Age is a strange thing. Many of us reckon that we’re still exactly the same people inside as we get older. I don’t think that’s true. Our experiences, both good and bad, make us into a different version of ourselves. There’s a lot of received wisdom out there that we should travel when we’re young. I certainly did. But is travel wasted on the young?
Now there are a more visible group of people who hit the road once their domestic and professional responsibilities lessened – children, house, career. There’s a thriving group of older travelers out there. I say that we should continue to travel no matter what our age. And here’s why.
Travel While You Can
This takes on a new meaning with the passage of years. In my teens and twenties, it meant traveling before I was tied down by career progression, mortgages and family. Now it means seeing the world while I’m still well enough to enjoy the experiences it brings.
For some people, responsibilities at an early age meant that travel couldn’t happen then. Some had their children early. Others were carers for family members. Those experiences will have shaped them the way travel at a later stage may shape them further. It’s not all over because you didn’t do it while you were young.
I was lucky enough to be with my mum on her first flight. It happened to be accompanied by hydraulic problems, leading to a guard of fire service personnel and the airstairs in use at Boston Logan. She eyed the double ranks of uniformed personnel and told me later that she thought it must have been normal, as no one seemed panicked. She’d been a carer all her life: her father, her brother, my stepfather. Fifteen years after that memorable Boston touchdown, she’d worked in Madrid, Sacramento, and was on her way to Australia to live the expat life. Never say never. Just grab the chances with both hands.
Travel’s Good At Any Age. For Different Reasons.
Travel While You’re Young
I checked out some articles inspiring people to travel while young. You’ll be in better physical condition, they explain, and you won’t mind roughing it, backpacking being for the younger generation. You’ve got fewer responsibilities and you’ll learn how to manage your money. Your life will be enriched, and you’ll meet new people. You’ll be more appreciative of what you have. Travel teaches you to be adventurous, makes you compassionate, gives you the power of empathy and allows you to experience different cultures. It alters your relationships with yourself, others and the world at large.
Travel While You’re Old
I have news for you. All of those things are possible later in life.
Your physical condition is different. There are pros and cons attached. Age can lead to better treatment of the one body you have, and a vow to care for it by nourishing it well, boosting its endorphins through exercise and appreciating more all the work it does for you. Roughing it is still possible.
All those things that you’re meant to learn and appreciate in your twenties? That still applies in your fifties and beyond. There’s a theory of learning that includes a term known as being consciously incompetent. We know we still have plenty to learn. And one of the joys of traveling later in life is that you appreciate how much there still is to discover and understand. It renews you over and over again.
Why Travel Is Wasted On The Young
Life Experiences Can Make Travel Poignant
Sadness is by no means confined to later life. But when you’ve faced some of life’s challenges over many decades, the sweet experiences are sweeter. You become more conscious of your own fragility and your own mortality. You realise that all things pass, and you come to appreciate the present more.
You Try To Live In The Moment
I find that I experience things more now. I’m more present in the moment. My senses are far more open to taking things in. I can let the background noise of my everyday life go, and appreciate what is happening now. You might have learned that earlier than I did.
You Take More Pleasure In What You Can Do
I appreciate more what my body is doing for me. The one time in my life I took a parachute jump, I was way too busy being scared and trying not to show it. I didn’t accept what an incredible thing my body was doing way higher up in the air than it will ever manage again without some form of conveyance. Now when I hike somewhere or go wild swimming, I’m conscious of the sensations and the skills involved.
You Leave Your Comfort Zone Behind
Travel makes you bid farewell to your comfort zone. Of course, you can travel in a cocoon-like space, blissfully unreceptive to what is going on around you. But what a waste! I like to go to places and have experiences that challenge the way I see the world and myself. I want it to make me a better person. Do I want snuggly slippers and my sofa? Oooh yes! But I also want to see so much of this beautiful planet, and to appreciate it while I can.
You Appreciate Your Resourcefulness
Lost in Brussels without wifi? Retrace your steps and try again. Broken your arm before a key event? Take a backpack, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Things that would have frazzled me earlier now don’t. Life’s for cracking on with things.
Is Travel Wasted On The Young?
Of course not. My tongue was firmly in my cheek. But it’s not wasted on the old either. Most of us still have room for plenty more miles on the clock. The bodywork’s not what it used to be. The engine runs rough on a cold morning. But we vintage machines can still purr our way along the road as sweetly as the sleek models new from the production line.
