Okay, so you’re a Gen X-er , or a Boomer, whose been underpaid since wages stagnated in the ’80’s, your kids (those lovable little money-suckers) are grown or nearly there, you’re over 50 and you want to travel the world like you promised yourself you would, but adventures abroad seem so expensive and difficult and extravagant.
You can’t really afford to travel, can you?
You don’t speak the language.
You’re not in good enough shape.
Any myriad of excuses that keep you from traveling.
No more excuses!
Yes, you’re older, and you might not want to party all night, crash in a dorm hostel and then get up at 3am to go climb a volcano, or maybe you do, but whatever your travel goal it’s not too late to go gallivanting around the planet.
Whether you do it in small, vacation-sized bits, or manage a few months off, or have already retired (lucky dog) you can have all those wonderful travel adventures you dream about. Travel over 50 is not impossible.
So we’re not young pups, and we’ll admit, there are a few things you might want to consider now that you’re over 50 that you wouldn’t have given a second thought to in your 20’s. But nothing should truly stop you. For everything that looks like a roadblock, there’s almost always a work-around.
Let’s start with the biggest stumbling block for most people: Money
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1. You Don’t Have to Have a Lot of Money to Travel Comfortably
Maybe you’ve managed a nice successful career, and maybe you haven’t. If you have kids, they cost a lot. Or maybe you’re just not the corporate money-making type, or you lost money when the tech bubble burst, or the housing bubble burst, or during the Great Recession of 2008.
And, of course, you’re considering retirement and you’re worried about having enough money saved up. There are all sorts of pressures on your money.
The truth is, you’re better off traveling now, before you encounter too many, or more, health issues that might make adventuring harder. You do not want to get to 80+ years old and regret that you didn’t do more traveling. Sooner is better than later, (or never).
The good news is, great travel doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
All it takes is a little flexibility.
Have you always wanted to go to Hawaii for a vacation in paradise?
I once looked at a ‘budget’ guide for Hawaii and nearly choked on the so-called low prices. Even the AARP travel deals don’t seem much like deals (they’re not).
You know where else is a tropical paradise?
Indonesia…Thailand…Vietnam…all of Southeast Asia.
Does that sound scary, or dangerous, because it’s so foreign? Or because you’ve heard stories from…somewhere? Don’t believe the fear mongers. We felt safer in Southeast Asia (SEA) than we would in most cities in the US.
On top of that, it’s extremely affordable.
A good, clean and comfy double hotel room with AC, sometimes including breakfast, can be had for $15-25usd. And if you want something extra nice with a seating area and/or terrace, you can bump up to $30usd per night. Seriously, there is no need to spend more than this to get a really nice room.
Really tasty meals run from $1-5usd unless you go fancy, but again, there’s no need. In fact, the fancier places are usually about atmosphere, not better food. The local food in SEA is some of the best on the planet and it’s usually cooked up fresh and hot when you order it. Eating like this regularly will leave you room to splurge when you want to.
Then there’s the activities. Hidden jungle temples, relaxing on the beach, kayaking, caving, snorkeling, sunset boat tours, and so much more. Usually reasonably priced, and sometimes negotiable, adding activities to your itinerary will not break the bank. Overseas adventure travel does not have to be expensive.
Is your dream to adventure in Africa?
Take the above figures and bump the nicer hotel range to $25-45usd.
Though depending on the region, and the things you want to do, some activities in Africa can be hard to do on a budget. Countries like Namibia and Botswana, and southern Africa in general are more expensive. And if you’re looking to do safaris or gorilla trekking, you need to be ready for a little outlay, even if you find a good budget-oriented option.
West Africa, overall, is very affordable. There might not be as many animals, but there’s a wealth of art, music, history and culture. I mean, seriously wonderful stuff. From Benin to Ghana, to Senegal, there are great artists, traditional and contemporary, creating interesting and beautiful work and the music is outrageously good.
These places have their national parks and wildlife viewing, too. You’re just not going to see migrations and the big five here. Elephant, hippos and crocodiles are all around though, and certain areas are havens for bird watchers.
Are you really set on that fancy trip to Paris, or Barcelona, or the luxury safari in Tanzania?
That’s okay. First, search for budget travel guides for these destinations, and then get our FREE eBook: How to Save Money for Travel – on Almost ANY Budget!
You can get there, wherever there is, one way or another.
Okay, so now your money excuse is gone.
But I’m too old to have adventures, you whine.
2. You Don’t Have to be Young to Have Adventures
Have you met us? We’re Team Hazard – Old, Fat and Disabled and Traveling the World Anyway
Our Bio: He’s legally blind, diabetic, overweight, hypertensive and recovering from a broken leg. I’m just fat and fifty. We’ve been traveling since December 1st, 2017 and our adventures have been pretty awesome, from close encounters with orangutans to exploring awesome temples to camel riding in the Sahara, we try not to let our physical limitations slow us down.
So don’t go telling us you can’t do it. If we can do it, you can do it.
Yes, there are some things that might be beyond your ability, but that can happen to anyone at any age. You just need to be smart about this.
