There are countless blog posts extolling the virtues of traveling when you’re young. Beginning to explore a world outside your own at a young age is a wonderful opportunity, but not one that every young person can take. But now, in your later years, is it too late to catch up to the many passport stamps a millennial may have already racked up? Of course, it’s never too late to board the next train, plane or automobile, and in many regards traveling when you are older has more advantages than when you’re first starting out in life. Consider the following:
You are more financially secure. Do you feel a pang of loss because you never backpacked through Europe? Trust me, staying at youth hostels and eating street food ad nauseum isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, the thrill of living on the edge is appealing for many young people, but when you’re older and more financially secure, a wonderfully comfortable bed and a few extra glasses of wine are within reach. And because of being more settled, you enjoy broader options for destinations. While it’s still prudent to be thrifty, scouring for the least expensive plane route and cheapest lodging—and expending the time to research those—doesn’t need to be a priority at this stage of your life.
You have a deeper understanding of places. Embarking on a trip in your 50s is less about the self-discovery most 20-year-olds seek and more about the discovery of others. In your 50s, you are much more informed, and you have accumulated significant life experience. You have a better understanding of a city’s culture and history, so you perceive things at a deeper level. While they say travel is a “living classroom,” you bring your years of professional and personal experience to your travel adventures, making your trips that much richer.
You have kids and grandkids to travel with. When you’re young and unfettered, your travel experiences tend to be filtered primarily through your own eyes. But when you have children in tow, it really broadens your outlook, as children often view things from a totally different perspective than you. Then there are the truly priceless moments, like when your children (whether still young or adults themselves) or your grandkids smile as they stand in front of their favorite site or try something totally new and unfamiliar and find they like it.
You can reignite relationships. Getting away with your significant other, sibling, best friend, or other family members is a wonderful way to recharge your relationships. Maybe it’s been years since you and your sister really spent time with each other. When you are young, you have fewer responsibilities and more freedom to stay connected. But when you are older, a trip with someone you’ve lost connection with could be just the remedy you both need to get your relationship on track again.
You have a chance to improve your health. Hopefully, in your 20s you haven’t encountered too many health problems. By your 50s, a few health concerns may have arisen, and travel may be the best medicine. One of the greatest benefits of traveling is the amount of moving you’ll do. You are constantly on the go. There are sights to see and things to do! Walking around can reduce stress levels, helps to shed extra pounds and maintain healthy weight, reduces cholesterol levels, and generally produces a feeling of well-being.
You can use travel to start a new direction in life. So you’ve been the good employee, the dutiful partner, the caring parent—and you’ll still be all those things the rest of your life—but now you may be looking to switch gears and try something new. Traveling can boost your creativity by pulling you out of your comfort zone. You put yourself into new situations that you usually wouldn’t experience. You see how other people handle life and stress, and you see what they do to get through their day. Appreciation of a new culture gives you a new method of handling your own issues. By being in new and perhaps unfamiliar surroundings, your confidence can be boosted. You discover that you can deal with anything life throws at you, so you become willing to take on more risks. All of these travel experiences can translate into the ability to implement key midlife changes.
You will escape isolation. Perhaps the past few years have brought changes—more stress at your job or caring for an elderly relative—that have left you feeling isolated from your once-active social life. While traveling, there’s a good chance that you’ll form fleeting relationships with strangers, and those interactions can dispel stress and loneliness. Because traveling alone may be a scary proposition for some people, many choose to travel with a companion. If you travel with at least one other person, you can converse with each other; the day-to-day concerns of routine life are replaced by adventure, and there is a chance for significant interaction with your travel partner. At the very least you’ll have to collaborate to figure out transportation schedules, restaurant choices, and the like.
You have a more flexible schedule: Perhaps you are nearing the end of your formal working days. Maybe you’ve built up a cache of vacation days, and now you need to cash them in. Unlike a younger person who may not have the luxury of taking time off, you may have more freedom. This can translate into great value for your trip—you can travel off-peak, avoiding crowds and saving money. No longer are you forced to choose the same vacation window everyone selects. And remember, there are discounts to be had for the older population; just ask and you could save on transportation, accommodations, and experiences.