Like Sands Through The Hourglass…

Sunday Stroll
Sunday Stroll, Photo by Randy Martens Photography

…So are the days of our lives.

(Editor’s Note: This article is quite long, but I could not bring myself to divide into two parts. So, grab a cup of coffee or a cocktail – depending on the time of day – and enjoy!)

Okay, I don’t watch daytime soap operas and neither does most of the world. But, the tag line works for this particular topic. (Thank you “Days of our Lives”, ABC and Disney.)

Anyway, back to the discussion. I’m not as young as I used to be and my style, mode of travel and destinations have changed over time. Not a bad thing – just a different thing. But, I wanted to know how other travelers viewed the passing of time in relation to their own journeys. The answers are quite interesting.

Aging can be considered a relative thing. It is most definitely an inevitable one. How has this passage of time affected your style of travel and possibly even your choice of destinations?

Sandy Wieber

historic traveler

My early travels were a misguided attempt to be labeled one of the “cool kids.” To fit in, I did what everyone was doing.

I spent a summer in Europe after I graduated from high school. Back then it was “the thing.” When I got a little more money, I searched for the most popular restaurants in recently published travel guides, and I ordered the dishes that they recommended.

A particularly embarrassing example? After Lady Diana married, I went to London. But I didn’t visit St. Paul’s cathedral, where the ceremony was held, opting for the more recognizable Westminster Abbey instead. After all, who would miss Westminster Abbey?

I aimed for the best-known brand so that I could drop that name when I got home.

Today, I still like to take advice from travel guides. But I also take advice from bus drivers.

Today, I still like to take advice from travel guides. But I also take advice from bus drivers. I stay in houses instead of resorts. I don’t buy a new wardrobe before a trip, and I don’t pick up flashy souvenirs that would look good on my bookshelf.

How have my travel plans changed with age? When I was young, I traveled with the crowd. Today, I travel just for me.

Lara Dunston

Gran Tourismo!

I began my travelling life as a slow traveller when, at the age of ten my parents, upon learning my dad was ill, quit their jobs, sold everything they had, and dragged my sister and I around Australia in a colossal caravan for five years. I’ve attended three universities but that was the best education I ever had. It made me who I am.

The Rock Hostel
The Rock Hostel, Photo by jamesw

Oddly enough, despite having learned from an early age the beauty of moving slowly and the benefits of settling into places for a while, in my 20s (aside from a year in South America doing Masters research where I spent a month in each country) I did the very opposite. I travelled the way most young travellers do, staying in hostels and budget hotels, trying to cover as much territory as I could as quickly as I could in that “if it’s Tuesday it must be Barcelona“-style.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I began to change my thinking from “I might never return here again” to “I can always do that next time” and started to slow down again. From that point on my husband and I devoted our two-month-long summer vacations to just two destinations and (when we weren’t working on travel guidebooks) we began to choose rental apartments over hotels.

Now, of course, we’ve turned that idea into a travel experiment, and this year we’re on a contemporary grand tour, spending two weeks at a time in one place, staying in rentals rather than hotels and really getting beneath the skin of each place, doing courses, meeting locals, and learning things as we go. At the age of 43, I can’t imagine ever travelling any other way. But who knows… maybe one day we’ll buy a caravan?

Chris Guillebeau

Art of Non-Conformity

I also sleep on airport floors a lot less.

I think experience is more important than age. I definitely notice that as I’ve accrued more experience on the road, I make decisions differently. I’m less of a budget traveler and more of a “what do I really want to do or see” traveler. I also sleep on airport floors a lot less.

Erik Gauger

Notes from the Road

My thoughts on aging and travel changed drastically last week, while traveling in California to see the incredible wildflower blooms of the Carrizo Plain. I had developed this pain in my arm – some sort of tennis elbow from sitting at the computer too long. And, I thought, it would do me some good to get out and travel a bit, loosen up. I’ve always thought that, rather than join a gym or buy a flexercize machine, I should stay fit and healthy through my travels. We were built that way in our evolution: humans were designed to stay fit through traveling from savanna to coast as foragers.

During my travels, there was a point where I had to walk six miles out into the Carrizo Plain, three of them would be back in the dark by flashlight. Before committing myself to this minor trek, voices inside me said – maybe it would be easier just to go back to the hotel. After all, my arm still has pain and I have already been pushing myself hard all day. But the traveler’s voice won out, and I enjoyed a spectactular evening solo walking through California’s most stunning blooms.

