Time to get moving on that bucket list. (Photo: Corbis Images)
If you think you have all the time in the world to whittle away at your bucket list, think again.
You can take your time with certain life goals on the agenda — like No. 32: Achieve goal weight, or No. 48: Go streaking — but there’s one category that begs your immediate attention: travel.
It’s common for people to associate traveling with being
older/ wiser, having a sizable savings account, lots of vacation days, and a perfect partner by your side. But traveling isn’t just a luxury — it’s also a rite of passage.
If you turned 30 before falling in love, getting your heart broken, or having a one-night stand, would you feel ready to grow up? Probably not. So why, 20-somethings, should you reach that same milestone before bungee jumping off a bridge in New Zealand, dancing with locals at Rio’s annual Carnival, or watching the sun rise with people you love in Barcelona?
The following 14 travel spots are mandatory recommendations for your 20s — because slumming it, being a daredevil, and having a night you’ll never forget are just some items on this decade’s docket for living life to the fullest in the long run.
Hike Machu Picchu in Peru
You’ll need youthful strength and agility on your side to conquer this notoriously challenging Inca Trail trek. Deemed one of the most difficult hikes in the world, your best preparation is being in tiptop shape. Not only does the hike last multiple days (you can chose two, four, or seven), but you’ll need to acclimate yourself to the high altitudes you’ll encounter by prepping with two days in Cuzco first.
You will be the envy of all of your friends. (Photo: Malingering/Flickr)
Once it’s go time, all luxuries are left behind. You’ll sleep in tents, pee in the woods, and relish in the 4 a.m. wake-up call signaling the start of your day with like-minded strangers. Why? Because the temples, fields, terraces, and baths from another time that dot the hillsides are just precursors to the main event: the ancient city and mysterious ruins that lie 7,000 feet high into the mountains of Peru. Book a ticket and your sanctioned, tour-guided trip well in advance to experience something only a sliver of the world has done.
Sail with the Yacht Week in Croatia
Yachting sounds expensive, but the Yacht Week is an epic and affordable way to live like the rich for seven unforgettable days. Gather friends and charter your own yacht, or join strangers from all over the world on this spring break armada of up to 50 boats that tours select seaside spots. You don’t need sailing expertise; you need only to be 20 years old. And you can do it all for under $1,000.
It doesn’t get much better than this. (Photo: Corbis Images)
During summer, voyage the original sailing route, the South Route, which takes you to three marinas and four islands in Croatia for a nonstop agenda. Party in Hvar during a day-to-night rager, come face-to-face with paradise at the great bay of Vis, hop in a water taxi to the open-air party in Komiza, and close out the week with a regatta and regatta party.
Boat parties are the best during yacht week (Photo: Corbis Images)
Stay up all night in Barcelona, Spain
First, master the native Catalan dialect and practice saying “Barthelona.” Next, head to the city that truly never sleeps — it siestas. The residents of this Gaudi-decorated nightlife mecca nap in the afternoon so they can enjoy 11 p.m. dinners and evenings that end only when the sun comes up. During siesta hours, the city actually shuts down — you won’t even be able to get grub from the local market.
Go ahead, eat at midnight. (Photo: Corbis Images)
If Barcelona’s dedication to resting up for the night ahead is any indication, you should know what kind of nightlife to expect. Head to the clubs that line Port Olimpic and dance all night, and then stop by Hotel Arts Barcelona for breakfast after watching the sunrise.
Watch the sunrise at the Hotel Arts Barcelona. (Photo: Carlos Lorenzo/Flickr)
Snowbomb in Mayrhofen, Austria
Snowbombing is an alpine festival that will run April 6-11, 2015, featuring black ski runs and white-hot parties. You can view the snow-covered plateaus at the end of Ziller Valley, described as a powdery perfection. As for the music, the fest is hailed as “The Greatest Show on Snow.”
Urban Nerds performing at the Village Underground during Snowbombing (Photo: Villunderlondon/Flickr)
Artists from Fatboy Slim to Friendly Fires have helped to throw mountaintop igloo parties, open-air forest raves, and private backcountry barn dances that make this festival a must-do stop on the slopes. The best part? You can soak off your hangover in a rooftop whirlpool bath and enjoy top-notch wellness offerings from mud facials to Turkish massages.
A snowboarder shows off during the Snowbomb Festival (Photo:Matt Biddulph/Flickr)
Ride an elephant in Thailand
Only if you plan to save Thailand for your honeymoon are you allowed to bypass this once-in-a-lifetime excursion before turning 30. A haven for budgeting backpackers, Thailand and everything it has to offer can be fully explored without one Bangkok-stone unturned on the cheap.
Do we even need to explain why this is awesome? (Photo: Corbis Images)
Aside from the tropical beach paradises, your must-do adventure is mounting an elephant. Do look for satisfactory accommodations for $10 a night, street meals for $2, and taxi rides for less than $5, and don’t do what the girls of Brokedown Palace did and fall for a smarmy-yet-charming drug smuggler. And if you’re there for the Full Moon Party at the beach of Haad Rin, make sure to capture your dance techno-frenzy on Instagram.
