When it comes to exploring Europe, I'm not all that keen on the idea of driving around on my own on the wrong side of the road. I can't even imagine how I'd tackle a roundabout without having a head on collision, so for me, its either public transport, flying or a tour. "Why don't you just travel with a friend?" you say. Well, thing is, I am living in the UK with my husband and nearly all of our friends are back home in Australia. As a teacher I have 13 weeks leave a year and he has 4 1/2, so in my case, its either head out solo, or spend holidays back in the UK in our flat. I know what I'd rather do.
18 -39 you say
I've recently come back from a Top Deck tour around Portugal and Spain and noticed that the usual '18- 35' bracket has been increased from 35 to 39. That is because Top Deck realises that many of us in our 30s do want to join tours rather than go it alone and that we still have a sense of adventure and want to travel with likeminded people. Whilst I see a lot of difference in my attitude to life compared to someone in their early 20's, the beauty of travelling with a range of age groups is that you get to experience the destinations from varying points of view and perspectives. Being in your 30's often means your in an age of responsibility with work and life, and sometimes it is nice to spend your holiday being back in the mode of a 20 something. Mind you, I still need the sleep of a 30 something!
What if I'm the oldest one on tour?
I've been on two Top Deck tours in Europe now and I was the oldest on both. The first tour I was the oldest by far. It was a little like being on schoolies week at times, but the benefit of Top Deck is that there is plenty of free time to explore, so you can head off on your own, or sneak back to the hostel a little earlier than the party animals to catch a little down time, or chill out by yourself for a while. I'm also not a backseat baddie when it comes to the bus, and find that the front is good for my carsickness, and also to have a relax and enjoy the scenery without someone who has had a big night falling asleep on me - unless of course you're into that! If you are a little tired, the front of the bus is usually less popular, so you most likely can spread out over two seats and have a little nanna nap.
The second tour I was on, was far more typical of the age spread the Top Deck usually gets. Most of my fellow travellers were mid to late 30s and I found very little difference in our mind set and stages of life. On both trips it was easy to make travel buddies, but on the latter, I got to know a group of girls really well and we were able to sneak back to the hostel together and enjoy our downtime shopping and sightseeing. After being away from friends for so long, it was a really welcome experience for me, and I forgot about the age difference completely.
You're how old?!
I am lucky not to have too many wrinkles yet and can still pass for being in my late 20's. It will be inevitable that people will start talking about ages at some point. If you are older than most, be prepared for some comments on the lines of 'it's so great you're doing this at your age'. I'll just bide my time and wait for them to hit 35 and realise that it is not old age! A positive attitude and an 'age is just a number' frame of mind, will certainly help to get you through this! Be prepared to be #inspirational!
Why Top Deck?
Contiki is for party animals, G adventures travel by rail and miss many sites. Intrepid are expensive and Globus are for old people. When it came down to it, Top Deck had the right pricing, right destinations and right mode of travel. Sure, my first tour were very young and I found it a little hard to relate to many of them, but that was only one element of the tour. At the end of the day, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, and you are there to see the sights. If you're not keen on hostels, you can choose hotel based tours and they even have some smaller more boutique trips to choose from as well. Both of my tours were hostel based and I am probably at the point now where I don't mind a hostel, but I would prefer a hotel! That in mind, I would recommend you book hotels either end of the tour, for a little more comfort and privacy. Nothing quite feels as good as queen sized bed to yourself and hot shower in your own bathroom after staying in hostels for a few weeks!
The round up
I've seen some amazing bucket list places and had some experiences of a lifetime thanks to Top Deck. They were a convenient, comfortable and fun way to get around and see the sites that I wanted to see. For me it was far less stressful than negotiating new countries on my own and provided me with the structure to have some alone as well as group time. I would definitely recommend them for people in their 30s - solo travellers as well as pairs or small groups.
Have you travelled Top Deck in your 30's? What was your experience like?
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