Everything's Possible
Everything’s Possible, Photo by Randy Martens Photography

At the end of my trip, I met some friends at a disabled convention in Los Angeles. There, I met all sorts of people who, after losing a limb, their health, their youth – they defied odds and learned to do amazing things. I met a woman who had a spinal cord injury which she sustained in the line of duty as a Marine. After that, she began to row, and eventually, she became the first paraplegic to row across the Atlantic. Her rowing accomplishments – around countries and across oceans, is stunning. Her stories of adventure, wildlife and danger on the high seas is captivating. While humbled by the ridiculousness of my tennis elbow, Angela Madsen reminded me that travel is a catalyst that can sustain our youth and health, and that while things like aging and health certainly evolve the way we travel, I expect that Angela will always be there to remind me of something: that our travels are not a luxury of our youth, but a vital part of our health and the way we age.

Jason Baransky

Locationless Living

Just a few months past 22 I am not old by any means. Since I started traveling, at least a quarter each year since I was 19, my traveling style has changed drastically each time because of time, money, and maturity. As a first time traveler with little responsibility, little money, and a set time limit I preferred traveling to new places every few days to see everything. But, four years later working full-time on the internet, I am back to the same foreign country for my fifth time and prefer staying put, working during the daytime, and partying at night on a much larger budget.

Sherry Ott

Ottsworld

I just turned 40 this year and I’ve realized that with age comes confidence and independence – at least it did for me. As I got older I began to do solo travel. When I was younger my travel was more about ”girlfriend vacations’ at the beach, but now I have no problem voyaging out on my own. I also found myself voyaging out to more remote, undeveloped locations! The other big change age brings on for me is a more stable budget to travel with. I’m still a budget traveler who stays in hostels with all ages, however when I get really tired of budget ‘roughing it’, I’m able to luxe it up for a few nights and treat myself.

Dave

The Longest Way Home

Yes, getting older alright. My case might be a little difference as I’ve been traveling for over 5 years with no returns to anywhere. However, with this I have the advantage of experiencing travel and getting older as the same time.

Prague Bus Ride
Prague Bus Ride, Photo by Randy Martens Photography

My choice of destinations remains the same, I don’t think that’s an age thing. I also don’t mind hostel dorms. But, I do mind those that frequent them. Like many, being stuck in a room of 10 drunk, bed swapping, gap year students is not for me.

Growing older while traveling continuously has made me more aware of health issues. Age tells me there are only so many fried dishes I really want to handle.

I am not so keen on super cramped buses either. Though with the right people it’s still fun.

This leads me to my main point on age affecting my travel. I find interesting people harder and harder to come across. Growing older with travel has made it harder to find people I genuinely enjoy being around. A sure case of seen that, heard that, know your story many times over.

Gary Arndt

Everything-Everywhere

I also enjoy yelling at kids to get off of my lawn….

Being older than most backpackers, I avoid party locations and I don’t stay in hostel dorm rooms. If kids want to go and sow their wild oats I have no problem with that, but I also have no desire to join in.

I also enjoy yelling at kids to get off of my lawn….

Michael Schneider

OtherGuy’sDime Blog

As I am having my 65th birthday in about a month, your question
rings quite timely. Fortunately, my wife and I are still healthy and
mobile and able to handle the rigors of long airline flights and difficult, remote destinations.

Because of that we made a conscious decision to travel to places we
may not be able to handle later in life and to postpone more “relaxing”
holidays – cruises, a home in the south of France – until our bodies eventually rebel against the ravages of age.

Since turning 60 my wife and I have lived and worked in Nepal, Mongolia, and Malaysia, none of which would be classified as a leisurely getaway. We have intentionally avoided visiting such places as the Caribbean, Las Vegas,or Florida! I know that someday this will be all we can handle but for now,while we are still healthy, we love to get off the beaten track–our next trip will be to the island nation of Palau!

lisa Shusterman

One World – One Trip

As I’ve gotten older, I find that my choice in destinations is equally as adventurous as when I was younger, but my choice in accommodations at those destinations is not quite as adventurous.

As I’ve gotten older, I find that my choice in destinations is equally as adventurous as when I was younger, but my choice in accommodations at those destinations is not quite as adventurous. When I was younger, almost any place with a roof counted as a place to lay my body for the night, not any longer. I don’t need to have luxury, but I do need some place that is clean and has a bed that won’t leave me the next morning with a body that feels like it’s been hit by a Mack truck.

