Midlife Travel if not now when? The Backpacking Housewife

Midlife Travel: If Not Now, When?

Most days I receive wonderful messages from travellers in their 50’s and 60’s and from those already travelling the world in midlife and those lovely midlife wanderlusters who want to prioritise travel in their later lives, their empty nest years, and in retirement.

I absolutely love hearing from you all and it really makes my day!

The messages often contain travel questions or are simply to tell me that the sender has felt inspired by my travel posts.

In this post, I’m featuring some of those messages and answering some of the questions I’ve been asked recently via my social media channels or directly into my inbox through my website Contact Me Page.

This is because I want to inspire you – but I also want to address the more emotive messages – from those of you whom are aspiring to travel more in your later years but now have unexpected travel angst.

Specifically, an angst about soon approaching the time of your lives when you might anticipate having more time and more resources and less obligations than ever before to facilitate travel, and then getting a big red stop light of doubt about it.

Like ‘Perhaps I’m too old to travel?’ How do I know I can afford to travel? Do I sell up or rent out? Should I sell up or downscale? What do I do with all the stuff I’ve accumulated: the personal treasures – the family photos – the kid’s baby memorabilia?

Or the ones that howl: “The family say they need me around to help out and babysit!

All at a time when you’ve been promising yourself that you’ll go off and see the world.

When you’d really want to take that grown up gap year. Tick off your bucket list.

Finally, visit friends and family abroad. Follow the sun.

Live in sunshine and flip-flops and very few clothes.

But then (as J says in his message below) ‘reality keeps putting me off’.

Travel clock ticking message to The Backpacking Housewife

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND FOR THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME

All valid points and perfectly reasonable and natural concerns to do with health, wealth, obligations and physical and mental wellbeing. I’m certainly not dismissing any of these reasons not to travel in your 50’s and 60’s and beyond.

That suddenly aspects of travel – especially long-term travel – can suddenly feel selfish.

I want you to know that I understand and I want to offer you my support.

I do know it’s a big step to ‘leave it all behind for your adventure of a lifetime’ even if you are only doing it for a few weeks or several months or if you have a one year plan.

I understand all the elements of concern because I’ve had them too.

I do know the ‘what if’s’ start to take hold and staying home in front of the TV seems a lot easier and much safer. But if you’ve always wanted to travel the big question is….

If not now, when?

Why wait until it’s too late?

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

Travel tips message to The Backpacking Housewife

But if travel is your dream and you have always promised yourself a life of travel in your Third Age and if, like me, you’ve never thought a two-week holiday was long enough and the concept of travel means even more to you now than it did before and you’ve started to suspect that your life wasn’t meant to be lived in one place all of the time… then if not now, when?

Ten years ago, my backpacking husband and I sold our house, our business, our cars, our furniture and everything – once our sons had finished their education and left home to make their own way in the world – and we set off to travel around the world on the adventure of a lifetime. We weren’t doing it to escape life but rather for life not to escape us.

ZERO REGRETS

We have zero regrets. Over the past ten fabulous nomadic years, we’ve taken planes, trains, boats, buses and tuk-tuks, to make our way across sixty countries and all the continents and seas and oceans to end up wherever we happened to find ourselves next.

We’ve lived in hotels and motels and hostels and homestays, city apartments and huts on beaches and to be honest, we don’t ever want our halcyon days of travelling to end.

But they will. One day.

Unlike us, of course, you might not need or want to go to the extreme of selling all your belongings to fund your travels.

You might have other ways to do it. Perhaps you have an opportunity to work remotely now or take a work sabbatical or early retirement?

Maybe your perspective on life has shifted due to the recent pandemic and you’re looking longingly at your travel bucket list and all you want to achieve sooner rather than later and before something else gets in the way of you heading off into the world on the adventure of a lifetime?

It’s true that as we age, we can face more health issues, and this can make travel more physically challenging and instead of taking comfort from all the reasons to travel – travel fear is replacing reasons why NOT to travel in your 50’s and 60’s!

So, I thought it was worth us addressing and examining a few of these concerns more closely to determine if they are valid.