We abandoned a hike once because we were misled as to its difficulty, it was steep, raining, and getting dark and Tim would never have been able to make it safely. We also didn’t ride the infamous Iron Ore Train in Mauritania because it would have been impossible with Tim’s bad leg. Though I did go on a wicked camel trek into the Sahara Desert while we were there.
But look at all of the stuff we have done. (Waves hand around website knowing there are still more tales to tell.)
And some of you may not be looking for the kind of adventures we’ve had. That’s okay. If night markets and reggae cruises and urban temples are more your style, that’s great. We love those, too.
Adventures of the heart and soul are still adventures.
Never assume an adventure is out of reach just because you’re over 50. Research it. Check it out. Give it a try.
The trick is finding what’s right for YOU.
That’s right. Design the trip you want. Don’t let fear and negativity hold you back.
If you need some inspiration, take a look at our feature on how to Travel Brave. It’s time to be fearless!
Now that we’re done with that objection, we’re going to let you in on a little secret.
3. The Wisdom of Age Makes You a Better Traveler
Let’s face it Generation X, you’re older, you simultaneously have more patience and have learned the art of not giving a crap what people think. You are free to be you.
This makes you an awesome traveler. You’re not trying to keep up with anybody, you’re not trying to prove anything. You can focus on the type of experience you want to have.
You’ve also learned to laugh at things. Instead of a misunderstanding leading to strife and chaos, you laugh and work to figure out how to fix it.
You’re smart enough not to rush around racking up selfies and passport stamps at a breakneck pace. You take time to enjoy a place.
You can appreciate culture and history in a way you never did when you were younger. You understand why those monuments and memorials and items in the museums are important.
You’re patient enough to listen to other people’s stories, rather than always trying to tell your own, and you learn about people, places and culture through these stories.
You have different travel goals than when you were younger, and they’re probably smarter ones.
Speaking of doing it your way…
4. Tours Not Required
Some people love tours. They like the social aspect, or the fact that they don’t have to deal with all the details of planning and reservations and the like. They might prefer companies like Road Scholar and Eldertreks, or maybe they’re in an over 50 travel group because they want to find travel companions. These can be fine, but very expensive.
Some people think that as you get older, you’re going to automatically want to tour with a group.
If that’s what you want, go for it.
But you don’t have to. You can travel any way you want.
We don’t particularly like big tours where you have to race through sights at their pace and have no control to change the schedule. But getting to your destination and hiring a guide to see a specific place, or taking a city tour is certainly a good idea.
Actually, with Tim’s bum leg, and even just his poor vision, we’ve hired more private cars than we normally would. Sometimes public transit would be a great choice, but that’s not always right for him. Tuk-tuks in SEA – yes, crowded public bus in Africa – no.
Think about what will make you happiest. Do you want to dig in and experience the local culture? Then go on your own as much as possible. Visit local markets, wander on your own. We’ve met plenty of solo travelers older than ourselves going along a completely independent path, much like we are.
Do you want familiar faces around so you feel more comfortable? Looking for a singles vacation with others that are over 50? Then join a tour.
The important thing is that you go and don’t miss out.
5. Travel at Your Own Pace
This is one of the reasons we don’t care for end-to-end tours. What if you get somewhere and you fall in love with a place? You want to spend a few extra days because you’ve met new friends, or you want to relax and enjoy the vibe, or maybe you just want a day or two to rest. (We talk about how to schedule breaks into your trip in our Travel Planning Guide.)
If you’re on your own schedule, you don’t have to rush from place to place. If you have some medical issues, you can take the time you need to deal with them. Whether that’s letting your knees rest after climbing the hundreds of steps at the Temple Borobudur, or spending a day getting refills at a local pharmacy, it’s fine. Do what you need to do.
Schedule as you go, use those travel apps to make your life easier and don’t let anyone tell you how you should travel. By having a loose schedule, you can sometimes find a great last minute travel deal. Grab it, pack a bag, and go!
If you’re on a limited time vacation, you can schedule as many or as few locations as you want to.
Are you looking forward to spending a lazy week on a beach while someone brings you margaritas? Sure, go ahead, but leave yourself open to an adventure opportunity, like a car full of people (any age) with an empty seat, going to visit a temple in the jungle.
The truth is, young people can do this, too, but they often don’t. They’re in such a hurry, they sometimes miss opportunities, to see more, to meet people and to form a deeper connection with a place.
Slower travelers know it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
6. Yes, You Can Stay in a Hostel
Do you really want to save money? Are you an intrepid traveler? Can you sleep in a dorm room with 6, 8, or 10 other people? Do you like being around the energy of young people?
If you answered yes, then staying in a hostel may be right for you.
Most hostels have no age restrictions.
There are occasionally party hostels that don’t allow anyone over 30. That’s to keep the complaints down.
The down side of hostels is that they tend to be less than comfortable, you only have a locker to put your things in (bring your own lock), shared bathrooms, and potentially rude or noisy roommates.
The up side is that they can be tremendous fun, they’re cheap and you might get invited into a lot of activities as groups form and break-up and re-form depending on what’s going on that day.
