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14 Places You Seriously Need To Visit In Your 20s

14 places you seriously need to visit in your 20s

Chances are that during your 20s you'll have less responsibilities and more time for adventure, so saving up to travel abroad makes perfect sense. In your 20s, you'll gain a greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures than you would as a teen traveler, and you're more likely to forgo a few luxuries which will tempt you in you while traveling in your 30s, keeping costs down!

For those traveling on a budget and looking to gain more meaningful and immersive international experiences, volunteering abroad allows you to support to local communities and experience new cultures, while gaining new perspectives, skills and friendships. Read on as we share the places you need to visit (and can volunteer in) before turning the big 3-0...

Brazil, seriously

"If Rio de Janeiro were a person, that person would certainly be known for being the life of the party. Vibrant, soulful and diverse, the Cidade Maravilhosa is a perfect backdrop for someone on their 20-something mission to explore themselves. Cariocas are good-natured, spontaneous and they love to share their joy for life, which makes for an exciting samba-fueled social setting bursting with plenty of potential friends. Volunteering on IVHQ's Brazil program puts you right among it all, based in Santa Teresa, which has a funky art community known for its bohemian vibe. There is enough to do within Rio itself to keep you busy for weeks' worth of weekends, with easy access through a broad public transport system that can take you to the spectacular beaches, nightlife, incredible restaurants, cultural highlights or soccer games. Those lucky enough to find themselves in Rio during Carnaval can experience one of the world's top level celebrations by enjoying the very danceable samba, the street parties and night parades. There is nowhere in the world quite like Rio and no better people to share it with than like-minded volunteer travelers." - Chelsea Green (IVHQ Head of Latin America and Pacific Programs)

Volunteer and visit Rio, Brazil with IVHQ in your 20s

"Being able to volunteer put us into the country not just as a tourist but as a temporary citizen which gave us the opportunity to see and experience first hand how different the culture is. I am so grateful I can say I have an idea what it is like outside my own home now. What I wanted more than anything was a new perspective and I certainly learned so much about myself that gave me just that. I also appreciate that we get to travel while there. We got to see and do so much including going to the Amazon Rainforest!!! The whole 4 weeks felt like a dream! I hope to volunteer with IVHQ again one day and experience another new and beautiful country." - Tanica Draper, 24 (Volunteer in Brazil)

Italy, si!

"Italy is renowned for its delicious cuisine and if you’re anything like me, you love eating your way around the globe. The IVHQ program is based in Naples, Italy - the birthplace of the Neapolitan Pizza, so of course the pizza is top notch, best in the world. There are many bars and cafes in the city to sit and sip coffee, while people-watching and enjoying the street art. There is more to Naples than Pizza, it is well known for its art, culture and heritage. Having many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you are never short of places to visit and things to see. Adventuring further afield in Italy is not a big mission - Rome, home to the Colosseum and Vatican City, is just a short hour-long train ride away and the ancient ruins of Pompeii are only a 45-minute drive! Keen on a walk (so you can eat more pizza, of course)? The “Walk of the Gods” on the the Almalfi Coast is a must do on IVHQ weekends!" - Hailey Jurd (IVHQ Community & Administration Coordinator)

Visit Naples, Italy during your 20s with IVHQ

"To anyone considering participating in IVHQ's Italy program, just do it. It was amazing. I was there for 1 month and I can not express how good my time was from the beginning until the end. From the location of the accommodation (the rooftop is just incredible) as well as being in the heart of the historical centre, the food especially the Pizza, the views and of course the local people are the sweetest people on the Earth. The program staff are also the best. I already miss them so much! Great for conversation, laughs, if you need any assistance with anything they will help to the best of their ability, overall the amazing. Working with the NGOs was a very humbling and heart warming experience, just to see how a little bit of work can actually make a big difference to a community which I will always cherish from my volunteering experience. Also, not to forget the amazing family I have now got from all over the world (the volunteer group). You will meet so many new people who you will end up living, working, eating with which may seem slightly daunting at first, but is honestly one of the best things everrrrr. All in all, it was one of the best experiences ever and can not wait to volunteer with IVHQ again some time. Enjoy!" - Soraya Kebbouche, 20 (Volunteer in Italy)

