The One Trip to Take in Every Decade of Your Life
The One Trip to Take in Every Decade of Your Life

If you’ve been waiting for retirement to take that trip of a lifetime, you may want to consider adding a few more vacations to your bucket list. After all, life is long, and some excursions only get better with age. From riding the Shinkansen across Japan to spotting wildlife on a safari in South Africa, here’s the one trip to take in every decade of your life.

Twenties - Backpacking Across Europe

Big Ben and Parliament.
Credit: Alexey Fedorenko/ Shutterstock

Your 20s are some of the most exhilarating and emotional years of your life, and there’s  no better place than Europe to discover newfound interests, interact with people from all walks of life, and expand your knowledge of culture and history. If you invest in a Eurail Global Pass, the continent is truly at your fingertips — 33 countries to be exact — and there are other extremely budget-friendly modes of transportation, such as FlixBus and Ryanair.

Many young people studying abroad or taking a gap year stuff a giant backpack and attempt to see as many European cities as possible — often on a whim — which is entirely possible if you’re traveling on a dime and just want to go wherever the wind takes you. When you arrive at your destination, you can stay at one of the many safe and affordable hostels or spend your day exploring before hopping aboard a sleeper train to head to your next destination.

This method of travel isn’t exactly “comfortable,” which is why we advise you to do it in your 20s. Scavenge the Camden Market, ride a double-decker bus, and gawk at Buckingham Palace in London; have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; go paragliding in Interlaken; stay in a cozy hostel in Copenhagen; drink a pint and listen to live music in Dublin at Temple Bar — whatever you fancy, Europe is your oyster!

Thirties - Japan

Trail through bamboo forest.
Credit: kunisan/ Shutterstock

Now that you’ve gotten Europe out of your system (for now anyway), you probably feel like a more experienced traveler. Take time away from that 9-to-5 grind and book the next trip of a lifetime — exploring a new continent. Japan is a great place to get your feet wet in Asia. It will take a little more research, but experiencing a very different lifestyle and culture will remind you that the world is vast and even the most common experiences — like taking the subway or ordering at a restaurant — can feel new. Japan is a particularly welcoming nation, and its growing number of expats means English is more commonly spoken.

Get started in Tokyo to see bustling city life: visit the Harajuku neighborhood, the center of fashion and cosplay; snap a photo with the iconic Tokyo Tower; eat sushi off a conveyor belt; and more. Ride the Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima and see more cultural attractions like Osaka Castle, Arashiyama bamboo forest, and the gold Buddhist Kinkaku-ji Temple. When you’re done exploring the major cities, head to Hakone to see Mount Fuji, soak in an onsen (hot spring), and spend the night on a tatami mat in a traditional ryokan.

Forties - Peru and Bolivia

Aerial of La Paz, Bolivia and surrounding mountains.
Credit: Jc valenzuela/ Shutterstock

By your 40s, it might be a bit harder to get away for an extensive trip. Whether you have kids or are in a leadership role at work, time starts slipping away from you, so don’t forget to book another trip of a lifetime. Head south of the equator for a trek through Peru and Bolivia — two of the most stunning countries in South America.

Fly into the colorful city of Cusco and take the train or hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Explore the Peruvian capital of Lima, grab a bite at the historic Mercado de Surquillo, and see the flowers at Miraflores Cliff. Experience the many towns of the Sacred Valley before taking a short flight to La Paz, Bolivia, the highest elevation capital city in the world. Ride the city's famous cable car transit system before striking out to see Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, and the Mars-like rock formations of the Valley of the Moon.

Fifties - Iceland

Woman watching waves crash against icebergs at Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.
Credit: canadastock/ Shutterstock

A relaxing retreat is just what you need in your 50s, but that doesn’t mean your next trip has to be boring. A flight to Reykjavík is much shorter than one to Barcelona or Milan, and you don’t need to stay long to experience the natural beauty of Iceland — you can cover a lot of ground in just one week. The best seasons to visit are winter and summer. In winter, you’ll have to dress warm, but you have a better chance of seeing the northern lights. Book an ice cave tour to go spelunking in ethereal frozen caverns, soak in the Blue Lagoon, and see the purply pink sunset over Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

On the other hand, summer is puffin season, and the whole island will be awash in a vibrant green. Witness the mighty Goðafoss Waterfall, watch the geysers spew at Geysir Hot Springs, and walk the black-sand beach with hexagon rock formations at Reynisfjara.

Sixties - South Africa

A herd of Elephant at the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Credit: Eleanor Esterhuizen/ Shutterstock

Your 60th birthday is bound to be a big one, so plan an epic adventure to Africa. Fly to Johannesburg and drive to Kruger National Park to spot the “Big Five” on safari. When you’ve had your fill of wildlife, head to Cape Town and spend a day wine tasting in the Breede River Wine Valley. Ride the aerial cableway to the top of Table Mountain, a flat-topped sandstone peak with unparalleled views, and be surrounded by the beautiful flora of Africa at the world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which exhibits trees, flowers, and plants from five of South Africa’s six different biomes.

Seventies - Danube River Cruise

Boat down the Danube River, the Hungarian Parliament building, the Reformed Church and Pest
Credit: Nina Zorina/ Shutterstock

If you’ve retired by age 70, then make sure you reward yourself with another trip to celebrate the milestone. Taking in the sights at a much slower pace is easy to do when you’re on a cruise. You don’t have to worry about meals, activities, or catching the next bus or train — it’s all planned out for you. A Danube River cruise via Viking, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, or other lines will unveil the magic of Eastern Europe from Hungary to Germany. Passengers can enhance their journey with extensions including walking tours, hotel nights, museum admissions, food tastings, and more. It's the perfect way to relive your European adventures of youth, or explore new corners of the continent yet undiscovered.

Eighties: Rocky Mountaineer Train, Canada

People in glass domed train car with view of trees and mountains.
Credit: Richard Jacyno/ iStock

You’re never too old to take a vacation, but an enjoyable train ride to take in the scenery without much hassle is ideal in your 80s. A long flight might be out of the question, so take in the beauty of the majestic Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West train traveling from Banff, Alberta, to Vancouver, British Columbia. Traverse the Continental Divide on this journey over mountain passes and through the iconic Spiral Tunnels and canyons. Get off to see the brilliant turquoise water of Lake Louise and the outdoorsy city of Kamloops. This historic rail route was one of the first lines to connect Canada’s western coast.

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