Midlife Travel Techniques & Toys
Eat Your Travel Cake and Have It Too!
I have friends who tell me they can't imagine how I manage to travel or do as many "fun things" as I do. To be honest, I had the realization that if I don't do it, no one else is going to do it for me. I didn't travel much in my twenties, which seems to be when most people get up and go somewhere just to see what happens. However now being a bit older and wiser I've got the benefit of better decision making skills and I've got enough structure in my life that I don't have to quit a job or wipe out my savings as part of my travel strategy.
A lot of people say they find traveling in mid-life too exhausting and they don't have the energy or endurance or patience to put up with funky situations like they did when they were younger, and to me, those folks just aren't using their brains and the experience that naturally comes with being older to make a better experience. I use a combination of knowing myself and some incredibly cool travel toys so that I can satisfy my urge for adventure but accommodate a more mature energy level and the inevitable sense of liking things to be a certain way that just seems to come with getting older.
You know that famously mangled quote about cake and eating? Most people say "you can't have your cake and eat it too" but if you have cake, you can actually eat it. The actual quote is "you can't eat your cake and have it too" because of course if you eat your cake, then it's gone. I'm going to tackle that concept here from a travel perspective, where I try and show you how a middle-aged person who wants some excitement and fun can work out a budget for travel, stay connected to your life back home and take care of yourself on the road. If that's not eating your cake and having it too, I don't know what is!
By the way, what you're seeing here is the view from the field sink from when I was camping on Oahu, Hawaii in December 2010. How's that for something to look at while you wash your dishes? I took this picture to remind me to keep my horizons as big as possible.
Making Time And Money For An Adventure
learning to invest in yourself
The number one impediment to traveling for so many people is their perception of time. If you have a busy life, a family and a job, it often seems like you can't detach from all those tasks and responsibilities to get away. That is a choice on your part. I used to think I could never get away from my job, and then I changed how I thought about work and that led to changing the work I did and that led to being able to flex my schedule pretty much whenever I want.
If you work 12 hours a day and you love it, that's great. If you work 12 hours a day and you hate it, then maybe you should think about changing your situation. I live without a lot of things that many people consider necessary for their daily lives (cable tv, a car) so that the money I would automatically spend on the upkeep of those items can be spent elsewhere. I don't eat out much because cooking for myself is cheaper and I buy a lot of used clothing at thrift stores because all those little dollars here and there eventually add up to a travel budget.
Some of the work I do is connected to my travel. I do web work for a group who has events several times per year and I negotiated with them to get my airfare to the events and registration/admission fees in exchange for my work for them. Boom! There's three trips a year to see people I adore, do fun stuff I like and stay connected to a community I really want to support. I also do some work on site when I'm at the events, like arriving early and helping with set-up, leading workshops and watching for ways to step-in during the event in case they need an extra hand. Being a volunteer or doing work-trade is often an option for festivals and gatherings, and is a fantastic way to get to meet people.
Since I make a lot of my living writing for Squidoo and other sites (like HubPages) every time I have a new adventure, that's new material to write about, which leads to more web pages, which leads to more revenue opportunities, which leads to more adventures. Carry a small camera that shoots both stills and short videos and you've got web page potential just pouring into your hands. I started out writing about fun stuff I did in my own hometown (street fairs, special events, etc) and then progressed to weekend road trips, conventions and more. Up next: a trip to the UK and France!
If you want to travel, start small, start cheap and start learning what works for you. That last point is a big key to the entire process and allows you to build from there.
And just as an aside before I really get going here, I know some of you are probably looking at my flaming red hair (or the purple hair in my avatar) and thinking "who is this kid telling us what to do in middle age?" I'm in my mid-40s and finally decided to commit the time, budget and effort to have the hair I really wanted to have. Not to mention I now have more than enough proof that all those people who said crazy hair would stop me from doing what I wanted in life were (and are) totally wrong. Shown here, a self-portrait snapped at the top of Mt Maxwell on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada from April 2012.