Peru on point

"Whether you're chasing city, surf, rainforest or desert (or just wanting to tick Machu Pichu of the Bucket List), Peru pretty much has it all! Land in Lima to get amongst the gastronomy of one of the world's top culinary destinations, explore the museums and archaeological sites, hit the beach and try your hand at surfing, and save an afternoon for paragliding over the coast. Head to Cusco to get your fix of Baroque palaces merged with Incan ruins, striking natural landscapes and archaeological wonders. No trip to Peru is complete without a Machu Picchu encounter and if you're up for the adventure, you can hike the Inca trail with a tour group, or those short on time can opt for the easy 1-day option via train. For first-time travelers, volunteering in Peru with IVHQ provides 24/7 in-country support to assist you in adjusting to your new surroundings and allows you to make a meaningful contribution to a local community during your stay. Whether you're volunteering in Lima or Cusco, you'll be in the company of like-minded volunteer travelers who you can spend your weekends with to explore more of Peru's gems, including the sand boarding paradise of Huacachina and the Chanchamayo jungle." - Ellen Varoy (IVHQ Head of Communications)

Visit and volunteer in Peru with IVHQ

"The people here are wonderful and the host family is phenomenal in every way possible. The way we were welcomed by fellow volunteers, by the host family, and by the country of Peru has made me love every bit of this trip so far. Feels just like I am at home. I have already learned so much about the world and myself." - Sabah Hashmi, 20 (Volunteer in Peru - Lima)

Cambodia, lock it in

"Cambodia has it all - a rich and varied history, spectacular scenery and some of friendliest people you will meet anywhere. With a great mix of active adventures, secluded beaches and a lively nightlife (did someone say Karaoke?), Cambodia has enough going on to satisfy the wanderlust of any 20-something traveler. No trip to Cambodia is complete without visiting the world-famous temple of Angkor Wat and there is no better way to get around the massive complex of temples that surround it than by bicycle. It's the perfect mix of getting a taste of history while getting some exercise. Learning about the relatively recent history of the Khmer Rouge is also a must - so visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh to get a glimpse into what life was like for local people under the rule of Pol Pot.  For young travelers, Cambodia is an accessible and eye-opening option and there are volunteer projects available in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. IVHQ has a carefully selected range of childcare projects on offer and there are also some great NGO Support projects which enable young volunteers to apply their skills to supporting some really inspiring Cambodian organisations working on issues ranging from environmental rights to gender equality and youth development." - Ben Brown (IVHQ Head of Risk and Sustainability)

Volunteer and visit Cambodia with IVHQ in your 20s

"Everything is different than back home, but that's why we travel! To explore and experience a different way of life. I have zero complaints with my host family and the food. I was well looked after and the family genuinely cared about me. From my host family to my Tuk Tuk driver, to local neighbors - everyone welcomed me with a smile! Thank you for giving me this opportunity." - Jennifer Macpherson, 24 (Volunteer in Cambodia)

Ecua-do it!

"If you’ve never considered Ecuador as an adventure capital before, it’s time to seriously reconsider. Learn to surf in Montañita, go bridge jumping in Los Baños, and explore some of the most ecologically diverse regions on the planet, including the Amazonian Yasuni National Park, the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, and of course the Galapagos. You can spot llamas at Ingapirca - the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. For an intrepid trek, take on the mountainous jungle of Llanganates National Park, famous for the legend of hidden Inca treasure. When volunteering with IVHQ in Ecuador, this is a “work hard, play hard” experience. After a rewarding and busy week working with a local NGO, you can count on long weekends from Saturday through Monday to fill, leaving plenty of time to indulge your adventurous streak. Simply strolling through Quito, where the program is based, is sure to promise treats of its own, as the historic center of the city is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Be sure to visit La Ronda on Friday night to sample the most delicious Ecuadorian specialties, as you will need the energy to burn!" - Dallas Boyd (IVHQ Latin America Program Manager)