Win big in Las Vegas, Nev.
It’s corny but true: You simply haven’t lived until you’ve spent a weekend in Las Vegas. Save up and play big by betting a hand in craps or throwing down the gauntlet during a rowdy game of blackjack. Win or lose, you’ll never feel sexier, cooler, or more alive.
Drai’s rooftop pool is the perfect place to celebrate (Photo: Cromwell Las Vegas/Facebook)
Thanks to the air conditioning being pumped through the casinos, you will never get tired, and drinks are on the house while you gamble. Celebrate your winnings at the new Drai’s Rooftop Pool, where you can buy your own fireworks and light them up yourself for $9,000 a sparkle-pop.
Inhale local delicacies in Amsterdam
Space cakes, coffee shops, and the Pancake Bakery — oh, my! Coffee shops take on a new meaning at this Netherlands joyride. Wake yourself up with pancakes at Barney’s Breakfast Bar Coffee Shop, explore local haunts, and laugh it up at the nightly sketch and improv show, Boom Chicago. On Day 2, take in another coffee shop before visiting the Van Gogh Museum and setting your visit to the tune of your favorite playlist. In your 20s, you can always chalk up that late-night visit to the red light district to being “young and stupid.”
Barney’s Breakfast Bar (Photo: Dan Rosenthal/Flickr)
Go to Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium
July 24, 25, and 26 are the dates to save for the biggest electronic music festival in the world in 2015. Though no other festival compares, music weekends that receive honorable mentions are as follows: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach (Palm Springs, Calif.), Lollapalooza (Chicago, Ill.), Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (Manchester, Tenn.), Ultra Music Festival (Miami, Fla.), EDC (Las Vegas, Nev.), Sziget Festival (Budapest, Hungary), San Fermin (Navarre, Spain), Glastonbury Festival (Somerset, England), the Governor’s Ball NYC Music Festival (Randall’s Island Park, N.Y.).
You Won’t Want to Do This When You’re 30. (Photo: Sebastien Camelot/Flickr)
Rage in Ibiza, Spain
Find out what the ultimate summer vacation spot and nightlife playground for Europeans is all about at this all-day and -night summer party locale. Massive nightclubs and unreal beach and boat parties are only three reasons to visit Ibiza during its four summer months of 24/7 partying. The nonstop action feels like an EDC-underground playground on steroids, as it champions outdoor, all-night island concerts, marathon parties, and famed nightlife revelry, such as Space and Pacha. Sleeping is not really an option here, but who needs to sleep in their 20s?
Where is this boat going again? (Photo: Raymond Barlot/Flickr)
Related: City Smackdown — Ibiza vs. Mallorca
Bungee jump in Queenstown, New Zealand
That fearless and invincible 20s mindset will come in handy when bungee jumping over the River Nevis, which is the highest jump spot in all of New Zealand. After a backpacking trail and cable car ride, jumpers enter a 9-second free fall of 440 feet. Your 20s are the perfect time to take two weeks off work to explore this part of the world. If you have time, take a hop, skip, and a jump over to Sydney and explore everything Australia’s capital city has to offer before relaxing on the majestic beaches of Fiji.
You can’t back out once you tweet about it. (Photo: Steve Montgomery/Flickr)
Dress in drag at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This world-famous, four-night festival (Feb. 13-16, 2015) held before Lent each year is the biggest carnival in the world. With 2 million people per day wandering the streets, you’re sure to get lost in the frenzy if you don’t prepare to stand out among the floats, ornaments, and revelers dancing around you. Bright and glittering colors, outlandish and oversize scarves covering bikinis, and flamboyant wigs are all costume-agenda basics for the greatest party on earth.
You look great in fake eyelashes. (Photo: Paulo Carrano/Flickr)
Related: What to Know Before Going to Rio
Swim the Dead Sea in Israel
Shut your eyes and float in the sea, which has so much salinity, you will float to the top no matter how hard you try to sink. If you want a nearly all-expenses-paid trip, head here before you turn 26. Apply to visit the Jewish holy land on Birthright, which transports young adults to Israel on an educational and one-of-a-kind tour.
Grandma really wants you to do this. (Photo: Corbis Images)
Pedal party in Nashville, Tenn.
An ever-growing popular spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties, this city has become more than just a destination to search for that country crooner. Music City is a laid-back and affordable destination for group-centered getaways, thanks to activities such as Footloose-inspired line dancing and pedal-pushing pub crawls. After the two-hour tour, the party continues with options to ride a mechanical bull or pole dance like you’re starring in Coyote Ugly.
What happens in Nashville…(Photo: Milu2/Flickr)
Flash someone in New Orleans, La.
What else are your 20s for if not flashing total strangers for bead necklaces? Since this activity gets a lot less adorable with age, head to Mardi Gras on Feb. 6, 2015. The French Quarter gets so silly during this annual celebration that we can’t really tell you what you’ll encounter. Just go.
Beads, beads, beads! (Photo: Pieter Morlion/Flickr)