How To Travel Around The World In Midlife!
This article is for you if you’ve ever wanted to travel around the world in your midlife – perhaps because you once did it as a gap year when you were younger or maybe because you couldn’t travel back then and you want to do it now in your 50’s or 60’s or beyond?
Or, of course, you might simply be curious about how travelling around the world in midlife is done?
I want to share with you how it’s done because the Backpacking Husband and I were in our midlife (both aged 55) when we came up with a plan to sell everything we owned and set off from the UK to travel around the world from east to west with our backpacks.
You might want to take a suitcase rather than a backpack and that’s absolutely okay!
I want to share with you how it’s done because that was TEN YEARS AGO and since then we have had the experience of not just travelling around the whole world once – we’re still travelling – and we’re currently on our third lap around this beautiful planet of ours. So travel the world with me. Let me show you that travel isn’t just for the younger generations anymore.
Let me show you how to travel around the world in midlife!
Our FIRST Time Around The World In Midlife
From the start, setting off with our backpacks and a one-way ticket to Asia, we had a desire to be entirely spontaneous about our exact route around the world so we factored in time and space in our itinerary. We also wanted to embrace what is now being called ‘slow-mading – a more relaxed version of nomading – by staying in some places a bit longer to avoid travel burn-out and experience other countries not so much as a tourist but as a local.
Interestingly, it has become a pattern since that very first trip around the world that we now plan our travels in three, six, nine, twelve month stints, each punctuated with a return trip to either Europe to do some housesitting or to the UK to see our family and friends there.
World Travel Tip: It’s worth knowing that some countries only offer short term visitor visas but many offer 60 or 90 day visas. Many visas (depending on your nationality/passport) are issued ‘on arrival’ but that is always subject to change. (Looking at you Thailand!) Do carefully check current entry requirements for the country that you plan to visit before making any firm travel arrangements.
East To West: UK to Asia to USA to The Caribbean to UK
On our first trip Around The World In Midlife, we flew directly to Singapore and then spent many weeks travelling in Asia, through Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, before flying across the Pacific Ocean via Beijing China to spend a few days exploring San Francisco USA and from there onto The Caribbean and Central America where we planned to spend the rest of the summer.
Spending the summer in the Caribbean would allow us plenty of time to explore many islands in the Caribbean, and to really get to know places and to make friends of local people and to also then spend quality time in The Bahamas, North America and Canada, and onto Central America.
After completing our planned six months of travel we finally crossed the Atlantic Ocean to complete our circumnavigation of the earth and to arrive back in The UK exactly where we’d started out!
The first time we circumnavigated the earth there was actually very little planning involved. We’d set off with our backpacks, a one-way ticket, and a desire to be entirely spontaneous about our exact route around the world.
Our SECOND Time Around The World In Midlife
This time around we set out with a Round The World Travel Plan and a set itinerary as well as a proper route and schedule rather than letting fate or circumstance guide us. We were looking forward to exploring more of Asia – this time Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia (the temples at Angkor Wat have always been on our bucket list) before arriving in South Korea in the springtime to attend our son’s wedding in South Korea during what would be the cherry blossom season.
But, it was during the planning stages of this second round the world trip, we quickly realised that to be as savvy as possible with our travel budget we would leave a whole two weeks earlier than we initially planned in order to take advantage of a much cheaper airfare we’d spotted being advertised on Skyscanner from London directly to Singapore.
It actually turned out there was an added advantage to arriving in Singapore two weeks earlier because it would allow us to spend a few days doing all the things we hadn’t had time to do in Singapore during our last visit.
It would also allow us to spend a few more days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.
With careful planning, we’d managed to create an exciting and busy around the world itinerary that would once again take us from The UK heading east (within Asia we used budget flights with Air Asia) and onto South Korea for the family wedding.
In South Korea, as the Mother of the Groom I was honoured to wear the national dress of South Korea – the traditional wedding hanbok – alongside the Mother of the Bride.
After the wedding celebrations, we left the city of Daegu (where our son and his new wife live) on a KTX fast train to Seoul from where we would fly to San Francisco USA via a connection in Beijing China.
From Asia, we were planning to return once more to The Caribbean as while we’d been travelling on our previous around the world trip the backpacking husband had qualified as a PADI IDC Staff Instructor (an advanced scuba diving qualification).
And, he had been invited to volunteer on a coral reef conservation project that coming summer on the Meso-American Barrier Reef (the second-largest barrier reef in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef) in the Eastern Caribbean Sea.
The Caribbean Island where we were headed is located just off the coast of Honduras – between the Honduran mainland and the Cayman Islands. The island is the smallest of the Bay Islands and it is called Utila.
A fabulous and exciting opportunity!
But first, we had to once again fly across the Pacific Ocean from Asia to the USA.
Having time-travelled by flying over the International Date Line we actually arriving in the USA before the time we left China! We had a fabulous fun-filled and busy few days seeing the sights of San Francisco including cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge and eating clam chowder and riding steep streets on trams, visiting Pier 39 and taking a ferry over to Alcatraz Island!
San Francisco was bucket list destination for us and a wonderful adventure.
Clicking the highlighted text above will take you to more detailed posts on these fabulous destinations!
The next step in our round the world itinerary would take us away from San Francisco California on an early morning flight to Miami Florida. From where we would take a connecting flight to San Pedro Sula in Honduras, Central America.
This is when the flights got considerably shorter and the planes much smaller until we eventually reached our destination: an island called Utila tucked away in the Eastern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras.
Travel to the island of Utila is an arduous feat from either Europe or Asia – involving many flights and/or boats – and so it almost feels like its something of a secret island in the Caribbean.
