Did your Glory Days involve a backpack?

Posted on March 6, 2011

I have days when I wonder if I should have had my children earlier. These days usually happen when I am tired, depressed by the sight of another grey hair, and coming to terms with the fact that I will never understand the Justin Bieber phenomenon.

Then there are the days when I actually sit down and remember my twenties. The time I spent working on magazines such as Vogue Australia and CLEO. And the several years I spent based in London, working at Homes & Gardens magazine, and squeezing in as much travelling time as possible.

I had a flurry of those days this weekend when The Builder and I welcomed one of his Dutch relatives into the Fibro. K is 20 years old, spending six months in Australia, and deciding which university course he will take up when he gets back home. Remember those days?

It was a joy to have him here. An excuse for The Builder (who, in true Australian fashion, left home one year in his twenties and came back five years later) and I to relive our travels. To talk about London and Amsterdam and Berlin and Prague. To warn K about the dangers of Full Moon Parties in Thailand – and then suggest that if he must go (and, really, what 20-year-old boy thinks he shouldn’t?) to be very, very careful – and not tell his Mum until after it’s all over.

We talked about our worst experiences in backpacker hostels (The Builder always wins these contests). I remembered, though did not share, the time a man pulled a gun out at a campfire at Anzac Cove (he fired it into the air, looked around wildly, and disappeared… what a shame). We both agreed that we did not appreciate the amazing places we went and the incredible sights we saw until it was all much, much too late.

K’s eyes were probably glazed over at this stage, watching us relive our Glory Days (which occurred approximately as he was being born). But he is very polite and pretended to listen. Fortunately, I managed to withhold the story about the time I went to Scotland with a group of girlfriends and we spent much time and energy searching for the Mull Of Kintyre, simply so we could sit on a rock and sing the song. I’m thinking he probably wouldn’t have appreciated that one. At all.

But now that it’s front of mind, I’m sure it will give me the wings (sorry) to get me through my next Way-Too-Old Mum day. I might even teach the boys the song, just to be sure.

Did you spend your 20s with a backpack? Do the memories keep you sane on bad days?


  1. Anna Bartlett

    Yes, and I’ve still got the backpack, covered in dodgy sew-on patches from souvenir shops in the US and UK. Can’t believe they hadn’t invented wheels on suitcases yet. So SO glad I did it at 23, wish I’d stayed just one more year, and hope my kids get the same opportunity – except I know I’ll go insane with worry and jealousy! Definitely the best pre-kids year of my life, and the closest I’ve ever come to living in an episode of “Friends”. Thanks for the flashbacks!

  2. Kymmie

    Nothing like the presence of youth to remind you of youth.

    Glad you had fun remembering life holding a backpack. They sure sound like fun. xx

  3. Andrea

    p.s I always thought the mull of kintyre was something you smoked…..;)

  4. Shelly - Tropical Mum

    Backpacked around Southeast Asia with hubby, and we had some amazing experiences. I feel like I well and truly did a lot of living in my 20s so when it came time to have children I didn’t feel like I missed out. But now, I think back and wish we could afford to take the kids to see some amazing things.

  5. Maxabella

    Aw, Al. Reminiscing is painful!!! x

  6. Jodi Gibson

    Aahh, reminiscing, don’t you just love it! I am so glad that I get to reminisce with my hubby as we did our travelling together.

    Although not in our twenties, those times were spent figuring out who I was and who I wasn’t which unfortunately but probably necessarily involved a divorce, but I digress.

    I so love to travel and explore. We have taken the younger kids to Europe not that they will remember, but we do. We have taken the older ones and the younger ones to USA which was such an adventure. And we plan to go back to UK and Europe with us all one day soon.

    Creating beautiful memories that we can reminisce till we are old and grey. Beautiful.

  7. Andrea

    Oh yes, I do recall, and miss travelling in my 20’s, and living and working in different countries. So far my thirties have been all about responsibility and domesticity.

