We’re Over 40! Do we need special solo travel tips?
This is a bit tongue-in cheek. I appreciate any travel tips, I was just a bit amused my my first reaction when I saw a “how-to” article title about solo travel after 40. I don’t consider over 40 old anymore. I did when I was 20. Old is always the next decade away. It’s even OK to hire a photographer to take pictures of you when you travel alone over 40! I figured I would never be any younger in Paris again.
The title caught my eye on Pinterest: “How to Travel Solo in Your 40s.” Huh? Was there a specific strategy for traveling after 40 if you were otherwise healthy and able-bodied? To my knowledge, and in my experience, our bodies and minds don’t immediately go into decline mode once we hit the big 4-0. I decided to read the article in case I was missing out on some critical, secret knowledge.
What I found was a blog post with some generally useful tips for anyone traveling solo, regardless of age, some contemplation about life changes, both positive and negative, that changed the way the author traveled, and her initial misgivings about adventuring alone.
The post was generally geared toward the single solo female traveler, which I am not. I was never in the position of traveling with girlfriends, going to clubs, nightlife, and such. And I’m not honestly in any position to say how solo travel changes after one turns 40 — I took my first solo travel steps after that age.
Something about the article made me want to comment, but I couldn’t find any comment form on the post (perhaps due to the decreasing mental flexibility that the post implied us “over 40’s” might have?) So, it inspired me to write this post.
While the middle years can, for some, bring about limitations, for others of us, it frees us up. If we’ve had children relatively early, we might find in our middle years that we have more ability (especially if we have a supportive spouse) to go out and pursue interests, including solo travel, that we didn’t have time or energy for due to work/family demands. For those of us introverts who were also very shy when we were younger, we might find we are less fearful as we age, and more willing to take risks.
An elderly friend of the family (my role idol, though she never knew it) used to road trip around in a VW Microbus. A guy in his seventies that I knew from a meditation group would go out on his own for multi-week solo backpacking trips. When we asked him if he was worried about his safety, he shrugged, and said, “Well, if I get eaten by a bear, it’s all part of the circle of life.”
I definitely don’t want to get eaten by a bear (or attacked by a human, either), and do care about my personal safety. However, I got to a point where it got more uncomfortable not to try some new things than to take the risk, that that “the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” to quote Anaïs Nin.
While there are some things I don’t think I’ll ever want to try (skydiving), these are some “firsts” I did after 40, some of which I never imagined I would even want to do:
- Run a 5K
- Run a half marathon
- Run a marathon
- Learn to swim
- Learn how to use big-girl bike shoes
- Do triathlons
- Learn to kayak
- Get a motorcycle license
- Get a Vespa
- Take my first trip abroad
- Take my first trip alone
I am not still doing all of these things, but I am still doing some of them. The point is that I tried these new things after 40. Old dogs (not that I’m old – old is always the next decade away) can learn new tricks.
The otherwise-healthy-over-40 crowd doesn’t need any special solo travel tips. The regular ones will suffice, thank you very much! If anything, we’re wiser, more suspicious, and less likely to fall prey to scam artists, less likely to get hit on by guys on our solo trips to Paris, and probably less likely to indulge in risky behavior. Though I did hear a comedian on NPR one morning (sorry, I can’t remember who it was) talking about fearless middle-aged women hugging dangerous wild animals in National Parks. So I’ll admit I could be wrong about us middle-agers being more sensible. It’s possible.
Now approaching the big 5-0, I am sometimes feeling physical changes, from TMJ to achey knees. Part of the “problem” is that I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend more writing. I feel better if I get off the laptop and on the bike or the trail on a regular basis. But the other part is the unavoidable creep of age which may be tempered by good food and exercise, but not indefinitely kept at bay. I give myself “getting to 50” travel tips all the time — the pep talk that it’s OK to slow down a bit, that it’s OK that my daughter can outpace me when we’re hiking (though, honestly, she could probably have outpaced the 23 year old me as well), and the lie that my background as a therapist working with the elderly has somehow prepared me for my own climb over the hill.
So, maybe I do need some over-50 travel tips, as 50 rapidly approaches. But not yet. I’ll be spending my 50th birthday on a solo rooftop tent camping road trip.
Oh, look…there’s a baby bear! Gotta go give it a big hug!
Are you an over-40 who likes to travel solo? Have any special tips? Do you think we need special solo travel tips? Feel free to leave a comment!
I normally don’t put au naturel selfies of my face online (or any selfies, for that matter – my selfie is my evil twin who wants to make me look bad!), but it’s a joy sometimes as we age just to relax and forget about trying to make ourselves look better or younger.
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