Getting older is a funny thing and, to be honest, I’ve been handling it a lot better than I would have imagined just a few short years ago. I recently turned 42 and naturally began thinking a bit more about my life, where I am and where I’m going – literally as well as figuratively. It slowly dawned on me that I have changed much more than I thought I had and it made me start wondering if that was ok or not. Instead of using the word “change” though, I inserted “evolution” and then things started to click. Today I want to look at just how much my travel style has changed and why instead of being ashamed or worried about it, I warmly embrace it.
Maturation is a good thing
When I was 22, I graduated from undergrad and spent the next 6 weeks fulfilling a lifelong dream – traveling the width and breadth of the UK. Instead of an exhausting, 20-country tour of Europe, I instead wanted to experience as much of Great Britain as I could, all with a backpack strapped to my back. Staying in hostels, I existed off of bread and digestive biscuits, with a fair amount of beer thrown in for good measure. My budget was tight and I wanted to stretch it as far as it could go. When I was in my mid-20s I once again visited Europe and thought that hostels would again be fine. After one night I gave up and retreated to the safe confines of hotels, never looking back. My travel style had changed dramatically in just a few short years and looking back at my British trip 20 years ago, I couldn’t imagine putting up with what I did back then. We all change, we all mature and that’s fine. More recently, I’ve definitely shifted once again, seeking more cultural experiences than adventurous ones and luxury hotels and premium airplane cabins whenever possible. Maturation though is also a change in our outlook and our temperament when we travel.
Developing a new level of patience has been one of the most notable changes; a change I would have thought impossible even a few short years ago. This newfound and sometimes random bouts of patience has done a lot for me personally. It’s made me happier while traveling and it’s made the entire experience much more enjoyable. Yes, I’m still anal retentive about schedules and keeping on eye on my passport, but in general I’m a new traveler. By taking things as they come I’ve seen a lot more than I would have ordinarily and learned more than I ever thought possible.
I’ve also tried to embrace a slower mode of travel, balancing sightseeing with relaxing. Being as tightly wound as I am, relaxing is not something I’ve often pursued, but as I get older I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that travel is in fact supposed to be calming, at least some times.
In the past I didn’t just need a vacation from my vacation, I needed an extended hospital stay. The trips were grueling! In keeping with my slower style of travel, I now allocate more time to rest, read a book or take a nap. Keeping yourself healthy and fit while traveling, even on a short adventure, is important not just for your own personal well being, but it allows you to enjoy your trip that much more.
I’ve also tried to live the maxim No Opportunity Wasted in a number of different ways. Rather than thinking, “Oh I’ll do that next time I’m here,” I always travel with the presupposition that I will never again return. Whether or not this is actually true doesn’t matter, what does matter is the effect this mentality has on the travel experience. I treat each place as a one-time event so I do everything I want to do, budgeting for it in advance of course. I don’t ever want to leave a new city or country regretting not having done something. A lot of tragedy has struck my family in recent years and more than anything else it’s taught me to live life now, not later because later may never come. It’s opened up a new world to me, as many of these experiences are themselves transformative in their nature. From hot air ballooning to swimming with sharks in South Africa, I can now say I left these places without regret and for that I am incredibly thankful. To help me accomplish this, I’ve come to lean on others for a lot of help when I travel. Whether it’s taking an amazing food tour in a new city, or joining a company like Abercrombie & Kent on an escorted safari in Tanzania, I now realize that while independent travel is great, there are times when it’s important to use an expert to help us accomplish something truly amazing. Could I have cobbled together some sort of trip in Tanzania by myself? Yup, no doubt, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing as my experience with A&K and instead I would’ve wasted a lot of time and money. Life is short, we need to make the most of it whenever and however we can.
Not being intimidated by others
The travel world is a very, very strange place full of people with a wide variety of opinions. It can also be a very divisive and intimidating place at times. We all see those amazing photos of digital nomads embarking on epic treks or feats of strength that seem almost too incredible to be believed. The truth is though that they are a very small minority of people and, in fact, it’s ok to not be an extreme traveler. I’ve learned that no matter how we travel, there are no wrong styles or methods. No, instead what is important is that we’re traveling in the first place. It’s important that we’ve taken that oh so important first step to discover the world around us. I don’t think that there’s any real place for arrogance in travel and ultimately it doesn’t help anyone. No, instead what we need is a legion of humble travelers. We need to embrace who we are and how we see the world and, in the process, hopefully inspire a few other people to do the same.