Up until my mid twenties I travelled lots, mostly on a shoestring, with no set agendas, no real plans, just a backpack (that weighed almost as much as me) and a love of adventure.
This attitude took me to many countries and I was able to meet loads of new interesting people. I was thrown into many challenging situations and often worked in locations that I would have never chosen otherwise. I feel that these challenges made me grow as a person and taught me invaluable life lessons.
I’ve worked on a remote hunting lodge in the north of Scotland with no electricity, in a bar in south London where sometimes the customers would wear no pants, as a private english teacher in Italy with an impossible demanding spoiled family, as a home care helper for old people, both sweet and horrible all over the UK.
I can remember travelling with my sister, placing a map in front of us, closing our eyes and randomly pointing to the location on the map as our next destination.
Nothing was planned. Nothing was organized. We just went.
Along the way I’ve been put handcuffed in the back of a paddy wagon in Marseille, been terrified of an 85 year old woman in England, lost all of my belongings between Spain and France (thus why I have almost no photos of my travels, all of these were taken after), seen countless men masturbating on street corners (no joke…what is that about Italy???), taken the wrong train/bus numerous times, ridden the bus in Rome wearing only men’s boxer shorts and a t- shirt without underwear ( this was after all our bags were stolen and we had hand washed our undies and they were still drying), learned how to cook on an Aga, driven on the wrong side of the road, and felt the sting of humiliation while working for the very wealthy.
It wasn’t all good. It wasn’t all bad. Mostly, though I lived life. Risks weren’t a problem. Every day was a new adventure. I lived with abandon, changing boyfriends, situations and jobs as my mood dictated.
I might also mention that it was through these travels that I met my husband some 24 years ago.
I just read about Vix’s trip to India where she managed to live on what is the equivalent to about $42 per day for herself and partner Jon.
Vix and I are the same age, but she is still able to travel like a 20 year old.
Me, somewhere along the way I decided that travelling with risk was no longer my thing. I’d become pampered and lazy, choosing instead all inclusive resorts, fancy hotels, guaranteed lodging, preplanned itineraries and organized transportation. Removing the risk inevitably removes some of the thrill and much of the opportunity for unforeseen pleasures or problems.
I can remember staying in countless hostels and very cheap rooms that were gross or downright disgusting but in the end there was almost always laughter and fabulous stories to tell, yet the older I get the more cautious I’ve become. I’m keenly aware that if I decided to take the path less travelled that I might get more than what I’d bargained for. Both in a positive and negative way.
I’m obsessed about not “wasting time” while travelling. The older I get the more I’m aware of what I consider to be wasting time. Must have something to do with the fact that I’m running out of it.
Instead of the journey to the destination being part of the travels, I’m focused strictly on arriving and doing what I’d planned.
I want to get there, with as little hassle as possible, get to my room, and then get on the beach or to the show, museum, tourist attraction efficiently. No time for serendipity to enter into the equation.
I can’t help but wonder, “Are my choices aging me?”
They say that one of the best things to avoid aging of the mind is to ensure you are constantly doing new things. The older we get, the harder those are to find. If you plan less, your life is open to more. More problems, more adventures, more unique unforeseen opportunities. However, sometimes if you plan less you can also end up doing…well…a whole lot less.
Reading about Vix’s travels made me nostalgic for my younger self. I so desperately want to not care about risks, but I find I am incapable of pushing that from my mind. I loved reading about it, vicariously living through Vix, but I can no longer envision myself doing it. Too much to think about. Too much to worry about. It seems exhausting.
I haven’t gotten to the point where I need to go back to the same vacation spot every year. I still like to visit new places, eat new food, experience new things, but all while I’m guaranteed my daily comforts. Change is good…but too much change? Not-so-much. I think that is a sign of age. I’m too settled in my ways.
How about you? Do you find as you age that you are risk adverse? Are you still able to find new experiences and situations to challenge your mind? Do you prefer comfort over adventure? Safety over excitement?
PS You might like to read about when I went overseas to Amsterdam to meet bloggers that I’d never met before…my (older self) version of taking travel risks.
Linking up with the lovely Judith for Hat Attack
two birds says
Wow, you have had so many great adventures! I wish I had travelled more when I was younger. I think it is normal, as we age, to want to be more comfortable when we travel. It’s just about knowing what you like and how you want to spend your hard-earned money. I would like a nice, comfy, clean bed and room, a warm shower, good restaurants, etc. It’s definitely fun to go off the beaten path, too, but it’s always nice to come back to a comfy bed and maybe some cable tv. Ha! Okay, maybe we are set in our ways, but I don’t think we should beat ourselves up for it. As long as we are traveling and seeing new places and living our own little adventures! And still getting dirty every once in a while!
quante belle foto, le foto sono davvero il racconto di una vita a presto
A great life you had and are still having. With life we move through stages. It doesn’t matter if if we deem them good or bad, but each stage we can learn something incredible about ourselves. Embrace that, rather than comparing the two.
I’m more of a calculated risk taker.
You have had the memories to enjoy looking back on! Me, I was having children one after the other so my extensive travels, or more broad plans, are in the very near future. But I don’t look at my choosing comfort over “winging it” as aging at all. I look at it as being honest with myself as to how I’m truly comfortable and I deserve it. I still have friends who travel with a backpack, sleeping bag, Central America in the jungle, etc…but what really is important to me is a good nights sleep in a comfortable bed. Otherwise I’m just not enjoying the trip. I know when I was young I felt the same way about comfort and sleep but I was just a little more willing to compromise for the experience. Now I know that experiences can be even better with a few modern luxuries.