Health and Travel Concerns

Question: I have health issues. What do I do if I lose my meds or need to replace my prescription medications in other countries?

Answer: Discuss this with your doctor. Can you get a repeat prescription to take on your travels? Can you take enough meds to cover your trip. I also suggest you find out the generic names of your medication so you can source it in other countries in an emergency.

Do have medical travel insurance (affiliated link) in place before you travel. Don’t forget to read the policy carefully to make sure it covers your needs and don’t forget to declare all your existing medical conditions.

Question: What will I do if I get sick or I get hurt while I’m travelling?

Answer: Sickness or accidents can happen while at home or away. Travel insurance is essential when travelling outside your home country.

For those with reduced mobility and mobility issues, I suggest you look for solutions as many methods of transport offer special assistance to those with mobility issues. By specifying your needs when making bookings and hotel reservations you may be able to overcome your mobility and transportation concerns.

Question: Where can I find travel Insurance for the over 50’s and over 60’s?

Answer: Although finding suitable travel insurance is more difficult as we age, you might find my detailed post on travel insurance for the over 50’s useful information.

It’s also worth noting that other countries do have doctors and hospitals and as good or better and more affordable than in your own country. I have first hand experience of attending a doctor, a hospital, a pharmacy, and a dentist while abroad and receiving excellent care. I would always recommend you buy Travel Insurance.

Money and Financial Concerns

Sell up and travel message to The Backpacking Housewife

Question: How do I know if I can afford to travel?

Answer: Money is a difficult subject isn’t it? One person’s budget is someone else’s extravagance. I can only tell you that how much you need to travel the world depends on how savvy you can be booking your flights and transportation.

It depends on where you stay as to how much you spend on accomodation. Transport and accommodation are the two costs we tightly control. We use Skyscanner (not an affiliated link) to plans and discover the best priced flights. It pays to be flexible and look at connected flights sometimes. But I would advise you – from my own experiences – to ALWAYS books directly with the airline you’ve identified rather than through a third party agent.

I use Booking Dotcom (affiliate link) for accommodation. We often privately rent a house or apartment if we’re staying longer that a week or two. We also housesit (free accomodation) on occasion too. We feel we can travel cheaply because we have no home associated costs and we often find food a lot more affordable abroad – especially in South East Asia.

So look at the kind of lifestyle you want to have while you travel. Is that first class travel and five-star hotels or budget airlines and homestays and hostels? I’m somewhere in the middle and like to mix things up depending on where I am in the world.

Look at your assets. What liquid access do you have to savings, investments and pensions? Look at your material assets and financial responsibilities.

If you fall short of the cash reserves you feel you need to sustain the lifestyle you require then would you be prepared to sell or downsize? Some people will have to budget carefully but with careful planning you might be able to work out a feasible travel budget and a financial plan.

Join a travel forum and ask questions about the cost of living in the countries you want to visit. Travel forums are a great support for many aspects of midlife travel from finding flights to recommending accommodations and local travel advice and what to see.

I’m a member of several Facebook Groups like ‘Nomads beyond 50 Network’ and ‘Full Time Travellers and Nomads’ and ‘Senior Nomads’ and others. I’m sure there’ll be a Facebook Travel Group that’s perfect for you!

Do look into how you’ll do your banking from abroad. It helps if you have online banking. Find out about bank cards and currency conversion and how to access your money abroad without having to pay exorbitant fees.

Family Obligations

long term travel questions to The Backpacking Housewife

Question: I’m worried that my family will think I’m selfish to travel and leave them behind.

Answer: This is a biggie and one I’ve struggled with myself. I miss my family when I’m away from them and I feel guilty missing birthdays and special occasions.

I resolve this by accepting rather than rejecting my emotions. I tell myself that my kids are now all in their 30’s and we did a great job of raising them to be successful and independent adults. But they have their own lives – busy lives – and even if we lived nearby we wouldn’t see them all the time.

I make an effort to stay in touch with friends and I chat with my family every day through social media. We have family message groups and we always check in – post photos – tell jokes – and generally keep our relationships close and tight.