I wrote everything I learned in 50 years on the road. What has travel taught you so far? What do you hope it’s got left to share?
22 thoughts on “Why Travel Is Wasted On The Young”
This is a such a powerful post Bernie. I do believe that we must travel when we can, as far as we can for as long as we can, although this isn’t age determined. We did little travel when we were young because of lack of opportunity, fear, courage, social limitations and career. Now in our fifties we see our age as an enhancer of our experiences as we have a solid base behind us and freedom to do what and when we choose. Travel is for us all; from every walk of life and for us aging beauties there is so much that travel can and does teach us. Thank you for such an amazing post. Kx
Thank you – I really appreciate that. This piece wrote itself with very little encouragement from me; I think it was something that was determined to be find a way out. Your comment about age as an “enhancer of our experiences” is wonderful, and I absolutely agree. It’s as though someone turned up the colour setting on the world, and that’s a magnificent thing to experience.
Love your post! My opinion: travel when you can, if you can and want to. But you’re right, young or old, each age or time in your life will give you a different experience, even if you return to the same place and it hasn’t changed. It is the individual that changes through life experiences.
Thank you. I love what you say about returning to a place being a different experience. We’ve got a special place to which we always return. Each time she shares more of her secrets…and perhaps she shows us some of our own too.
This is such a lovely and inspiring write-up, Bernie. I wish I could make my parents understand that there’s no age for travel.
Thank you so much. I hope that your parents can find their comfortable travel space.
This is a fantastic post! I travelled when I was young and am now doing it all again and it is a totally different experience. Much slower and more thoughtful (although that may just be my post parenting exhaustion!!)
Thank you. I can’t speak to the post-parenting exhaustion, but I imagine it’s wonderful to see this brilliant world through both your eyes and theirs.
Totally agree. I guess is two different kind of experience to travel when you are young or old. As long as its whats makes you happy, there shouldnt be anything much to worry more.
It’s absolutely a pleasure to be able to enjoy all those different experiences, isn’t it? I think it was when I spotted that travel made me happier than things, my life got better overall.
I’m a great believer that the best time to travel is whenever you can truly appreciate it! Full time travel for me has its drawbacks in that you’re forever comparing it to something bigger, better and more wondrous. Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself to appreciate it. Great article Bernie, beautifully written as always.
Thank you. Your full time travel is an inspiration. I’m wondering if those comparisons are the brain sifting gently though its memories to make sense of all that wide world you’ve been experiencing.
Loved this article, especially the line about life experiences making sweet things sweeter. So true. I really started traveling a ton in my late 30’s. Now in early 40’s I am only traveling more and more and I hate that my age group is completely ignored by the travel industry! Travel is not for just the old or young but for all of us!
I think Irma Kurtz articulated it beautifully in The Great American Bus Ride when she described entering “age of invisibility”. Travel is most certainly ageless.
I thoroughly enjoyed this post Bernie! You’ve summed it up perfectly. I think the reason why I’m always loathe to come home after a trip is because I like the person I am when I’m travelling. I’m more adventurous, open to new things, sociable and I absorb so much. I’m like a sponge. Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve shared on social media. #wbps
Thank you. I love how you’ve explained something I hadn’t managed to articulate to myself. Travel really does bring out the best in us.
Such a great post, I agree with you wholeheartedly. On another note, it always astounds me when I meet people who don’t want to travel, but have opinions on countries from what they see in the media. I feel I’ve learnt so much about other cultures and the world we live in from travel.
I love this. As a full time retired traveler I need to explain myself to people back home often. But occasionally i find myself complaining about young travelers who don’t absorb and appreciate what they have. It’s a mix of good and bad for all ages, and I say just do it any time, anyway you can.
I couldn’t agree more. Travel when you can – solo, with kids of all ages, 1-1, with friends, in old age. There are great options for travel at any age and any season of life.
There are always so many good reasons to enjoy travel. Glad it’s giving you joy too.
I agree that travel experiences are good at any age. I have been working from a young age and haven’t had to much time for traveling, but I am planning to take a lot of trips in the following years.
That sounds great to me! Where have you decided you’d like to visit? The world is waiting to be explored.