Usually the people who ask us are living some variation of what used to be called “The American Dream”– a good job, a home in the suburbs, two cars, and a membership in the country club. That’s a life not too unlike the one we used to have.
But in 2010, we’d closed our business, our kids had grown, graduated from college and left home, and one of them had taken the dog (at our insistence.)
So, we still had the large home, a house full of furniture, and three cars, including the Porsche I’d bought myself when our business achieved a significant milestone. (The country club had been abandoned long ago when I realized I didn’t really like golf enough to spend all that time on it.)
The question is not: “How are you able to travel full time?”
It’s: “Would you rather schlep a roller bag to 35 or so countries in the next couple of years, or be comfortably ensconced in your living room with all your stuff?”
If you answered that question like we did, then the next logical query is: “Do you know a good real estate agent?” We did.
We’ve learned that traveling (at our age) has its advantages. Here are some of them.
1. You can go where you want and skip what you want. If you don’t want to go to the famous museum, you don’t have to. If you’d rather eat a hamburger instead of the local cuisine, go ahead. It’s your life; live it like you want.
2. You know that a good museum or gallery is more interesting than a beach. You can go to the beach later in the day. Sunsets are nice there. Probably nicer than the gallery.
3. You don’t have to stay in the cheapest place. Hey, you can stay in a hostel if you want, but wasn’t the point of working for all those years getting to take some time and enjoy yourself? Get a soft bed and take it easy. Some days, instead of forcing yourself to see one more cathedral, stay in the room and read a book.
4. This is a corollary to number 3: you don’t have to go down the hall to the bathroom.
5. You can do things you’ve never done before. Since I’ve been older, I’ve trekked 120 kilometers in the Guatemalan jungle, walked all the way across Spain, and climbed a mountain in Tasmania that I had no business doing. I never did any of that stuff when I was a twenty-something.
6. Two words: senior discounts. In some countries, at least.
7. The taxi driver (and you often take taxis) will lift your bags out of the trunk for you without being asked.
8. Your iTunes playlist is much better than that of the young people around you.
9. If you’re a woman, Italian men no longer grab your ass.
10. You don’t have dementia, and yet you still get to meet new friends every day.
11. You can take a nap if you want to. And you often do want to.
12. You don’t spend ridiculous amounts of your travel budget on alcohol. You know it’s worth the extra two dollars to get the top shelf tequila in your margarita, but your age, it only takes two drinks to get a buzz on.
13. You know that traveling is really not that hard. Language barrier? No problem. You’re used to getting what you want by demonstrating. If you don’t get exactly what you want, you’re ok with it because you know it’s not really that big of a deal.
14. When you come across a “famous” person’s house or grave, there’s a good chance you know who he or she was because you had a liberal arts education, and you’ve also had time to read a lot of books since college.
15. Surfing even a two-foot wave is impressive. Hey, you got up, didn’t you?
16. You’re absolutely sure that when it comes to photographs, it’s the photographer, not the equipment that matters. You also know that you don’t have to take a photo of yourself in front of every tourist attraction in the world and post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
17. You are smart enough to wear a hat and sunscreen and to have quit smoking a long time ago.
18. You are an expert at packing light, because you’ve had things all your life, and now you realize that most of them are utterly unimportant.
19. You know that no matter how old you feel, you’re still younger than Mick Jagger.
20. When young people find out you are a full time traveler at your age, they think you’re cool. And you are.
Tom Bartel and Kristin Henning sold almost everything they owned in 2010 and headed out on the road. Since then, they’ve been to 35 countries on five continents. They are currently in Japan, and are headed back to their favorite country, Spain, in October. Africa is on the agenda for next year, and they promise they’ll make it to Antarctica eventually.
They both blog about their travels at TravelPast50.com. Kris also publishes her poetry, photos and other random musings on HMSHenning.com.