Visit Ecuador during your 20s with IVHQ

"I feel I became the best version of myself when I was in Ecuador. Being a volunteer through IVHQ requires you to be flexible, independent, and unassuming. One must simply go with the flow without any expectations and take on whatever comes your way. I have volunteered with IVHQ before and the way I felt after both trips solidified the fact that volunteering is something I will continue to do for the rest of my life. My host family was absolutely wonderful. Perhaps one of the most fantastic things about my trips was the people I lived with. I was lucky enough to be in a house with 6 other volunteers. We got along so well and I have no doubt we will be friends for life." - Marissa Mason, 21 (Volunteer in Ecuador)

Totes Thailand

"Thailand is no doubt the heart and hub of South East Asia! Whether you are looking to immerse yourself in Bangkok's nightlife, markets, cheap seafood, pedicures and people watching, explore the beaches of Phuket or take in the cultural sights of northern Thailand (dipping your toe in the Golden Triangle) - Thailand has it all. Trying authentic Tom Yum and Pad Thai should be high on your to do list, but don't stop there, and make sure to get among the street food on offer as even the smallest roadside stalls will have a signature dish to tickle the taste buds and broaden your horizons. Volunteering with IVHQ in Thailand provides travelers looking for meaningful and hands on volunteer work with the perfect opportunity to gain insight into the hill tribe communities inhabiting the hills surrounding Chiang Rai and make a contribution to the local communities in the province. With a structured volunteer day, guidance and support from our local team and the knowledge that you are contributing to the ongoing success and development of the local people, why wouldn't you break in northern Thailand to get stuck into giving back to this beautiful and diverse country." - Margarete Lua (IVHQ Head of Asia Programs)

Visit and volunteer in Thailand with IVHQ

"The program exceeded my expectations and I appreciate all the local community members I got to interact with. I felt relieved knowing that the work I put in was a continuation of work performed by previous volunteers and would be continued by future volunteers. It was important for me to be a part of projects that are sustainable and beneficial to the community as a whole. In many ways I feel that I have grown and matured. I feel that this trip has refreshed and broadened my perspectives in ways that I would not have been able to at home." - Kimberley Milanes, 24 (Volunteer in Thailand)

Guatemala #goals

"Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned traveler, volunteering in Guatemala gives you the opportunity to experience a more meaningful and immersive form of travel. Based around the small colonial city of Antigua, IVHQ's Guatemala program enjoys the backdrop of three major volcanos, the ambiance of romantic restaurants, rich history, cobblestone streets, and a constant flow of vibrant activity. From local markets, Spanish language lessons, Salsa dancing, guacamole-making classes and photography walks in the city of Antigua to travelling further afield and hiking Pacaya Volcano, visiting the Mayan ruins of Yaxha and Tikal, taking a tour through a coffee plantation or taking a boat ride on Lake Atitlan, volunteers on this program have an abundance of beauty and rich culture to observe." - Hannah Hill-Parker (IVHQ Latin America Program Manager)

Visit and volunteer in Guatemala with IVHQ

"One of the best parts of the program was the chance to live with a family. I really felt at home. The house and meals were perfect. But the best was the host. We shared life experiences, guided "tours" to the market, tips for traveling around Guatemala! Also getting to know the other volunteers and their life experiences - how we came from such different places and backgrounds and came to meet in Antígua - Guatemala." - Rita Durate (Volunteer in Guatemala)

Kenyaaaaas!

"Volunteering in Kenya, age 26, was one of the best decisions I've made. With little money and plenty of time, the IVHQ program provided clean and comfortable accomodation, the opportunity to contribute to a Massai community school, and the chance to discover amazing wildlife. No trip to Kenya is complete without jumping on an organized tour through the Massai Mara and getting up close and personal with African wildlife - don't bother booking in advance, as you'll have the chance to join other volunteers also wanting to do the same!) ! - Jordan McFadyen (IVHQ Community Manager and Former IVHQer)