  8. Cheryl Gerbera

    I’m in the middle of my twenties now. Unfortunately I never got the chance to do the fun-backpacking thing. I spent my early 20’s finishing up my degree and the rest of it for building my career. I also stays in one relationship in my whole 20’s.. with one man I’m about to have a family with now.. At the back of my mind I still wish I get to experience the whole backpacking thing one day, but with where my life is heading right now I know the chance is pretty slim.
    I just hope I dont miss out on things…

  9. Trish@Show and Tell

    I didn’t travel when younger….and had my daughter “late”. So clearly I’ve stuffed this whole gig up!!
    But I do understand Justin Beiber (only because I also understand Leif Garrett….remember Allison?? 🙂


  10. GetawayGuru

    This definitely echoed with me. We (my boyfriend at the time, now husband of 13 years!) spent 3.5years travelling, working overseas and living a wonderfully relaxed, free life. No committments, no mortgage and free to drop everything and pop off to Paris for a weekend or travel in Africa for 3 months (and we did).

    It’s that total sense of freedom and spontaneity that keeps me going on some of the tougher days.

    I will definitely be encouraging my children to travel (and trying not to remember all the things we got up to so that I don’t worry about them too much)

  11. Jane @ the girl in the brick house

    I’m looking forward to re-living my 20s in my 50s when, hopefully, the kids will have moved out! (If not, I’ll kick them out, I reckon!!)

  12. Catch the Kids

    I also am an older mum and yes, I have the whole “I should have done this earlier” thing about my kids as well. I travelled a lot in my younger years, but there’s still so many places I’d love to see. Mind you, a rich sponsor is required these days, what with mortgages and school fees…

  13. Frog, Goose and Bear

    Yes, I miss travelling so much. Not that you can’t do it with kids mind you, but it really is not the same. BOth my husband and I are insanely jealous of both of his brothers who are currently loving OS. But, never fear, our time will come again – it will – these days with young kids will be a mere blink of an eye….that’s what I keep telling myself anyway…

  14. MOMmetime

    I’m 42 with a 3 & 6 yo…sometimes I physically feel old but I’m glad I waited~ or should I say glad that pregnancy found me later; I did not think, based on health issues, that I could get pregnant.

    And, yes I did the backpack thingy a couple of times, traveled some and focused on a career…when I got pregnant my answer became very clear to me. I now stay at home with my kids.

  15. Miss Pink

    *sigh* I am in my twenties and even i don’t understand the Justin Bieber phenomenon.
    My twenties? Spent being broke and raising my kids. Bluey was born when i was 19 and Greenie when i was 22. I do have itchy feet for travel, but i guess that will have to wait until i’m in my 40’s or so. Hopefully i get the chance to, even if it’s later in life 🙂
    I would love for you to share your stories with me. Places that i must go, and things i must do, and the things to avoid?

  16. Kristy

    My husband and I traveled a lot together throughout our 20’s. (I’m 35, and our son is 3) We were so wild and carefree for sure. Once I hit 30, I truly did feel as though I had done a lot and was ready for the settling down a child brings. Now I am getting that itch again. Someday, someday, he will be older and we can do more things like that again. Someday. 🙂

  17. Donna @ NappyDaze

    Oh the memories come flooding back! I too did some quality travel time attached to a backpack (that was approx 1/3 my size!) in my early 20’s and i definitely do miss the days so much. The possibilities were endless and the responsibilities of life seemed so far away. Living in London was a great base for travels and I made some of the most amazing lifelong friends I’ll ever have…

    And the stories, oh… Now you have inspired me to dedicate a post to them (when I find the time!!). Thanks for the inspiration xx

  18. Kelloggsville

    Nope, I left home got a mortgage and slogged my way up the career chain. Don’t worry about whether you did anything too much, too lte, too wrong, too not perfect, too unappreciative or too anything just appreciate the fact that you did it and enjoy your memories. I think with pride about how hard I worked and how much effort I put into renovating my house and learning to be a good house keeper. Thinking about what I could have done instead …well…if wishes were horses beggars would ride , sounds like you had a wonderful kontiki

  19. Marion Williams-Bennett

    What great stories – and what a wonderful time of life!

    Whenever I talk to 20 year olds, I am always a bit wistful, remembering a time that seemed so full of discovery and surprise. These days are much more routine, but can offer their own surprises if we look.

    And, best of all, we still have this whole life in front of us! Elderhostel?

  20. Lady Estrogen

    Oh, you betcha I did. But as much as I love to travel and explore different places and people when I was in my 20s and single, there did come a time when I knew the end was near; perhaps it was after the bed-bug incident at Airlie Beach, hummm.. well, it was a contributing factor, for sure 🙂

  21. Shauna

    I think the grass is always going to be greener.
    I’ve done it the other way. I partied/worked, moved interstate for HIS work and started having kids earlyish. I know that if i went overseas straight after school I would have been drunk and ended up in foreign jails. It was better i stay here and go traveling later (soon). Im looking forward to taking one or two with me (never all at once because they’re vile) to see a few places. The rest I’ll do on my own. I know I’ll appreciate it much more now.

