Traveling is interesting, exciting, eye-opening, entertaining, enriching and lots more. To me, however, travel is also an experience that enables me to uncover and realize important things about myself.
Yes, I’m getting older, and I started realizing that the time ahead of me is shorter than the one behind me. How could this possibly not alter my travel perspective?
After almost 20 years in the corporate world, I quit my job over 3 years ago, starting to travel extensively and making a long-lived dream become true. My life suddenly changed. I eventually had the time to travel more often and for longer periods, but I was also 20 years older.
It must have been a latent thought, which I became fully aware of during my Southeast Asia trip last year.
Getting older changed my travel perspective. And a few things which once were of minor importance have become a priority.
Travel has become a matter of experiencing and feeling emotions, more than seeing places and doing things
Easily one of the major shifts in my travel perspective, the focus on the experience is prevailing more and more. What do I mean by that?
Actually, it’s something strongly related to time. In the past, I used to assume that traveling was about seeing places, as many as possible in the short time I could be on a trip. Now, I don’t really care about how many places I see, or activities I do. I want to feel a place and to be able to experience I need time.
In the past, when visiting a city I would rush to the main Museums, seeing as many landmarks as possible and end up my day exhausted but happy. In the last years, weather permitting, I spent most of the time randomly walking in the streets, savoring street art, strolling along the tiny cobblestone streets in Barcelona Gothic Quarter and stopping to listen to open-air musicians, enjoying a promenade among the ruins in beautiful Rome or a gentle ride by bike.
There’s nothing to prove
My recent trip to New Zealand was enlightening. Most of the travelers I met on the road – very nice people, by the way – were 20-something or 30-something. They are keen to travel and discover the world, and they are also at one stage of their life (at least, I guess) when they need to prove something to themselves and to the important persons in their environment.
When we arrived in National Park, where travelers stop for the world-famous Tongariro Crossing hike, the weather was just horrible. Low clouds, fog, and rain. Notwithstanding, most of the young people traveling on the Stray Bus with me went for the hike. When they asked me why I was not going, I simply said that I couldn’t see the thrill of hiking in fog, when there was no landscape to look at and I could have been anywhere in the world. And when I asked them why they were going all the same, often they told me “I want to go back and tell my friends that I hiked the Tongariro crossing”.
Fair enough (apart from the fact that half of the trail was still closed because of the volcanoes activity, so in the best case they can just tell that they hiked half of the Tongariro cross in…).
Maybe if I had been their age I would have done the same. Now that I’m rapidly approaching my 50s, I couldn’t see the point. I feel beyond proving things to the world (and in many cases also to myself). I would have loved to see the landscape along the Tongariro crossing and it was not possible due to the bad weather. A pity. But I’ve seen many other wonderful places and, hopefully, I’ll be able to enjoy a few more.
Taking my time, to travel and to rest
As long as I had a corporate job, I could only travel for short periods and thus every time was like a race against time, trying to see as much as possible in just a few days.
Throughout the last years, this has radically changed. I’m increasingly taking my time, and not only because I can now have longer journeys. I’m getting physically tired easier and quicker than I used to be. I like (and need) to take my time, not only to visit but also to rest. I tend to avoid being overloaded by activities and inputs, knowing that after a break I can enjoy even more everything surrounding me. I like taking my time and following my pace, whether it is to look at a mind-blowing scenery, admiring an exquisite architectural detail or enjoying a street performance.
The awareness that I won’t live enough, and the need to carefully choose.
The world is so big and there are so many wonderful places to experience, whether it is about wilderness, culture, wildlife, people, art or stunning landscapes. And… The older I get, the longer my travel wish list becomes. I dream of Antarctica, the Northern Lights, the Galápagos, Madagascar and Mali. I wish I could scuba dive the most beautiful places in the world. I would like to see the most beautiful and remote places in the world. And I wish I would experience all of my country, Italy.
The truth is that as year after year life goes by quickly, I don’t know how much time and health is left and I know, for sure, that I won’t live enough to experience all the beauty of our planet. That’s why I felt uncomfortable in Southeast Asia, wondering “What am I doing here?“. It had nothing to do with the place and it had everything to do with me. As every year there’s less time left, I have become increasingly aware that I have to understand what I really want to experience, and carefully chose my destinations, listening to my internal voice.
Nature and silence have become more and more important
Quitting my job implied a significant downsizing in my day-to-day life and the need to be much more cost-conscious when traveling. This never really bothered me and in the last couple of years, I spent a lot of time in hostels and traveled by public transportation or backpackers buses.
I realized, however, that I enjoy silence, furthermore… I need silence.
I reckon that’s the main reason I prefer nature to many cities, why I feel deeply uncomfortable in the large Asian megalopolis and instead love being in secluded, wild places, why I feel so happy when I happen to have the dorm all by myself.
It’s probably in my increasing need for silence that I understood how getting older changed my travel perspective. Many younger people talk unrelentingly, like loud music as a constant background and love crowded places and partying. There’s nothing wrong with that, I used to be the same. It’s just that I changed, and so did my priorities.
Yes, I am still wild about travel and hopefully will always be. Still, getting older changed my travel perspective and I’m glad about that. Because being aware of myself is what enables me to feel strong emotions and still have amazing travel experiences.
Did your perspective on travel change over the recent years? And how? I’d love to read about your experiences.