On my husband’s fiftieth birthday we strapped backpacks on our backs and boarded a plane to Cairo, Egypt. We spent the next two years sleeping in hostels, riding camels and elephants, eating crickets and grub worms and hanging out with Brits on their “Gap Year”, and twenty-something’s fresh out of college, who welcomed us with open arms.
If these things don’t appeal to you on a full time basis (I urge you to try new things), we also had gourmet food in high end hotels in Shanghai China, Slept in an elite hotel on the square in Brussels Belgium and traveled by first-class train in Egypt. However, these luxuries should be consumed in moderation. Remember, when you travel, travel light and your adventure will be filled with memories, and not the “stuff” that slows us down.
It is attitude, not age, that fellow travelers connect with, so if you are ready to embrace your life, backpacking can be a good fit at any age.
Over the next several weeks, I would like to talk to the “older crowd”--whatever your age, you know who you are. But also, listen up all you young travelers who may be taking your youth for granted, don’t think you have to blow off all your travel steam now, before “the real world” settles in. I want you to keep going no matter how old you are. The rewards of travel, getting to know and understand other cultures, opening your mind and heart to the world, is a lifelong, life-changing experience.
Here is reason number one (I am putting these in no particular order) of the reasons I have heard from older people as to why they don’t travel more.
Number one -- I couldn’t leave home more than two or three weeks.
While it is true that this is a much easier concept to embrace when you are fresh out of college and have no mortgage, no IRA and no responsibilities to hold you back, long-term travel is still possible for you, and it is a great way to reset the priority compass for the rest of your life.
There are a few things to consider, of course. The mortgage still has to be paid, mail still needs to be sorted and money has to be raised. While I have traveled over most of my life, I did not just take off for two years on a whim. Much planning was needed to prepare me for my lifestyle of having no plans.
First of all if you are not yet retired, approach you employer with a request for a sabbatical (give them at least a year’s notice). It doesn’t have to be a year, try taking a month, you might be surprised at how open most people are to this concept. They know that you will return to your position with a new and fresh outlook, they will be getting a much more vibrant, much younger version of you, most will see the benefits of this.
That’s the easy part. Finances can be a little tricky to juggle while on the road, but with “auto-pay”, “auto-deduct”, auto everything nowadays it’s not as daunting as it may first appear. My advice for your mortgage would be to hire an agency to manage the rental of your home (this is for a year-long trip or longer) This is an easy way to make certain that the money for the mortgage comes in and gets paid out each month with little or no effort on your part. You will need to make allowances for repairs etc. but no one knows your house better than you do, so planning for this is fairly easy. You know if the refrigerator will need to be replaced soon, or the roof may need repair. A bit of assessment and budgeting should cover any needs that may arise in your absence.
So, now that you have your mortgage covered, what about other payments and expenses for one year on the road? It’s important to whittle your payments that will remain behind and haunt you while you are away to bare bones.
Being afraid is the scary part. Once you get over being in a place of fear, you will feel as if you have grown wings and will never have felt lighter, or more ready to conquer (or at least explore) the world.