What The Heck Is Mid-Life?
For the purposes of this lens, I'm defining "midlife" as ages 30-50. It's that time when most people are so caught up in jobs, houses and family that they think they're too old to be goofy and too young to take some time that's just for themselves. (Note I'm focusing on "mid-life" not "middle-age." Middle-age is a state of mind. Mid-life is biological.)
Writing On The Road - written and photo content while traveling
When I first started making lenses, I would travel, then come home and then make lenses about it. Famously, I once went on the road for an entire month and had my most profitable month on Squidoo up to that time, all without checking or touching a single lens. That doesn't have to be the case anymore.
I can now create my written and photographic content for lenses at night while resting up from the day's adventures. Having a Wi-Fi only model saves money but still lets me check in from the road and even create new lenses. As much as the total breaks were restful, it's nice to keep an eye on hot lenses during the holiday season to keep everything in top shape and I do happen to have a pair of elderly parents who I check on instead of them checking on me. Here is a rough run down of the toys that keep me in touch.
What made me buy an iPad when they were first available was travel and it's not left my hands on the road for just over two years now. I can work on lens content anywhere and then just upload when I get back to civilization enough to get a Wi-Fi signal. For a lot of my urban travel, I'm connected everywhere.
This is my latest travel toy. It's changed my photography forever.
Info for Midlife Travelers - ...because you sure as heck are NOT the only one...
- Independent Travel for Adults | Midlife Travel
This is my site about travelling for the older backpacker, or the older independent traveler, the backpacker that got old, or never grew up
- Best Midlife-Crisis Trips - Articles | Travel + Leisure
Found yourself faced with a midlife travel crisis? Don't panic, pack those bags and go do it! Don't know where to go? Here are some ideas to think about...
Go Easy On The Feets! - aiding the aging knees and ankles
One of the things that's gotten harder for me as I've gotten older is trying to help my knees and ankles keep up with what my brain is telling them. Sometimes they just get too tired or too creaky to keep up with my desires for sites and activities. But over a year ago, I found just the thing for that. These are Z-Coil shoes and it turns out I should have been asking my friends who are full-time emergency room staff what they wear, as these are hugely popular with that crowd too. The heels are a wound coil that takes TONS of strain off your feet, legs, and even your lower back. If you are on your feet all day, or would just like to be from time to time, these are well-worth the investment!
I can now hike the occasional moderately-sized mountain with a pair of these boots. That's not something my knees or brain would have thought possible a decade ago. These were my daily companions and best friends when I hit London and Paris in July 2012. I've now got three pair of these shoes in different styles. I don't leave home without them.
We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are. ~ Max DePree
Expanding Your Comfort Zone - loosening up what has become set over time
As most people get older, they get comfortable with certain things. However, it's possible to have an adventure without completely obliterating your comfort zone. I find it's easier for me to flex my mind, bu aging has made it much harder to flex the body and I think that for some people, they confuse the two and shut themselves down when they could be using that information in a helpful way instead.
Know your true physical hard limits - Do you have dietary factors to consider? Or physical limitations that are givens? Before you have an adventure, make a list of the things that just have to be a certain way for you to maintain proper physical function. Once you do that, the areas that are more flexible will become more clear.
Know your psychological hard limits - Do you get really testy if you don't have a quiet place to sleep? Does having to go along with a group make you feel stifled? Does being out on your own seem too scary? List number two looks at things that make you feel good mentally or emotionally. This is often where it's possible to negotiate with yourself and soften a few ideas so that you can try some new things.