Volunteer and visit IVHQ's programs in Kenya

"I was VERY happy with orientation and especially the local team in Kenya. Any time that I needed help with transportation or any other questions, the team was right there to help. Orientation was great and everyone was so nice and helpful. I do feel like I have grown as a person as a result of volunteering through IVHQ. I have learned to be grateful for what I have, but also to accept that there are other ways of life. I have learned that lending a hand can be good, but not to try and change the way people live. I realized how much I was actually the one learning from them." - Acacia Orf, 25 (Volunteer in Kenya)

India inspo

"If "too busy" comes to mind when you think of India, you obviously haven't been to Dharamsala! If you can imagine yourself volunteering with a backdrop of picturesque snow-clad mountains or visiting Indian tea gardens and the smell of fresh pine scented air, you have unknowingly pictured yourself in Dharamsala. To add to the tranquility of Dharamsala, the area is well known for being the home of the Dalai Lama. You will volunteer just outside this famous area in a village called Bir which is almost entirely made up of the peaceful Tibetans. Bir is situated in the highlands of Dharamsala and locals and visitors can undertake spiritual studies and meditation - a perfect combination for those who need a break from their hectic studies or work. At the foothills of the Himalayas, the cool and clean mountain air makes you feel as though you have left the hustle and bustle behind, even if just for a short time. Add to this the fact that you will be making a valuable contribution to the local community by volunteering with IVHQ, you will certainly have great memories of your time in Dharamsala. Volunteering solo or with friends makes no difference as the ambiance of Dharamsala will never let you feel alone." - Lynn Blair (IVHQ Asia Program Manager)

Dharamsala, India as a volunteer in your 20's with IVHQ

"This volunteering work from IVHQ allowed me to experience a reality that was unknown to me. It was wonderful to interact with the lifestyle of young monks in a monastery. I developed the way that I see the world without limits or barriers of different cultures and lifestyles." - Ines Pereira, 21 (Volunteer in India - Dharamsala)

Mexico, man!

"As the capital of the Yucatan peninsula and the cultural crossroads of the region, Merida is not only the starting point of a series of adventure and journeys into Yucatan and its archaeological treasures, but a thriving tourist town with plenty of cheap eats, bustling markets, music, dance, peaceful streets and parks. Meridians are proud of their city and its beautiful architecture, inspiring cuisine and it's respect for tradition. Based in Merida, IVHQ's Mexico program draws volunteers from all around the world who are looking for longer travel and tour opportunities in the Yucatan area, whether it's a swim in a cenote, a day spent in awe of the Mayan ruins, or time spent biking past the street eats, Merida is a bucket list of activities in itself." - Hannah Hill-Parker (IVHQ Latin America Program Manager)

Visit and volunteer in Mexico in your 20s with IVHQ

"Teaching English as avolunteer here in Mexico has been one of the most fun and yet most challenging experiences of my life; it has been humbling, inspiring, eye-opening, and sometimes frightening to be so far away from my comfort zone. The moment I first walked into the school I was greeted with the beautiful smiling faces of children eager to receive our presence, and the next four weeks were filled with love and cuddles and reassurance that our work is making an impact. It has been amazing to see how much the children have developed their English-speaking abilities and I believe that we have given them a valuable key to unlocking many doors of opportunity for themselves in their lifetimes." - Jullian Ludwig, 20 (Volunteer in Mexico)

Victoria Falls, literally

"If you are looking for an adrenalin rush, see one of the Natural Wonders of the World or relax poolside with a good book, then Victoria Falls is the place for you!  Volunteers on the Victoria Falls program have the once in a lifetime opportunity to live and work on a private "Big 5" game reserve. Spend your week days working on the reserve, including taking part on game drives and helping with the protection of the endangered rhino. There is also not shortage of weekend activities, including bungee jumping, rafting, canoeing, zip lining or crossing over into nearby Botswana or Zambia.  If adrenalin sports are not for you, you can take a relaxing cruise on the Zambezi, souvenir shopping at local markets, checking out Victoria Falls or just relaxing beside the pool with a good book. Either way this is an experience not to be missed!" - Claire Chambers (IVHQ Africa Program Manager)

Visit and volunteer in Victoria Falls with IVHQ

"I really learnt so much from my two weeks. Getting so close to the rhinos was an amazing experience and the team was great and really enjoyed informing us about the different wildlife on the reserve. I now want to learn more about the wildlife and environment in my own area." - Matthew Taylor-Burns, 19 (Volunteer in Victoria Falls)