We’d planned to spend the whole summer on my secret island of Utila but because of visa requirements for Honduras – which is part of the C4 (Central American Four) countries of Honduras, San Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua – we needed to do a ‘visa run’ after 90 days.
Honduras and the other C4 Countries have a treaty of movement between them that allows tourists a total of 90-days entry.
So, in order to stay longer than 90-days one has to exit/leave at/before the 90-days have expired and then return a few days later to secure a fresh 90-day entry visa. This is commonly known as a ‘visa run’.
We were planning a visa run to Panama City.
And, like San Francisco, visiting Panama City was another destination high on our bucket list!
After returning from Panama to the island of Utila after our ‘visa run’ we spent the remainder of the summer scuba diving and enjoying island life with our island friends until eventually we had to say farewell and leave once again.
Our return trip – to complete our journey around the world – would comprise of taking a small plane off the island of Utila back over to the mainland of Honduras and then a commercial flight to Houston Texas in the USA (for an overnight stopover) before flying onto Fort Lauderdale Florida.
We’d planned to spend a couple of days de-climatising after our extended experience of island life in order to soften the effects of our culture shock of being back in the First World before finally crossing the Atlantic to London.
From London, we were heading to France, where we’d arranged to be house sitters for the coming winter.
We had been housesitters in France once before while I was busy writing my Backpacking Housewife series of romantic adventure novels published by HarperCollins. But this time, instead of six months looking after a chateau in the wine region with just one pussy cat in our charge, we had agreed to take on a small scale ‘Bastide’ or French Farmhouse in the countryside around 60 miles north of the French city of Toulouse where over the next five months we’d be responsible for a horse, two donkeys, a flock of sheep and a dozen geese, as well as lots of hens and ducks, four cats and a young sheepdog, while the homeowners were themselves off travelling through Asia and onto New Zealand. Quite the next adventure!
Have you ever been around the world or are you planning a RTW trip?
What would be your bucket list destinations along the way?
Do share your world travel plans and/or your travel hopes and dreams!
20 Interesting Travel Facts About Flying
Today, a flight from London to Singapore takes roughly 12 hours, which might seem like a lifetime to some people. But, back in 1934, the same route would have taken eight days and included 22 stopovers to refuel the plane, such as Athens, Baghdad, Calcutta, and Bangkok, among others. Isn’t that incredible?
- Currently, the longest commercial flight is the Singapore Airlines New York to Singapore route, with an average journey time of 17 hours and 50 minutes.
- The first flight crossing the Atlantic Ocean took place in 1919 by the US Navy. The entire journey took 24 days and had five legs. Taking off from New York to Nova Scotia, the Azores, Lisbon, and completing the journey in Plymouth in the UK.
- In 1927, 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic on a solo and nonstop trip. His plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, took off in New York on 10 May and landed in Paris less than 34 hours later.
- Though the aviation sector is growing rapidly, according to statistics, only 5% of the world’s population has ever flown on an airplane.
- Pilots and co-pilots do not eat the same meal before a flight in case of food poisoning. This means that if one of the pilots needs the bathroom then the other pilot can take over.
- The Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft has two engines but can fly safely on just one engine for more than five hours before needing to land in the case of an engine failure.
- Dutch airline KLM has been lifting off and touching down since 1919. This makes KLM the world’s longest continuously operating airline in the world.
- Australian airline Qantas, Qantas is the world’s second oldest airline, established in 1920. Despite being in business for nearly a century, Qantas has never had a fatal accident involving one of its commercial aircrafts.
- The most expensive air travel ticket currently available is with Etihad Airways for a 13-hour round-trip ticket from New York to Dubai onboard their A380 aircraft. A ‘First Class Apartment’ onboard offers a butler, a chef, a private room, bed, armchair, vanity and makeup mirror, and onboard shower and will cost you more than $30,000.
- The most expensive airport to city taxi ride currently costs around £190 one way from Tokyo’s Narita Airport. If you are flying into Tokyo then you have been warned!
- You may have noticed how your skin and mouth feels dry when you fly. That’s because the pressurised air in the cabin is kept below 20% humidity. This is about the average humidity of the Sahara Desert so you can easily lose 1.5 litres of water from the body during an average 3-hour flight and more than 60 fluid ounces of water from your body during a ten-hour flight. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water!
- The difference in air pressure as well as the low humidity in a plane’s cabin affects a third your taste buds making it difficult to register sweet and salty flavours. This is why some people believe Bloody Marys taste so much better on planes!
- The typical cruising airspeed for a long-distance commercial passenger aircraft is approximately 880-926 km/h (547-575 mph). At take-off and landing, planes travel between 240-320 km/hr (150-200 mph).
- Plane crashes are rare (flying is statistically the safest way to travel) but crash data found the back of the plane (specifically the tail section) gave passengers the best chance for survival. It’s also the most strategically advantageous position for catching the attention of your flight attendant and getting more drinks/food or free things!
- Dimming the lights for take-off and landing isn’t a mood effect. It’s done so passengers’ eyes can quickly adjust to the dark in case there is an emergency that shuts off the lights.
- Jet lag feels worse if you travel from west to east because it makes the day shorter and it is harder for the brain and our internal body clock to adapt to a shorter day than a longer day.
- During a normal flight, the temperature outside your plane is around -60ºF. That’s colder than almost anywhere on Earth at any given moment of the year.
- Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport has the least number of cancelled flights in the world with a cancellation rate of just 0.07 percent.
- In pre-coronavirus times, the South Korean Seoul to Jeju Island flight route was the busiest in the world with 250 daily scheduled connections carrying over 14 million passengers a year. The route was so popular that one could board a flight every 15 minutes.
- Airplanes are lightning proof. Planes are regularly hit by lightning but as they are not touching the ground they aren’t earthed and rarely suffer any damage.
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