As we get older, it becomes more and more apparent how fortunate we are to be able to travel. Traveling as you get older requires more preparation and is no doubt often exhausting. We are beyond the years of youth hostels, backpacking, and partying into the wee hours. But with every trip we take, we are keenly aware of how lucky we are to be able to travel as we get older. Some of this ‘luck’ is privilege and some of it is earned.
Kelly, of thewanderingblonde.com, wrote an excellent piece recently- “You’re SO Lucky!” The Thing About Travel and Privilege in which she goes beyond her immediate resistance to really analyzing what advantages she’s had over others.
Kelly’s first reaction is to object to the “lucky” label; to point out the sacrifices and hard work that goes into a travel bloggers lifestyle. For some it is letting go of material possessions, for other putting off raising a family. But Kelly is wise to recognize that she was born with some privileges that make her career choice easier: First World Privilege, White Privilege, Able-Bodied Privilege, English-speaking Privilege, Upper Middle Class Privilege
A privilege is defined as a special right or advantage given to a person or group of people. It is better understood by seeing that these characteristics don’t stand in the way of achieving something. The first three privileges Kelly cites are bestowed by the randomness of birth. The last two can be acquired after birth, but it’s an advantage to be born into an English-speaking, Upper Middle Class family.
To Kelly’s list I’d add the Privilege of Youth.
As we get older, other factors come into play which determines our ability to travel. Like the privileges above, some are earned, and some are a factor of luck. Most are a combination of the two.
Number one privilege as we age – Good Health
Few among us get to our 60s and 70s without some health issues arising. I made it to 50 before my body began rebelling. Orthopedic issues, and a few rounds with the C word, humbled me as I realized I was not immortal. But I am on the other side of that now and I am very aware and grateful to be able to walk, to bike, and to get out to explore the world. I can book a trip a year in advance with the confidence that I’ll be healthy and physically able to participate. This is no small thing. Many seniors are wrestling with mobility issues and significant medical restrictions and others have lost their battles with illness.
I have been lucky. I am privileged.
Though much of this is luck, genetic or otherwise, you can increase your ‘chance’ for good health by eating well and participating in exercise – regular and vigorous! This will increase your stamina, your bone strength, and keep your weight in check.
If you want to keep moving – keep moving! We are in a cycling group which consists of older adults from 50 to 94! They are not shy in telling us that once they’ve given up their bikes, they will be unlikely to ever cycle again. So they keep going.
Time and freedom to travel as we grow older
Many seniors have responsibility for family members, whether it’s elderly parents, still struggling children, or dependent grandchildren. They are not able to pick up and travel the world without a lot of contingency plans. Three to six month journeys are not a possibility. We are fortunate that our children are independent and our parents not yet requiring care. But still, a portion of our travel time and money goes into family visits across the U.S.
Though there’s no way to really ‘increase your chance’ of independence, seniors can make travel a priority. You can’t be a support to others without caring for yourself. Travel gives you time away from your day to day worries and nourishes your soul.
If even a weekend away seems impossible, take a staycation. Spend the day in a neighborhood park, a museum, or attend an outdoor concert. Sometimes just taking a stroll downtown with an ice cream cone can fee like a break.
Healthy finances are key to traveling in retirement
It’s unfair to negate the importance of funding for any traveler, especially senior travelers. Younger travelers can minimize their expenses and live on a blogger’s budget but older travelers need more comfort in the day to day. And young people have years ahead of them to create financial security. Most older adults are retired with little expectation of new sources of income.
And with increased age and ailments, we would be foolish to travel without travel insurance. Which, of course, is more expensive for older travelers.
There is little we can do to get beyond our bank balance. But there are opportunities out there for budget travel if you’re willing to look. Share a room with a friend, book a bed and breakfast, or investigate some of the lower priced cruises. If your finances preclude overseas travel, take a weekend away locally. Your hometown might be other people’s holiday destination.
IF YOU CAN, make travel a priority. And, if you can, remember to appreciate how lucky you are!
What do you do to allow for travel in your life?