I also find that at this stage of my life, with more financial resources than when I was younger, I allow myself “splurges” that weren’t even possible when I travelled in the past. I’m still a frugal traveler, but when something special comes along, I no longer have to fight the urge to take part in it – I give in 100%.

Nora Dunn

The Professional Hobo

The most significant way I feel my age on the road is my inability to procure working holiday visas (or rather, my often being surrounded by people who ARE traveling on working holiday visas). A large majority of long-term travelers are able to do so because they’re under the age of 30 and have working rights for up to a year in the countries they visit.

So on the hostel circuit I don’t feel old by any stretch at 33, but I do tend to be on the older side of the age curve. Couple that with my near-allergic reaction to alcohol, and I’m less likely to be out drinking all night, and more likely to be up early in the morning to go for a long hike.

So I choose my destinations accordingly. I’m up for a good party as much as the next person, but I don’t go out of my way to choose boozy places or accommodation with bars attached. Instead I tend to go where intriguing work-trade, house-sitting, or couchsurfing opportunities are. Networking and social media also play a big part in my choice of destination; if I know people somewhere, I’ll be more likely to visit for the cultural exchange.

Bessie & Kyle Crum

On Our Own Path

El Valle Market
El Valle Market, Photo by Gretchen Wilson-Kalav

As we get more traveling experience, we find that it is better for us to spend more time getting to know a few places rather than move around a lot and see every sight in the guidebook. We find that it keeps us happier and healthier than pushing ourselves too much, and we get more from the travel experience. When we’ve tried to do every activity that we can, we end up being exhausted and cranky which leaves us unable to enjoy the sights we are seeing.

So, we now choose locations based on our mood at the time. If we’ve been in a city for a while, a retreat to nature might be in order, or if we’re tired of being bitten by mosquitoes, then we might crave a small town with thriving nights markets and relax a bit.

We’ve decided not to push ourselves to see every possible town or beach along the way to someplace, because if we’re not in the right mood to see them we won’t appreciate them. We’d rather settle into some place we really like, get into a routine with the local culture and really appreciate our time there instead of spreading ourselves too thin and experiencing less of a lot of places. By listening to ourselves and paying attention to our current state of mind, we’ve been able to be happier and healthier travelers.

Cooper Schraudenbach

True Nomads

I write a lot about time travel on my blog – and inevitably there is an evolution in travel style and place as time goes by. Travel is always a good metaphor for the life journey, and in this case of maturing tastes and experience, we see it in action. The more we travel, the more the exotic becomes routine, and destinations need to be stretched to satisfy the craving and desire for new things. Yet after a while, we find ourselves on a remote beach or mountain, wondering what we are doing way out here – sort of lost in space, and we have the opportunity to re-focus the lens.

Travel helps us clear the layers of dust, helps us polish ourselves to reveal our true nature.

Just as with life, the more you are exposed to the more you may desire and experience, but eventually, this too becomes hollow, and we begin to look deeper and inwards, to where the true answers lie. As you travel more, you pack less, carry less baggage. You know what you are looking for, and can more easily separate the wheat from the chaff. As with life, we need to explore far and wide and leave the proverbial nest, in order to realize that what we all seek we already carry with us. Travel helps us clear the layers of dust, helps us polish ourselves to reveal our true nature. I find that travel eventually evolves to be simpler, more giving, as time goes by – just as life. We evolve our goals from immediate satisfaction, to exotic desire, to compassionate service, as we learn what this world is really all about.

Jonathan Shapiro

VAGABONDING AT 60

Given the title of my blog, VAGABONDING AT 60, I certainly felt I wanted to reply. Many of the destinations I travel to are demanding, physically and emotionally. I travel completely independently, and often for an extended time. This is quite different than most of my friends and the young backpackers I meet on the road. While I am still relatively fit, this is the style of travel for me, and I would encourage others in my age bracket to consider it. The road is a great age leveler, and travel like this helps to keep you feeling young. My latest trip put me in Burma, Indonesia and Laos for 11 weeks. While I travel economically, I do not stay in the cheapest hostels or hotels or eat in the cheapest restaurants, and I always avoid noisy, party scenes. I never stay in dorms, and if I need a little extra comfort now and then, I figure I’ve earned it.

