This article is part of a series called ‘Don’t Believe The Narrative’ – we’re rewriting the script for the over thirties; turning the spotlight on those who CHOOSE a different path; celebrating the adventurers and won’t settle-downers. Because this life stage doesn’t have to be all about babies, weddings and work promotions, just because the script says it should. You write your script, you choose your best moments – from epic travel tales to dinners with travel BFFs. Share them with us on Instagram using #DontBelieveTheNarrative.

We’re all familiar with the story.

Birth, school, university, dream job, house, marriage, babies. These are the things that constitute success in life – or so we’re told.

But what if the old formula doesn’t work?

Generally speaking, those of us who don’t conform to the narrative are led to believe that there’s something wrong with us. But here’s a thought – what if, rather than something being wrong with us, it’s actually this whole belief system that’s flawed? What if the single life is something that we choose, not simply something we accept?

Read more: No more expectations: “Being single at 32 is one big adventure”

With more people than ever opting to live solo, there’s never been a better time to rewrite the story. Life in your 30s and 40s is about reclaiming the big moments – experiencing sunrise from the peak of a live volcano, ascending epic mountains, making lifelong friends.

The life stories we encounter through solo travel have the power to rewrite the societal narrative in the long-run. These are the life lessons that inspire us with wanderlust, motivating us to explore the road less travelled.

This November, we’re showcasing the best moments out there for the over 30s – stories from those who have broken the mould and never looked back. Below are seven incredible travel moments from Flashpackers inspired by wanderlust, along with the life lessons it taught them about being in your 30s or 40s. Then, maybe – with this as inspiration – you can go rewrite the narrative to create your own too.

A bite out of the Big Apple

Name: Laurel

Where? The Big Apple, USA

“One of my most memorable moments was when, after years of dreaming about it, I finally booked myself a solo trip to New York for my 30th birthday. Those days I spent alone in the city that never sleeps were magical.”

Life in your 30s/40s:

“My 30s are about seeking adventures. I’ve been happily single for over seven years – I don’t feel any urge to meet someone and settle down. I’d rather see what else is out there, explore the world, experience incredible things and meet amazing people.

Would having a baby and buying a house actually make me happy? Everyone has different benchmarks for achievements in their life. Contrary to popular belief, not every woman in her mid-thirties is desperate to find a husband and have a baby. Some of us just want to spend time finding ourselves first.”

A journey of discovery

Name: Robyn

Where? The Pyramids, Egypt

“My big life-changing moment came when I was 35. I’d been offered redundancy from my job at the company I’d worked at for 14 years, but I knew there was never going to be a better time to leave. It opened up a whole world of opportunities.”

Life in your 30s/40s:

“My 30s have been a journey of discovery. I’ve finally learned that I don’t have to live up to society’s expectations of what my life should be. I am who I am and I’m happy.

If settling down and having babies is what you want, that’s fine – everyone should do what they feel is right for them. But if there are things you really want to do that don’t fit within that narrative, then think about whether it’s what you want or what’s being expected of you.”

Read more: What going to a festival alone taught me about meeting new people

Inspired by the beauty of Bali

Name: Anna

Where? Mt. Batur, Bali

“One of my most memorable moments in my 30s was traveling by myself for the first time to meet eight strangers in Bali. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of being on top of a volcano at sunrise, or meditating on the beach at sunset surrounded by people who provide you with support, transparency and compassion while you rediscover what makes you happy.

Life in your 30s/40s:

“My 30s means discovering who I am and what I love. It’s a decade of trials and travel. It’s about meeting people who will shape my soul and show me new ways to love myself.

I think culture plays a big role in assuming what should make us happy. The problem is the ‘should’. Should implies we have less of a choice in what will make us happy. Marriage and children could make us happy, but traveling, adventure and self-love could also make us happy.”

The road less travelled

Name: Lena

Where? Spain, Sri Lanka

“Some of my most memorable moments in my 30s definitely came with travelling around Spain and Sri Lanka. Meeting fellow solo travellers in a small group and spending time with them in close proximity certainly taught me new things about myself – plus it gave me that confidence boost I thought I didn’t need!

Life in your 30s/40s:

“My 40s are about independence, being secure with who I am as an individual and being focused. I hear that some people dread turning forty but for me it was exhilarating – I definitely felt ‘different’ but it’s difficult to articulate what that change was. I certainly feel more secure in my own skin than ever before.

This is the life advice I’d give to those in their 30s and 40s: there are no rules and timelines; work on your own clock; do what you want to do and what feels right for you. Everything else will fall into place as and when it is supposed to.”

An inner journey

Name: Rossana

Where? Greece

“I would say that the most memorable moment of my 30s was having the opportunity to live in another country. In Greece, I discovered an amazing culture, travelled every weekend and established solid, new relationships that I would have never imagined. I met new people, ate different food, figured out new places – basically, experiencing life at its fullest.”

Life in your 30s/40s:

“My 30s are about learning to accept myself, gaining awareness and going on an inner journey. Without this space to explore myself, I would probably be living a life pre-defined by society, and I would be someone that I don’t identify with at all.”

“We can’t truly be ourselves while reaching certain milestones, such as marriage and motherhood, if we don’t even know who we are first. So I would ask: whatever comes next, do you know yourself enough to take on new challenges?”

Read more: Self-discovery is the big reason we actually love to travel

Conquering life’s mountains

Name: Franziska

Where? Southern Italy

“My most memorable moment was my first solo trip to the south of Italy for 10 days. I realised that, over the years, I’ve been listening to many people, except myself. So I spoiled myself to a 10-day date, and I’ve continued to set date days with myself ever since. The most important relationship is with yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t give love to anyone else.”

Life in your 30s/40s:

“I climbed mountains I never dreamed of conquering; I went and got a job that I would have shied away from in my 20s. I fell in love with myself, my friends, my family and I trust my life.”

“If society’s expectations are unrealistic, let them drop. The most important thing in life is to love yourself. Don’t let milestones wall you in – build bridges to better places.”

Stories of life, love and loss

Name: Helen

Where? China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand

“I decided to become an air hostess and travelled the world. I walked the Great Wall of China, scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef and walked on glaciers in New Zealand. I could have settled down, got married and had babies. However, I wasn’t truly happy so I decided to venture out and find true happiness through travel. It’s important to follow your dreams and keep exploring this beautiful world we live in, whether it be solo or with a partner.”

Life in your 30s/40s:

“My 30s have made me look at life in a completely different way and be more confident in myself, in my choices and my direction. Life really is so short and we have to embrace it. Meeting people on different journeys and hearing their stories of life, love, and loss have been a real eye-opener.”

“My life advice to those in their 30s and 40s is: do what feels right for you and don’t give to peer pressure; don’t feel like you have to follow what’s expected socially from family or friends.  The experiences and memories formed through travel are things no-one can ever take away from you.”

Images: Flashpackers’ own