Colombia 100%

"Whether you love the beach, food or architecture, Cartagena has your name on it! Colorful Cartagena is surrounded by white sand and turquoise water beaches that are perfect for cooling off at after a day of volunteering. Take a walking tour down the streets of brightly painted buildings lined with fragrant tropical flowers for some insight into the history of the ancient city. Stop for lunch at one of the many street food carts to fill up on arepas and fresh fruit and finish the day off with a night of salsa dancing. Volunteering with IVHQ in Cartagena allows all volunteers to experience a vibrant city of colors and culture while helping the local community by participating in Childcare, Teaching Sports and Community projects. Cartagena is perfect for our volunteers who enjoy relaxed, coastal environment with a warmer climate." - Clover Stiles (IVHQ Latin America Program Manager)

Visit and volunteer in Cartagena, Colombia with IVHQ

"Volunteering in Cartagena was an eye opening experience that left me with a whole new perspective on life and the world. Teaching English to pregnant teens and teen mothers was especially life changing. Building relationships with and teaching these young women was empowering for me and them. There are many opportunities in Cartagena for volunteering. It is a beautiful city with much to enjoy but also has a lot of areas where help is needed. This combination creates an awesome place to spend time and visit but also volunteer." - Leslie Polster (Volunteer in Colombia - Cartagena)

Vietnam gets my vote

"Despite its rise in popularity in the last few years, Vietnam is still one of the cheapest destinations to travel and is a perfect place to consider while in your 20s. If you like adventure and the outdoors, head to our Hanoi program, as you'll be located close to Ha Long Bay where you can  book a kayak trip with your new-found friends through this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are more into the hustle and bustle and cultural displays that large cities have to offer, then our Ho Chi Minh program is made for you. Here you will be able to lose yourself in the streets and enjoy people-watching while sitting at one of the thousands street food stalls throughout the city. If it is your first time outside of your home country, you will find Vietnam is a welcoming country for travelers and will only leave you wanting to explore more and more again. Our local staff members are very knowledgeable and will be more than happy to provide some insider tips for you to make the most of your upcoming weekend adventures." - Chloe Le Grand (IVHQ Asia Program Manager)

Visit and volunteer in Halong Bay in Vietnam with IVHQ

"The last 3 weeks have been inspirational, mind-opening, and a whole lot of fun. The coordinators were fantastic, the organization was great and the volunteers were incredible. I have learnt more in the past 3 weeks than I have in the past year. Different cultures, people and life was amazing in Vietnam. Thanks for all the memories!" - Anthony Pham (Volunteer in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh)

New Zealand, sweet as

This list seriously wouldn't be complete without New Zealand, and the thousands of 20-somethings that visit here every year would agree. The diverse natural landscape, mild climate and one-of-a-kind Kiwi hospitality make this destination one of the world's finest. Outdoor junkies will be in their element - with hiking, surfing, skiing, mountain biking and bungy jumping, New Zealand ticks all the right boxes. Culture vultures have countless museums, historic sites and cultural displays to add to the to-do lists, not to mention the tourist hub of Hobbiton. Don't pass up the chance to catch a local rugby match, park up with some fish and chips on the beach, experience the award-winning wine regions, or soak up the Maori culture in Rotorua - kiwi as! Be it by flight, train, camper van or the trusty bus, exploring New Zealand's North and South Islands is a no brainer for first time-travelers - no language barriers, no extreme temperatures, no stress. For those who want to get fully accustomed to the awesomeness, it's easy to get a 1-year working holiday visa in New Zealand for many nationalities when you're under 30. And who knows, you might even be able to volunteer here with IVHQ soon... - Ellen Varoy (IVHQ Head of Communications)

Visit New Zealand in your 20s with IVHQ

With volunteer programs across 30+ destinations, the choice of where to volunteer can be a little tricky. Consider taking our quiz designed to tell you which volunteer abroad program you're most suited to in 2016!

Apply now to volunteer abroad

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