Don’t worry about not fitting in with the younger crowd. They will accept you, think it’s cool that you’re traveling the way you are and honestly, be happy to listen to your experience. I mean, they’re traveling because they crave experience, and here you are with plenty of it. Remember to keep your stories entertaining and brief. Always leave them wanting more.
Just don’t be THIS kind of traveler.
An alternative to the dorm room in a hostel that has more benefits and fewer negatives is to get a private room in a hostel, preferably one with a good communal area. Tim and I often do this. You still have the social aspect, but a private space as well. To be honest, we’d be some of the worst roommates in a dorm situation – we both snore like bears.
So if you still dream of being a globetrotting backpacker – go for it. There’s nothing stopping you.
7. You’ll Make New Friends – of All Ages
Yes, you’ll make friends with people that are younger than you, and older, and from other cultures. If you truly slow travel, like we are, you’ll make friends that feel like family.
The truth is, if you leave yourself open to it, you’ll make friends almost anywhere you go. It’s not hard, and sometimes it even sneaks up on you.
Just start talking to people. Some you’ll click with, some you won’t. Don’t worry about whether you said everything right, just let it flow. Offer help when you can, and ask for help if you need it.
In most places, people are fairly receptive to helping strangers. And if it’s obvious you’re a visitor to their country, they’re often proud to help. Sure, there are a few sour people that would rather not deal with tourists, especially if there’s a language barrier, but they’re a tiny percentage of the greater whole. Of course, this will vary from country to country. But keep an open attitude and you’ll usually find good people.
If you’re not adept at staying in touch online, it’s time to learn this skill so you can stay in touch with your new friends. Pick a social media platform, or two, and sign up before you leave. Love it, or hate it, Facebook is an easy way to stay in touch the world over. Since you’ll be running into other travelers, I’d recommend Instagram, too because most of us have Instagram accounts for sharing our travel pics.
And since we’re talking about it, be prepared to get WhatsApp. Often it’s the preferred way to keep in touch with drivers and guides, as well as new friends.
8. Don’t Worry About Speaking the Language
Have you forgotten all the Spanish you learned in high school? Did that semester of Japanese in college go in one ear and out the other?
Humans are particularly good at communicating. And now, technology makes it even easier.
Try to learn the important phrases for the country you’re visiting by rote. Your life will be much easier and people will appreciate your effort.
These phrases are:
- Thank you
- How much does that cost? or just, How much?
- Numbers – how high depends on the money system
Besides that, get Google Translate on your phone (free), and download the language you need for offline use. Not only is there written and voice function, but you can point the camera at a sign, or menu, and have it translated real time.
Google Translate isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn good – and everyone uses it. So don’t be surprised if someone takes your phone from your hand to type something in. Happens all the time.
Translation tip: If you’re having trouble communicating numbers, use the calculator on your phone. It’s particularly helpful in places where something might cost 13,000 or 130,000. It ensures both parties are on the same page about price. It even works with people that know extremely little about technology, like the old lady in rural Mauritania that makes bead necklaces.
9. Tech Makes it Easy to Stay in Touch with Family and Friends
If you’re worried about staying in touch with friends and family back home, don’t be.
Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook and others make it easy to communicate while you’re on the road.
Depending on the length and location of your travels, you just need to decide what kind of phone plan you’re going to use. For a short trip, you can see if your normal carrier has a decent international plan, if that’s what you need. Or check out SkyRoam and the like.
However, the cheapest way to manage your phone for international communications is to get a SIM card in the country you’re visiting. If you’re from the US, this means your phone needs to be unlocked, but it’s worth it. Data is usually cheap and it’s easy to recharge as needed.
Once that’s settled, you can post pictures all day long and make your friends
jealous of happy for you.
10. You Might Just Find a New Place to Retire
Whether you’re thinking about retiring, or you’ve already done it, you might find somewhere you love, that costs less, has perfect weather and wonderful people.
You’ll ask yourself – do I have to leave?
The answer may be yes, but you can come back.
Seriously, there are a lot of great places on this planet that may have less stress and the opportunity for a better standard of living than where you live. It’s entirely possible you’ll find somewhere you want to settle down, if not now, later. Even if you love your home, it’s something to keep in the back of your mind, especially if you’re worried about affording retirement.
Consider your travels over 50 a test run, a sampler platter, a smorgasbord of experience for your future.
Okay, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Stop making excuses and get to traveling. The benefits are amazing and the experiences unforgettable. It’s time.
Go. Get out there. We mean it. No, that’s not a valid excuse! That’s it. Make those plans! Buy those tickets.
Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!
If you still need a bit of inspiration, check out our favorite inspiring travel quotes. They’ll give you a kick in the pants.
And then – GO!
Badgering you with love,
Team Hazard Rides Again
PS: Our Travel Planning Guide is a post loaded with information to help you. From deciding where to go to making sure your documents are all in order, this guide will keep you on track. Pop over and take a look.
Oh, and please share this with you friends, or parents, or anyone you think needs a little nudge to get out there and travel.