This is me seen in mid-climb of Mt Pilchuck in Washington State from October 2011. You get about 2000 ft of vertical gain over the 2.5 miles of trail to the top. I'd never done hiking that really was climbing before this outing and it gave me the pleasure of seeing steam pour off of me (a weird but cool sight for sure!) and made a lot of metaphors about climbing mountains rather real. It pushed me physically and mentally without being impossible and was a perfect place to move the edges of my comfort zone out a few inches in every direction. I hiked with a friend who was my same exact height and fitness level, and we both found that made the entire experience much more comfortable compared to hiking we'd both done in the past with other people.
When I showed this picture to my 70+ father, he asked me where the trail was in relation to where I was in the picture. I told him I'm sitting on it.
Staying Hydrated - a little water (or a lot) makes everything easier
If there's one thing that's changed with having midlife adventures, it's that I've had to forcibly learn to take better care of myself. Things that used to be "no problem, off we go!" tend to kick my butt the day after. I used to be able to run around all day without a second thought about eating or drinking something and now that sort of behavior results in feeling completely crappy the next day.
Carrying water around while out and about has become a necessity, especially for my aging knees and ankles. Dehydration not only leaves me tired and with a headache but contributes to sore joints. Not fun... And a tiny water bottle doesn't cut it anymore either. Fortunately there's some lovely technology which not only solves that but allows me to carry my camera, sunscreen, snacks and a rain shell.
For short jaunts or half day adventures, a 50 oz (1.5 liter) water reservoir works well. Pack includes small pockets for bare essentials.
This is my favorite size, packing along a full 2 liters of water. The pack will also carry a rain shell or a more substantial amount of snacks.
Three liters of water and room for warmer layers makes this the bag for those really serious outings.
Midlife Travel Challenges - where the rock meets the hard place
We all have different quirks, those bits that just seem set in stone that "have" to be or everything else doesn't seem to fall into place. On a trip to Switzerland with my father when I was just out of college, we found we traveled rather well together, having never done it before. One day as we were packing up and getting ready to head out to our next destination, he turned to me and said, "You're just like me... one good hot shower in the morning and then everything else can be dealt with..." I laughed because he was right. I don't know what it is about having hot water pour down on my head once every twenty-four hours, but I'm amazed what I can deal with when there is that one facet in place.
(This is the actual bathtub in my friend's backyard on Oahu. She's in her 60s and after finally retiring from a multi-decade career as a mental health practitioner, she's literally all over the place and wondering what took her so long to get out there.)
What is your biggest must-have or deal-breaker for when you travel?
One of my main travel rules is that I have to be fully self-contained. Put another way, I have to be able to move all my gear and luggage by myself with no carts and no help, in airports, up hills, wherever. Just following this one simple rule will do more to lighten your load (literally) than just about any other for travel.
Camping Older and Smarter - making roughing it a little bit easier
I go camping a couple of times every summer, most often at festivals that last about 4-6 days. Sometimes I go to two events like this just a week apart. That can be fun and it's not total backpacking rough but it is in tents in places that sometimes only have potable water and pit toilets and the weather can vary from Pacific Northwest forests (with rain) to Southwester deserts (with heat and sun). My mind is as young as ever, but my back definitely isn't and I can't guarantee having a bodyworker on call to fix me if something gets stiff or spasms. I needed something that was more comfortable than just a trail pad but lighter and more packable than your average camping cot and I was willing to invest in whatever it was that met that need. I almost couldn't believe it when I found this and it very quickly went to the top three on my list of favorite camping toys!
Weighing in at less than 3 lbs, this is high-tech meets portable comfort! On my first trip out with this cot, I set up on rocky ground and endured a small monsoon that had a tiny creek running through my tent, passing cleanly under the cot which kept all my bedding dry. I called that earning my money back in one trip! Set-up and break-down are easy, and the cot fits rather well in most two person tents that are rectangular. (tiny squares might be an issue so measure before you buy)
Midlife Road Trip - Videos - see what some other folks are doing
Although Ferris Bueller was a fictional high school student, he was right about many things. Especially the idea that life moves pretty fast and that if you don't stop and take a look around, you'll miss it.