I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people around my age tell me that they’d like to travel later, when they are “more established,” or “have more money,” or just “are older.” For every person I’ve heard such excuses from there are at least two
older adults who’ve told me they wish they’d traveled at my age. Here are several perfectly logical reasons why now is the perfect time to go wandering:
1. It’s cheaper– many people figure that later on in life, they will have more money, so they should hold off on travel until then. I think this is actually counter-intuitive.
First off, this is not necessarily true. Troubling as it is, it is impossible to know what your financial situation will be like in 20 or 30 years. If the current recession has taught us anything it’s that your money situation can change in an instant. What a shame to delay your dreams only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control.
Secondly, although you may have more money to spend in the future, the cost of traveling goes up the older you get. It’s unlikely that at 45 you will be willing to bunker down in a youth hostel, or eat cheap street food for every meal. Many of the volunteer programs, cheaper youth tours and couch-surfing opportunities will not be available to you. Middle aged you also won’t be able to take advantage of the youth train passes, discount cards and other price cuts that you are now privileged enough to qualify for.
2. It’s more fun- Take this as you will, but chances are pretty good that you are as young, pretty and energetic now as you probably ever will be. This means that you have a wealth of opportunities and possibilities that older travelers probably don’t. You can travel longer, rougher and cheaper because you don’t need to worry about your heart problem, or the kids being entertained or many of those other grown up worries. You can go caving in New Zealand or surfing in Nicaragua without fear. You can stay up all night partying on the beach in Thailand and not hate yourself in the morning.
3. It’s easier- it’s a fact that the longer you live, the more responsibilities you acquire. While houses, spouses and careers are all things most people want, they do make it harder to just drop everything and go. Not to mention the obligations that come with having kids. Or aging parents. While you’re life may take some rearranging right now to get out in the world, chances are it’s only going to get harder with time.
4. It will shape your future- for me, and many others, the major joy of traveling is not that the famous landmarks and pretty beaches you get to see. It’s that the places you visit, the people you meet and the adventures you have change you. They shape you into a better-developed, more interesting person. You will carry theses memories your entire life- so have the experience when you are young and you will get the most value for all your hard work.
Now some of this is just a matter of preference. And I would never want to discourage someone older from taking the time to go travel (better late than never after all). However, if you have the desire to get out there, and you are of an age where you have all of these opportunities and advantages at your finger tips, why wouldn’t you want to make use of all that? As Mark Twain (a veracious traveler himself) once famously said:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”