When my mother-in-law, June, was in her late seventies she decided to book on a small tour to Thailand with her friend Jean. Jean was in her sixties but had an arthritic knee. We were highly alarmed. What if one of them got sick or an accident happened and they were out of reach of medical help? Would they be able to keep up with younger tour members? Would they cope with the heat, the mosquitoes, and the very basic facilities in a homestay with a hill tribe?
Her mind was made up so we didn’t try and talk her out of it, but our lack of enthusiasm must have been obvious. She went, she had her moments but it turned out to be a wonderful journey and an absolute highlight of her life. Much to her delight a photo of her happily riding on an elephant in Thailand appeared in a magazine.
Now that we’re older we are making the most of life as well, and taking every opportunity we can to travel both in New Zealand and Overseas. We weren’t able to have an OE when we were younger but we saved enough to afford it now. This is our time because in the future, when we reach our eighties, our health might start to pack up and travel insurance will be much harder to get.
Each journey has been very special in its own way and has opened our eyes to different places and cultures. It has kept us us on our toes and feeling young.
Quite a few of our friends are also traveling. Others would like to but don’t seem to be getting around to it. Sometimes I feel like saying to them “If not now, when? What’s stopping you? Could it be:
Fear of the unknown:
I have a very poor sense of direction so I can understand how you might feel. A strange large airport can be disorientating. But in my experience, there is always a way around it. Quite a few airports have detailed maps so you can familiarise yourself with the layout, just Google their name. There may also be Help Desks and you can ask other passengers.
If you are worried about finding your way around once you have reached your destination you can go on a tour/cruise and be taken around, or stay in one place and gradually become familiar with your surroundings.
Worries: Will our house burn down? Will our pet be looked after properly? Will our children be able to find some-one else to pick up the grandkids after school?
Take a look around at your friends who have travelled. They are living proof that life will carry on in your absence. The reality is that no-one is indispensable.
Travelling alone wouldn’t be fun:
Book a tour /cruise where you will meet lots of other people some of whom may well become lifelong friends. Or find a likeminded friend to go with.
I’m too old:
There’s a saying which Richard Branson likes to quote:
“If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you feel?”
When he was interviewed over brunch at Sunset Marquise (the legendary West Hollywood hotel favoured by rock and roll royals) he was quoted as saying
“I feel as if I am still in my twenties, although I am obviously not. I still enjoy life enormously. I throw myself into it as much as I did when I was in my 20s.”
Your chronological age is less important than being young at heart.
But is travel ethical?
It can be. And you don’t have to go on an eco-tour or stay in an eco-lodge to cause no harm. Although these could be a great experience they can be expensive.
There are other ways of ensuring that some of your money goes back into the hands of the locals in developing countries. Look for tour companies who are community minded and give back to the local people is various ways. Buy gifts at markets where the money goes straight back to the makers.
Or explore some are opportunities for short-term volunteering as a way of sharing your skills.
My advice would be: Go, live your dreams and enjoy the journey. And when you are very old and confined to your lazy boy chair you will have a bunch of wonderful memories to share.