Family and friends have on many occasions visited us and taken their holidays in places in the world where we’ve settled for a while.

We often pop back to visit them too, of course, and on a couple of occasions we’ve done so on the very next available flight when we’ve been needed. The world is perhaps smaller than you think?

But if you do have family responsibilities you want to keep up, like caring for grandchildren and elderly parents or you have family pets and livestock that restrict your ability to travel for longer periods, then I would suggest short haul travel breaks might be possible under these circumstances.

The, if and when the mainstay of family obligations have eased off, you might once again consider leaving family behind for a while in order to travel more extensively in your 50’s and 60’s.

Comfort Zone

travel dream message to The Backpacking Housewife

Question: The world often looks scary when I watch the TV news. How do I know I’ll be safe?

Answer: Travel fears can increase with age, making it more challenging to venture to new places. I feel the news and media coverage is often to blame for scaremongering. Not in all cases of course because there are war zones and there are places declared dangerous and under travel advisories.

But generally, and in my personal experience, as long as you choose your travel arrangements with care and act abroad as you would in your own country, then personal danger is usually low and most people you’ll meet are good people. I wrote a post called Scary Travel Horror Stories and How To Avoid Them that you might find both interesting and entertaining!

Solo Travel or Travel Companion

Question: Should I travel alone?

Answer: Mostly I travel as a couple with my backpacking husband – I have on occasion travelled alone and also with a girlfriend – but I do understand that finding compatible travel companions can be more challenging as one gets older.

My solo travelling friends all tell me that at first the thought of travelling alone was frightening – but until you actually do it you’ll never know – and soon you’re likely to start enjoying your own company and being on your own schedule without compromise. Meeting new people gets easier along the way and strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

If you are a novice traveller – solo or with a partner/companion – then I would advise you take a short manageable trip to ‘try out’ travel to start out. Then extend that to several weeks of travel and then perhaps a few months. Travel groups are also a good idea if you want to immerse yourself into the world with a support group. Be bold not old.

Cultural Shock

Question: Some countries seem appealingly exotic but I’m worried I’ll feel out of my depth once I get there.

Answer: Traveling to destinations with significantly different cultures may perhaps feel more intimidating in later years. If you’ve spent a lifetime being shaped by your own culture, then culture shock while experiencing other countries is normal.

Culture shock and can be down to different customs, types of dress, religions, perhaps how women are treated or how animals are valued.

It can be especially difficult for those with dietary restrictions or food preferences to adapt. I wrote a post about my own feelings of culture shock – in reverse – because my experience was of coming back into the developed world!

Do your homework and travel planning and find out about the country you want to visit to prepare yourself. Have a chat with someone who has been there before and ask questions. Travel forums on social media are a great source of information and wisdom.

Embracing cultural difference is important. Try to learn a little of the language. Even a few phrases like hello and thank you. Be prepared to open your mind. Travel is an education.

Am I too old to travel?

Question: I’ve waited until my retirement to travel. I’m wondering if I’ve left it too late?

Answer: There is a saying often expressed to those of us who travel later in life – “you are never too old to travel”.

Well, I’m afraid I don’t agree. Because there will come a day when you are too old to travel. When you’re too frail. Too stiff and too tired. When perhaps you’re not entirely of sound mind anymore and when the personal risks outweigh the benefits.

As a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, so if you are seriously worried about being too old or too unfit to travel then you should see your doctor or medical physician and ask them if you are medically fit to travel.

If your doctor tells you that you’re medically fit to travel then take that as a green light.

If he tells you you’re unfit to travel then you will have to reconsider your travel plans or at least tame them.

BUT if you DO have your health in your 50’s and 60’s and in your later years and you have suitable amount of disposable cash to spend on travel and you also have your freedom – then why not travel now – before it IS too late!?

Midlife Travel: If Not Now, When?

Are you looking to travel more in your midlife and beyond?

Do you have a travel question you’d like me to answer?

Leave a comment below or send me a message.

I’d love to hear from you!

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