Today is my 30th birthday! Can’t believe it’s here already! Would you believe me if I said I still feel like 21? The only difference is a busy job, more money and the first forehead wrinkle (oh no!), but that’s about it.

Although…. When I think of it, there are a few other differences. Through the years I’ve become more confident, more ‘zen’ and (as I like to think) a little wiser. I’ve also become more careful. For example, while in my 20’s I rafted the Nile without zero concerns, now that I’m 30 I worry about things like sharp rocks and crocodiles. Fortunately, these worries never last long, and… after a few minutes of intense hesitation, my 30-year-old self rafts the Nile anyway. She’s no coward, but maybe slightly less impulsive.

22-year-old Manouk at a sumo tournament in Tokyo, Japan.
22-year-old Manouk at a sumo tournament in Tokyo, Japan.
24-year-old Manouk in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
24-year-old Manouk in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

I will miss the 20’s. It was the time of freedom, fun and trying to find my way, while slowly heading into adulthood. It was also the time of travel. Lots of travel. In my 20’s I traveled as much as I could, even it meant having three part-time jobs at the same time. I boarded the Trans-Mongolian Express, explored mystical Machu Picchu, partied in Southeast Asia and had a hippo in my front garden in Kenya. I had the chance to visit 36 countries in the last decade. I wouldn’t have done things differently.

If you read this and you’re still in your 20’s: MAKE THAT TRIP HAPPEN! Continue dreaming, but also start saving money at the same time. The 20’s is the perfect time to travel the world as you have lots of free time, still enjoy student discounts and have few obligations (e.g. no children, no job contract). It’s also an important time in terms of personal development and forming your world views. Travel will help you doing this. Although Matador Network seems to disagree, I would advice to do at least one long-term backpacking trip, one solo trip and one trip with friends in your 20’s. If possible, also arrange an internship/volunteering abroad! I promise that you won’t regret it!

26-year-old Manouk with Saskia in Bali, Indonesia.
26-year-old Manouk with Saskia in Bali, Indonesia.
28-year-old Manouk in Trapani, Sicilia.
28-year-old Manouk in Trapani, Sicilia.

For me, the 30’s are kicking off pretty perfect with 6 months of travel to Southern Africa and the ‘Silk Road’ (aka BoB’s Epic Adventure). With only 2 weeks until take off, BoB’s Epic Adventure is ridiculously close. Therefore, it was finally time to make some real arrangements for the trip. For starters, I booked a Baz Bus ticket. Baz Bus is a backpacker Hop On, Hop Off bus for South Africa. I usually prefer to travel by public transportation, but I’ve had quite a few warnings from South Africans that this may not be very safe for solo travelers. In the rest of Southern Africa, there is no Baz Bus, so still enough opportunity to travel by public transportation. Besides, the Baz Bus seems like lots of fun! I also got a place to stay for the first nights in Johannesburg as my friends were so kind to book a private room (fancy!) in the funky ‘Curiocity hostel’.

What else did I do in the last 2 months? I got my final jabs, bought 50 Malarone tablets, checked the latest security and visa situation for 12 countries, worked 60 hours per week for my regular job(s), received a package with 14 Care Plus travel health products, bought 3 hiking ‘must haves’ (jacket, shoes and day pack), had 15 cool meetings at the Dutch Holiday Fair trade days, prepared 2 blogs, send out 28 Birthday/Goodbye Party invitations, received 25.000+ monthly unique visitors on this website (personal record!) and had close to zero time for anything else ;)!

It’s crazy how fast the first one third of my life has flown by. Today, I’ll celebrate modestly, as my Birthday/Goodbye party is yet to come. However, I will think back on my first 30 years, think about my family and friends, about the many highs (and fortunately few lows) in life and of course about the future. I can’t wait for my RTW trip to start, I look forward to continue working as a medical doctor after the trip and to all adventures yet to come!

Here’s to another great one third!

Manouk birthday
30-year-old Manouk. No travel photos in my 30s yet!
Latest additions to BoB’s Epic Adventure collection
  • Care Plus package with 14 anti-insect products (yes, 14)
  • Waterproof, lightweight The North Face jacket
  • ‘Han Wag’ hiking shoes
  • Osprey day pack
Summary of ‘How to prepare for a RTW-trip 1-2 months before take-off’ tips

The top photo is 20-year-old Manouk in Innermongolia, China! Disclosure: The Baz Bus ticket and Care Plus package were given to me by the corresponding companies. Views and opinions are, as always, my own! 

Read the previous ‘phases’ of BoB’s Epic Adventure

Phase IV: Only 2 months until BoB’s Epic Adventure

Phase III: My debute as ‘Backpack Expert’ and some challenges that lie ahead!

Phase II: Shaping the itinerary of my Africa And Silk Roads trip

Phase I: Preparing and planning my Silk Roads and Southern Africa adventure 

On Work and Wanderlust

What do you think about travel in your 20’s? Is it truly the best time? 

Wat vind je van reizen op je 20ste? Is het echt de beste tijd? 


  1. Happy Birthday :)

    Is this where I point out that age is simply a rolling number, one that’s largely irrelevant (though some hostels do have age limits :p), and that even at the age of 40, one can still happily backpack the same way you will at 30?

    Bah, you got a long way to go yet! Keep on Travelling! :)

  2. That`s funny, I am turning 25 in 4 days : ) If there is one thing I have learned from my parents however, it is to always adapt your work/job to travelling, and far-away adventures can still be accomplished with kids. I have the metaphoric scars to prove it! Let nothing stop you, especially not age and socially constructed responsibilities.

  3. Happy birthday Manouk! I’m not spotting any wrinkles on your pictures, so no worries. ;-) SO exciting that you’re leaving in 11 days, I’ll be following along the road! Enjoy your last days in the Netherlands and have a great birthday/goodbye-party.

  4. A little bit too late, but I hope you had an awesome birthday :) May the next ten years also be full of adventures! And the good thing is: you still look like 21 haha ;-)

  5. Very interesting and nicely written article about your 20’s journey and commencement of 30’s. I’m sure your readers will love your plans for backpacking in the coming years and get motivated to fulfill their hobbies. Thanks for sharing it with us.


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