  22. Mama of 2 boys

    Never did the backpack thing, my twenties were spent, working and playing pretty hard. Married, bought a home and just as the sun was setting on my twenties, became a mama!
    One day, I would dearly love to experience all that travelling has to offer and ‘hopefully’ I won’t be too old and grey to enjoy it!
    Always love reading/hearing about other peoples travel adventures though, thanks for sharing :o)

  23. Emma M

    My 20s, which have pretty much just ended, were spent being married and working, with some domestic travel.
    Am tossing up whether to try and sqeeze some overseas travel into the budget and timetable before trying for babies (which must start soon). But if it doesn’t eventuate, there is always later – we plan to do more local travel and if circumstances permit trot off overseas as well.
    I often feel a bit foolish for not having done the backpacking thing, so it’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only one who didn’t get there.

  24. Lucy

    I did a combination of study/working/backpacking. I was a Eurorailer. I was a three weeks in Greece sleeping in the beach kind of student.

    I miss it. I miss the proximity of Europe that I totally took for granted as an English person.

    But not for that same backpack, I doubt I would be where I am now…

  25. Rhi@FlourChild

    Absolutely. Total glory days, and I am reminiscing all the time. I didn’t look for the Mull of Kintyre, but did catch a ferry cross the Mersey!!
    I loved my twenties. I did it all -two degrees, Honours, work, fiance, pregnant, work overseas, travel over Europe. The only regret is that I didn’t travel in Asia, and will have to do that with a rolly tapestry suitcase in my retirement. I loved this post!

  26. Sarah

    My dad had us moving and travelling throughout our childhood. I clearly inherited the gene. I spent most of my twenties living and working overseas. Husband and I travelled at every opportunity we got (and even some when we weren’t) I am so glad we did because it kind of sated my wanderlust for a while. It’s back now with a vengeance and we’ve already planned three trips this year. This time though the offspring are coming along.

  27. therhythmmethod

    Loved this post. I spent my 20s working like a mad thing and then having babies. I often (too often, perhaps) wonder what things would look like if I did what everyone else my age did, and spent those years traveling.
    But then I look at my peers now and they are only now starting to get married and start families, and I feel a bit chuffed that I’ve already got a head start. You can’t really have it both ways, can you?
    Our dream is to drive a campervan around the UK and Europe with our 3 boys when they are old enough to appreciate it. We’ve got some saving to do …

  28. allison tait

    @SSG – the grass is always greener, it’s true. And I love that you have your own fully installed teenager. 🙂

    @AnnieB25 – LOL at tapestry trolley bag. You and @Cate can hang out in style together. 🙂

  29. Annieb25

    I never got to do it unfortunately. Shall do it when I retire but with tapestry trolley bag instead of back pack.

  30. Cate

    I spent my twenties getting married, getting my honours degree, getting a job, getting my masters degree and then having two babies. I’ve always figured that you get to play hard at one end of your life – I’ll just get that chance in retirement instead of my twenties…and it’ll my kind of fun because I plan to have the cash to do it in *style*!! 🙂

  31. ClaireyH

    Yes! Even to the point that when my younger brother went a few years later I had lots of rules and regulations about how my back pack that he was using was to be treated! I felt so attached to that thing, afterall it held my entire life in it at one stage.

    I had a cheap useless camera and have very few photos of my travels, such a shame I cant do it again with an Iphone and not a phone card.

  32. Sydney Shop Girl

    Food for thought, Allison. I wasn’t a traveller in my 20s, put in all those years at work and have now left it pretty late to start a family (which is no where near as fun and breezy as some people glibly say).

    Strangely, what I do recall from my 20s was the very thing that gave me so much angst at the time. Being a decidedly single girl in a cohort of girls who were seemingly together forever with serious, long term relationships.

    I remember my relative freedom at the time and the chance it gave me to develop my own interests and realize my inner strength and independence.

    I look back and laugh at how the grass always did seem greener on the other side of the fence.

    SSG xxx

    PS – when my little brother comes over, Mr SSG and I refer to him as ‘our teenager’. He even has his own room and a space for his mail (and those beers we sometimes get on his behalf).

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