People ask Kris and me all the time about how we’re able to travel full time (at our age.)
Usually the people who ask us are living some variation of what used to be called “The American Dream”– a good job, a home in the suburbs, two cars, and a membership in the country club. That’s a life not too unlike the one we used to have. Sometimes the question even takes on a belligerent tone–ala a recent accusation from someone who said we were wasting our lives on trivialities, like travel, instead of accomplishing things.
Whether you consider getting to know the world and many of the people in it “accomplishing things” or not, we figure that we accomplished plenty when we were young. We had a successful business and we raised two exceptional children.
We're not done accomplishing things. They're just different things. I impulsively went back to the University of Minnesota to study Latin when I was 49, so I guess I have a rather wide view of what accomplishment means. (There's probably nothing so useless in this world as advanced studies in Latin, but at least I can read the inscriptions in the European churches.)
But my father once said to me–only somewhat facetiously–that the happiest day of his life was the day the last kid left and the dog died. That, maybe unconsciously, is what we’d been waiting for. Kids and dogs, while wonderful, are legitimate anchors. Some families travel full time with their children, but that wasn’t for us. We also had a business. It’s a lot harder to uproot a business than kids.
But by 2010, we’d closed our last business, our kids had grown, graduated from college and left home, and one of them had taken the dog (at our insistence.)
So, we still had the large home, a house full of furniture, and three cars. The country club had been abandoned long ago when I realized I didn’t really like golf enough to spend all that time on it.
The question is not, “How are you able to travel full time?”
The question is, “Would you rather schlep a small bag or two to 70 or so countries in the next few years, or be comfortably ensconced in your living room with all your stuff watching the world go by on television?”
If you answered that question like we did, then the next logical query is: “Do you know a good real estate agent?” We did. Within three months, the house and everything in it was gone.
We’ve learned that traveling at our age–baby boomer travel, senior travel, whatever you want to call it–has its advantages. And accomplishments.
Here are some of my thoughts on the particular advantages of “senior” travel:
1. You can go where you want and skip what you want. If you don’t want to go to the famous museum, you don’t have to. If you’d rather eat a hamburger instead of the local cuisine, go ahead. It’s your life; live it like you want.
2. You know that a good museum or gallery is more interesting than a beach. You can go to the beach later in the day. Sunsets are nice there. Probably nicer than the gallery.
3. You don’t have to stay in the cheapest place. Hey, you can stay in a hostel if you want, but wasn’t the point of working for all those years getting to take some time and enjoy yourself? Get a soft bed and take it easy. Some days, instead of forcing yourself to see one more cathedral, stay in the room and read a book. Order room service. And the main advantage of a hotel over a hostel? You don’t have to go down the hall to the bathroom.
4. Occasionally, you can travel with your adult children (and now, even grandchildren) to places like Spain or Vietnam. Unlike the vacations when they were young, you can send the kid to the store when you need more beer. Or, even better, you can go to a bar with them.
5. You can do things you’ve never done before because now you have the time. Since I’ve been older, I’ve trekked 120 kilometers in the Guatemalan jungle, walked 500 miles all the way across Spain, walked most of the way across northern Sweden, and climbed a mountain in Tasmania that I had no business doing. I never did any of that stuff when I was a twenty-something. As a t-shirt I own says, “You don't stop hiking when you get old. You get old when you stop hiking.”
6. Two words: senior discounts. In some countries, at least. One of the very best of these, btw, is the senior discount to the United States National Parks. A lifetime pass used to be only $10. It's gone up to $80 now, but still the best deal in senior travel.
7. The taxi driver (and you often take taxis) will lift your bags out of the trunk for you without being asked.
8. Your iTunes playlist is much better than that of the young people around you.
9. If you’re a woman, you find new found freedom at not being ogled wherever you go.
10. You don’t have dementia, and yet you still get to meet new friends every day.
11. You can take a nap if you want to. And you often do want to.
12. You don’t spend ridiculous amounts of your travel budget on alcohol. You know it’s worth the extra two dollars to get the top shelf brandy after dinner. At your age, it only takes two drinks to get a buzz on. BTW, stay away from the marijuana in Amsterdam. It's not like what we had in college.
13. You know that traveling in foreign countries is really not that hard. Language barrier? No problem. You’re used to getting what you want by demonstrating. If you don’t get exactly what you want, you’re ok with it because you know it’s not really that big of a deal.
14. When you come across a “famous” person’s house or grave in someplace like Sweden or France, there’s a good chance you know who he or she was because you had a liberal arts education, and you’ve also had time to read a lot of books since college.
15. Surfing even a two-foot wave is impressive. Hey, you got up, didn’t you?
16. You’re absolutely sure that when it comes to photographs, it’s the photographer, not the equipment that matters. You also know that you don’t have to take a photo of yourself in front of every tourist attraction in the world and post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
17. You are smart enough to wear a hat and sunscreen and to have quit smoking a long time ago.
18. You are an expert at packing light, because you’ve had things all your life and now you realize that most of them are utterly unimportant. Now, instead of collecting knick-knacks, you appreciate your inventory of top quality bags, packs and totes.
19. You know that no matter how old you feel, you’re still younger than Mick Jagger. And Keith Richards. Although Keith will probably outlive you.
20. When young people find out you are a full time traveler at your age, they think you’re cool. And you are.
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27 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Traveling Past 60”
I love this! I took early retirement from teaching a few years ago and my husband has 2 years and 10 months (but who’s counting?) left to go. Our three kids have moved all over the world – Korea, Australia, NYC, Colorado – and we’ve been able to visit them using vacation days but I look forward to the time we can take longer road trips or international trips. I don’t know if we’ll ever be full-time travelers but I look forward to traveling more. I, too, don’t care if I take photos in front of monuments or landmarks to post on Facebook – it’s not about impressing but it’s about learning new things and staying curious. (Right now we’re on a 10 day trip in the Carolinas and decided to stay in the hotel room and read). And I’m pretty sure that Keith Richards will outlive us all!