Greg Wesson

Greg Wesson’s Esoteric Globe

The Matriarch
The Matriarch, Photo by Randy Martens Photography

This question reminds me of a time I was working in Paris. I was walking home one night, ahead of me was an old lady with a cane. She seemed a nice old lady, until she suddenly lashed out with her cane at the store that was shuttered for the night. A few store fronts later, the old lady lashed out again at the closed store front, cursing loudly. I always thought those steal roll doors and metal bars were to protect against looters, but apparently it’s to protect them from grandma.

It got me thinking what kind of old person I am going to be. I’d like to think that I’ll be the kind of sharp, witty, kind and generous old person who still is very mobile and does crazy things like going out dancing on his 90th birthday. I suppose we all like to think we’ll end like that. In reality, however, that seems unlikely, given that there are a lot more old, crabby people than old happy people. It’s only a matter of time, I suppose, before I am wandering down the street, lashing out with my cane at closed store fronts, complaining about how youth today is feckless and how no one respects their elders.

So, to answer your question, as I have aged, the way I travel hasn’t changed. However I have noticed that young people today who travel are lazy, have no respect for me and are much too loud.

Mara Gorman

The Mother of All Trips

For me getting older has meant more financial resources for travel, but so too has it brought children. And I find these days that it’s not really my own aging that has changed the way I travel, but the fact that my sons are getting older. When my oldest child was between one and two my husband took him on a 13-month trip without really thinking too much about it. Now that he’s in the second grade and also has a school-aged brother, we have to plan our trips around school and sports schedules. We still get away quite a bit, and haven’t ruled out long-term travel altogether, but since I’m not really interested in home-schooling the kids, I know we won’t be going on any jaunts like the one we did with our toddler.

That said, this year we have already been skiing in Vermont, on a beach in the Bahamas, and on a visit to Los Angeles and Phoenix. This summer will bring two weeks in England and three weeks in Vermont, with a few other weekend vacations thrown in. When it comes to travel, one thing hasn’t changed: my desire to say, “yes” to almost every opportunity I can!

Craig Martin

Indie Travel Podcast

My wife Linda and I started a lifestyle of full-time travel in February 2006. In the last four years I’ve gone from being 24 to 28 and the start of a nice head of grey is appearing. Early? Perhaps.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or just more experience when it comes to travel, but I’m a lot more relaxed now…

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or just more experience when it comes to travel, but I’m a lot more relaxed now: I’m relaxed about where we go, where we stay, where we eat and what we do. I’m less reliant on guidebooks and sites, and am more likely to start up a conversation in a bar or transport hub to get information from people who have just been there.

We still stay in hostels quite often — both dorms and private rooms depending on our current circumstances — but we’re using Couchsurfing more, as well as meeting people from our extensive network of travel writing, blogging and podcasting friends.

All photographs by Randy Martens are used with the permission of Randy Martens Photography; Chicago, Illinois.

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Discussion »

  • #1Eva & Jeremy Rees

    What a stellar post — great idea and great work pulling together the thoughts of some of my favorite bloggers.

  • #2Carol Giardenelli

    For the last 15 years, my husband and I have taken our yearly February school break to Cancun. We spend the entire 7 days reading and relaxing; never doing anything we didn’t want to do. That was great but my husband had a more adventurous desire for travel. He wanted to travel down the Amazon River. Well, that just wasn’t my cup of tea so I sent my 19 year old son with him. When I met them at the airport after 10 days in a lodge in the Amazon Jungle, I knew immediately that something had changed. They both fell in love with the jungle. To make a long story short, after returning there in the summer to do independent study, my son fell in love with a Peruvian jungle guide, got married, and built his own lodge on the Amazon. Now, my husband and I go to Peru every year. Talk about a change in travel! Each time I go, I push my comfort level a bit more so I can enjoy the beauty of the rainforest. When I talk about our trip, I can’t believe that I am the one I am talking about. It really is an adventure. I am going in June this year, at the end of the school year so I can spend more than just 10 days there. I am looking forward to some new and exciting adventures like a canopy walk and the zip line through the jungle. Well, we’ll see.
    Carol Giardenelli

  • #3natasa

    Well it’s only natural. As we “mature” we change a lot of our interests and hobbies. How would travel habits be any different? As for me I pay more attention to the nature now!

  • #4Akila

    Wonderful post! I love getting the insights of people from so many different ages.

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