As a generation, we have never liked the idea of being told how to behave. We didn’t accept society’s rules in the 60s and we don’t accept them now that we are in our 60s.
So, given the fact that older adults don’t want to be put into a box, I’m always surprised by the travel advertisements that are targeted at us. It seems like the travel industry expects us to abandon excitement in favor of quiet city tours, cruises and other “safe” travel options.
By the way, there is nothing wrong with any of these options. In fact, in recent years, I myself got into cruising. It’s just that I wish the travel industry realized that we also want to feel adventurous once in a while. We want luxury and comfort, but, we also want to squeeze as much out of every experience as possible.
Over the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that we can’t wait for the travel industry to catch up. We need to take matters into our own hands. We need to redefine what “adventure travel” means and get out there and explore the world on our own terms. Here’s how…
When you think of the expression “adventure travel,” what pops into your head? Do you think about climbing Mount Everest or hiking through the Amazon rainforest? While adventure travel can involve feats of physical exertion, it doesn’t have to!
In fact, even though I have slept in rainforests, traveled through the desert and hiked in the most remote parts of Myanmar, to me, “adventure travel” is more of a state of mind.
Being an adventurous traveler means daring to look beyond the obvious tourist traps. It means having conversations with locals, even if you don’t share the same language. It involves pushing yourself physically, mentally and even spiritually. It means doing things that make you just a little bit scared once in a while.
Because being adventurous is a state of mind, it is possible to find adventure wherever you go. If you want to feel adventurous, choose small local cafes over touristy restaurants, try the local delicacies, ask people where the beaches for locals are, buy your own food in the supermarket, hire a local tour guide to show you the ropes, learn a bit of the language and choose physical activities that stretch you just a little bit.
By this point, you may be thinking “This is all well and good, but, maybe I just like taking it easy. What if I just want to sit by the pool all day?”
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with sitting by the pool, going to nice restaurants or going on official group tours. It’s just that adding at least a little adventure to your trip makes the entire experience more fulfilling and memorable.
Think about it for a second. What are your strongest travel memories? I am willing to bet that they involve events that stirred strong emotions in you. Maybe you met a new friend who changed your perspective on life. Maybe you got stuck in a small boat in a terrible storm (this actually happened to me in Greece). Perhaps you ate a delicacy that you loved… or hated. Regardless of the specifics, I am willing to bet that your strongest travel memories involved equally strong emotions.
So, by all means, pencil in plenty of relaxation time into your next vacation. Relax by the pool. Take a tour. Sit at a café and people watch. But, I also suggest that you look for opportunities to explore beyond the tourist areas, get physical, learn the language and even scare yourself, just a little.
The times when you allow yourself to feel adventurous will tie all of your other travel memories together!
Getting older is tough, not just because of the physical, financial and social pressures that we face, but, also because of the way that society treats us. I know many men and women over 50 who say that they have started to feel invisible.
The trouble is that aging stereotypes can be self-fulfilling prophecies. The more we see older adults behaving a certain way, the more likely we will be to adopt similar behavior patterns. Then, the more people see us acting a certain way, they more that they will believe that the most common aging stereotypes are accurate.
When we adopt an adventurous travel style, we fight back against aging stereotypes with our actions, not just our words. When young people see a 74-year-old traveling down the Kapohokine Zipline in Hawaii, they are forced to face the fact that aging isn’t something to be feared. When we see our peers rafting, sailing, snowboarding, dancing, singing and generally having a good time, we realize that we can do more.
So, let’s each of us make a commitment to being just a little more adventurous when we travel. Just remember, being “adventurous” doesn’t mean that you need to be “extreme” (unless you want to!) It just means that each and every one of us should such as much enjoyment from this amazing life that we have been given as possible!
What is the most adventurous thing that you have ever done on a trip? How did it make you feel? What are your best travel memories? Please join the conversation.