Good for you. And, I can’t really imagine a world without Keith.
I just love this! We live in the UK and like you we retired early in our fifties and have travelled extensively – though not full time. Our grandchildren came thick and fast and all live within 2 miles of us so childcare is a constant and joyous thing. Now, as I reach my 60th birthday the lure of longer ‘4 months at a time’ trips grow more tempting as we start to plan our escape. I hope you have many more years of travel ahead – one day we may bump into you up a mountain somewhere! Thanks for taking the time to write and inspire so many people
Childcare IS a constant and joyous thing. Our two grandchildren are only 10 miles away. We don’t see them enough, though. We have to talk our kids into going on date nights so we can babysit more often. We did go to Hanoi with them a month ago though, and that was fun…and different. https://travelpast50.com/visiting-hanoi-with-kids/
How about cruising past 70? Agree with everything except that country club life. You can have both, six months each! Also, #16. Posting all those selfies on Facebook is one of the perks!
Carol, we’ll be reaching the cruising past 70 point in the not-too-distant future. And I did the golf thing for years, but in the end decided it wasn’t worth five hours just to get all frustrated. As for selfies, we usually do them on the plane on the way, then once we get there, we figure people are more interested in what we’re looking at, not in us. Maybe I’m wrong.
Don’t forget the “travel past 70” and “travel past 80” folks out there who still are traveling independently. I know “past 50” includes them but here’s a special shout-out to them.
Absolutely. I’m planning on keeping this up into our 70s. As for 80s, we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.
I so agree about not having to go to all the famous places, or anywhere apart from the places you actually want to go to. As you get older you don’t have to impress anyone but yourself, and you can travel on your own terms.
So true. Although I do generally believe that a lot of these places are famous for a reason. Especially the cathedrals. I never get tired of them.
Though we are working on it we are not in a position to stop work and travel as often or as widely as we would like. I have recently ticked the “60” box.
Our choice is either share with good friends – great trips to Switzerland and Mozambique, or to go self catering, choosing a spot where a cafe, supermarket / food store and the beach are in close walking distance.
And don’t forget weekend and day trips to wherever just on a whim.
The only serious limit we have established is that adult kids make their own travel arrangements :) – avoids a few conflicts!
Jerry, completely agree with your plan. Make it what you can, when you can. And, adult children always make their own arrangements. Then they can’t blame you for everything.
Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Thanks for reading, Earl.
All true, as long as you maintain good health.
We’ve been lucky in that regard, but I would also argue that staying active has a lot to do with being healthy. We actually hike and bike a lot more now than we did when we were younger.
I travel part time and even I get asked why I want to travel so much and if I am afraid of certain countries. Naturally I use caution when choosing where I travel, but the people who are afraid of foreign lands have not traveled much or at all. People world wide, by and large, are friendly, helpful and kind. Keep traveling. I love my life and I can certainly understand why you love yours!!
So true, Marilyn. Travel is eye opening. More people need to do it, and maybe that would go a long way to helping so many people in this country get over their fear of foreigners. As you say, most people you’ll meet are wonderful.
Thanks for the great post. We totally agree with you. We have found so much freedom & enjoyment through travel. We also sold the big home & lived a nomadic lifestyle for 2 years. We moved have a home base & continue to travel extensively. We prefer to explore the world to exploring what is on TV. Plus, hiking is so good – agree you get old if you don’t hike.
Always glad to hear of another nomad. There’s just something so freeing about not having a home. Everyone should do it at least one time in their life. Voluntarily, of course. Not having a home because you’re destitute would be awful.
I’m amazed at the people who question my frequent travel. How can you understand other cultures if you never leave your own soil? Agree with every point you made. Especially the ogling, geesh, what a relief. And although my hiking experience doesn’t come close to yours, I want that t-shirt!
Alison, that shirt is available in the Yosemite National Park gift shop. At least, that’s where I got mine. Along with my “Speeding Kills Bears” bumper sticker. As for knowing other cultures, I’m genuinely surprised when I run into all-too-many Americans who have no desire to ever leave their own neighborhood. The myth of American exceptionalism is deeply ingrained.
I loved this post. This is a confirmation that travel is not only an eye-opener, but it is also most of the times therapy. An excellent way to invest in healthy ageing. :)
I agree. If I hadn’t been traveling all this time, I’d be a lot older.
Absolutely love your thoughts on travel past 60. I am single, get about a fair amount on my own, am American but living in Dublin for a year, sometimes meet up with my 22-year-old son who is currently living in Basel (great travel companion). I like to stay at a nice place (occasionally even a really nice one, splurge for a night or two, like Santorini in April.) I like to do what I want to do–maybe just stroll the streets of the town I am in to get a feel for the people, make new friends in a coffee shop. I love to people watch, eat good food, not have a schedule. You two are wonderful. Keep living your dreams and thank you for sharing.
As someone who just turned 60, I’m putting my dreams to travel in high gear. My husband and I are cruisers, and this week, we’re taking my adult daughter and her boyfriend on a cruise to Alaska. I can’t wait!
You gave me quite the laugh at # 19. No matter how old we get, it doesn’t hold us back from ziplining, hiking on glaciers, swimming with manta rays, and jumping out of airplanes.
We’re not afraid of anything. At our age, what’s the worst that can happen? Just keep going.