A few things start happening to you when you hit 50. In your head, you’re still 28, but to the outside world, you’re 98. The normal pitch of talking you have enjoyed for five decades is replaced by people shouting to within two inches of your face, and a slowness of pace usually reserved for foreigners who don’t understand a word of English. Age, it seems, carries with it the assumption of deafness, if not stupidity.
Nowhere is the change of attitude more apparent than when traveling and this is why I have decided to write this blog, soon to be followed by a website (Not There Yet Travel), dedicated to the older traveler (I will be keeping to mostly US spellings throughout, so please, no admonitory missives) . Note: NOT OLD. I am a healthy, sprightly 58, yet when I hit the big Five O, I went from being “Miss” to “Madam” on airlines; ordering a pint of lager at an airport bar was greeted with looks of disdain; being an older, single woman, traveling alone, I was perceived as someone who (A) was lonely (B) had never been able to land a man (C) had managed to kill one off, or (D) was very rich as a result of either B or C.
Heaven forbid that I should enjoy my hard-earned money spending it on the thing I love most – traveling the world; meeting new people; sharing food, wine, experiences, and learning about other cultures. The horror, the horror!
Post 50, particularly in the UK, one is expected to crawl into a hole and wait patiently for death (the people waiting for it to happen wait impatiently, of course). It’s less true, I have found, in the US, where age tends to equal experience, which is valued (I’ve also found the same in France and Spain, both countries that revere their ageing populations).
I refuse to become one of life’s moles. Within the past eight years, I have traveled more than I ever have. Recently, I became mortgage free and intend to travel a great deal more in the future. At the start of my 50s, I met a woman on a cruise (I was writing a feature for a newspaper’s travel pages) who said: “You should travel while you’ve got your health.” That comment hit home like no other, and I have been on the move ever since.
The average age of retirement for Americans is 63, which is incredibly young by today’s standards, and there is a lot of living to be done, even at the end of one’s working life (alas, in the UK, the age appears to rise).
And so, I’m going to be writing about my own adventures and welcome the opportunity to hear about others’, too. Walking, climbing, sailing, flying . . . The world is still waiting; the waiting room can wait.
We may be getting older, but we’re not dead yet – and where there are Air Miles, there is life.
Beam me up, Scotty.