role in terms of later retirement and career and family planning, if here 1-2 years no working life takes place.

Quite a few experienced travelers have put off the topic of "children" for so long that at some point it was simply out of the question - here, too, one should consciously face up to the topic and decide so that one does not regret this circumstance later. If you plan your childer at a older age, you probably dont can count for the same amount of help from your parents, because of their age, too a point for considering.

However, traveling itself usually looks different, whether you are 20 or 40. Most of the younger ones indulge in a hedonistic lifestyle while traveling, party and have a blast.

At a more mature age, many already pursue their hobbies on the side, place an even deeper value on culture, architecture and art on their travels, experience travel differently.

What is the ideal age for an sabbatical, for vanlife and overlanding? A gap year as a sabbatical?
This is simplified, in each age group there are more mature and immature or atypical behavior for the respective age. I do not want to value it either, would rather recommend to experience both.

It is certain that, for example, a backpacker world trip from 35 will be different. You won't be able to do much with the younger travelers in their 20s and the contact will be even more superficial and it will remain with a "what's your name, where are you from, where are you going" exchange, which is no longer really satisfying. I could often observe in the hostels that the older ones could not or did not want to integrate more deeply - and even in this sociable environment seemed a bit lonely.

Too more active sovial activities like climbing, zipliner, rafting, tubing, clubbing and beerpong may be not same satisfying at different ages.

There are also differences if you are traveling alone or as a couple.

As a younger traveler, however, it is usually easier and more straightforward to be integrated and invited by locals in the same age group. Meet in a bar/club or on the street, get into conversation, go out together, have dinner together, spend some social days.

With Couchsurfing you can also look for sociability as an older traveler, but often the hosts are also looking for sociability and are not too well embedded locally.

More mature solo travelers around the 50s seem to be a little harder to do, but as always, that's up to you. Who is open, friendly and open-minded and can approach others - it is always easier to get into contact with others.

For travelers who are traveling as a couple, the age again does not play a major role - you are anyway mainly focused on yourself, but thus also usually has no deeper interaction with the local population.

Once again, it is the money/income that is the deciding factor. Someone with reserves and a high income can easily shoulder the hidden costs of a world trip at a higher age, without having to "pay" for it in old age with a too small pension.

Now these are always generalizations. There are also families with children on a world trip, which are integrated much faster into the local community through the friendships of the children with peers. Couples getting involved locally, volunteering etc.


There is no such thing as an optimal age. And each personal development is much too individual to make a recommendation here. 

Some people take important career steps in their 20s, others only start after a sabbatical with renewed vigor in a different line of work. Whether with a tight budget at a young age, or financially secured a little older and more mature to travel - everything has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Money alone does not make happy, this should also be taken into account when looking at pension formation. Many older people report that they become more frugal and can no longer gain so much from traveling.

After browsing through many travel blogs and travel books and movies, it seems to me that it is not the age of the travelers that is important, but their personal motivation for traveling itself. 

Those with a thirst for adventure and discovery experience the journey and then look forward to being able to do professionally what the journey itself has enabled them to do. Those who want to escape the hamster wheel with their trip will usually discover on the way that long-distance travel is not a vacation - and may not be heading for the end of the trip without a care in the world.

It is also important to have a certain stress resistance, be it in dealing with authorities, noisy surroundings or the Indian continuous honking - which usually also speaks for an earlier departure.

The art of life is to find one's happiness and peace with the decisions made in life and the paths taken and rejected with them. 

There are countless travelers who have traveled in their younger years and have come to regret skipping more expensive activities during their trip because of budget constraints. Non-travelers who didn't take off because they couldn't get unstuck at an older age. Countless travelers who started in middle age and experienced loneliness during their travels. 

And very often you read "motorhome to give away due to circumstances" - when in old age the health or the comfort zone of the travel partner no longer allows a start.

With the self-drivers one can observe different preferred destinations with the advancing age. Africa tends to be tackled by younger people, on the Panamericana I met an above-average number of travelers over 60 who are fulfilling their lifelong dream. About the pensioner caravan on the Silk Road - I have also reported.

You are welcome to have a look at my list of travelers on the Trans-Africa via the West Coast to see the age of the protagonists - travelers over 60 years, for example, is rarely found. Whether now security concerns, stress level, climatic zones (heat), the local cultural offers or shaking slopes the older travelers keeps away I cannot say - but is certain - that in the increasing age obviously other routes become more attractive.

In any case, it is certain that at least the self-drivers usually in their early 20s have no reserves for such a trip, but for a world trip as a backpacker with a RTW ticket. 

We had very good discussions about at that topic: and at Hubb Forum and Hub again

This article is also available in German.

What is the best age in our lifetime for extended travelling, for vanlife and overlanding? A gap year as a sabbatical?

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  1. Linked back to 4x4community and Hubb Forum, where the discussion was very helpful


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