The Style Crone says
It was fascinating to learn about your gypsy life and your adventures. No wonder you’re so vibrant and aware! It sounds to me like you continue to explore life, though through a different lens.
I will be 72 in less than a month, and I continue to explore new experiences with as much “wonder” as I felt earlier in my life. I don’t find it difficult to try something new, but rather, I revel in the excitement of the plan as well as the actual event. There are different concerns now, but life is just as exciting as it always has been. XO
What a wonderful life, and still wonderful in your 40’s, Suzanne. I think we go through stages, and comfort becomes more important to most of us. I don’t want to sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag – but maybe I do, just to watch the total solar eclipse this March. Don’t judge the judging, one of my wise professors used to say. Don’t add a layer of judgement to whatever you’re planning or not planning (says me, one the biggest OCD-ers I know). xox
Tiina L says
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable. Or feeling more settled in your ways. Your priorities have changed, that’s all. You were free and adventurous in your youth because you probably felt safe, and there was always a place to go back to, right? That’s a good way to explore the world, because you can always go back home afterwards, and leave again when /if you feel like it, not because you have to.
I’ve also travelled here and there, worked, studied and lived abroad (and moved constantly, usually not by choice) but I was never very adventurous, no sleeping bags or packbags (I’ve always been a bit of a snob…). Travel as such has never been a goal, or having new experiences and meeting new people (had to do enough of all that as a child; since then I’ve craved constancy and security, sort of wanting to put down roots) and I love going back to places I know because there’s no pressure to ‘see and do everything’ but I can just enjoy the moment. And I love it that I “know” a place, have a history with it, that I feel like I sort of belong there. I still go to new places, too, but never enjoy my first visit to a place as much as my 10th….
Accidental Icon says
I am actually finding the opposite. I was more timid when young about taking “good” risks, perhaps not so much “bad” ones. I am actually so much more secure with myself as a person at this point in my life I find self very open to new adventures and have the ability to tolerate uncertainty. My partner Calvin has the same sensibility and so we are always starting new adventures. We usually change neighborhoods every six or seven years following the artists. I get depressed if everything is too much the same. Do I like to be comfortable, for sure, but I would rather have the experience and make some sacrifices around hotels etc. in order to just go. Great post!
Ha! There’s me, hanging out on your blog!
What an interesting read, I loved hearing about your travels and looking at your travel photos. I found the men in Malta had that peculiarity, too. I’ll have to dig out my camel riding photo, too. I didn’t look half as cute as you did.
I don’t think your choices age you, you’re still keen on seeing the world, only these days you want some comfort and security. Like Patti says, we go through stages, maybe you’ll feel differently in a few years time. After all we’re both still young women, aren’t we?
Not having an agenda and doing things spontaneously make life more exciting. I hate knowing what I’m doing ages in advance and making plans, it makes me feel trapped and anxious, but the very nature of the business I’m in means I have to, so those few weeks of freedom are wonderfully liberating.
Believe it or not I have calmed down since my younger days when one of my friends christened me “Death Wish”. xxx
There is no right or wrong way to travel (or live) so your choices are your own, and hopefully feel right for you, Suzanne. I enjoyed hearing about your youthful freedom and backpacking adventures, but I can just as easily appreciate your desire for ease and comfort now. I don’t know if that’s about age and aversion to risk, or more due to the fact that you can afford to travel in comfort these days. I’ve never been much of a risk taker, back then or now, I like a measure of planning and security, and having 3 kids tends to mitigate against spontaneity in travel planning! But it’s all good; isn’t the fact that you enjoy your holidays the real point? xxx
This was a great read, Suzanne. My parents are both very cautious people who prefer to plan things in advance. Kyle’s are more adventurous and reckless. Kyle and I hover somewhere in the middle. We threw caution to the wind when we picked up and moved across the country two years ago. Since then, we’ve vowed to do more traveling. But still, I plan everything out and am very much focused on the destination and making sure we check everything off our itinerary. The notion of tackling a new place in real time, no plans or expectations, seems both thrilling and terrifying. I want to talk with Kyle about this over dinner tonight. It’s dek, it’s one day that’s opened up to surprise and serendipity.
finitely making my rethink some things. Even if we just start by leaving one day on trip itineraries blank, it’s one day that’s opened up to serendipity and surprise.
Thanks for this.
Natalia Lialina says
I admire you honesty and the fire that is very much alive – that I treasure about people very much.
Don’t be so harsh on yourself. I truly believe that the best favor you can do to yourself is… to stop comparing yourself with others, and probably even more challenging – comparing yourself with yourself, in a competitive way. I know that it is hard for you. But what we pour our energy in, tends to grow. So we really all need to learn where to pour that precious energy – into competition seems like a waste to me. We could do so much more interesting, good things with our inner energy.
I don’t think that taking physical risks is what really makes people vibrant and alive no matter what age and stage of life they are.
I do believe that we grow exploring ourselves from the inside. World travel can be one of outer ways to help the process, but it also can be not, and it is for sure not the only way. The thoughts we choose to think, the feelings we choose to feel, the beliefs we choose for ourselves – that is what makes us growing or not growing. That path, the less traveled path you are talking about… it is inside of you, and it is always there, and always will be there, even when you are 100.
I’m looking forward to ageing, and I am completely honest about it. I love getting older. I love caring less about what other think of me – I’m not perfect at it, far from it yet – but it’s a process. I love being able to choose what I want to choose not because it is so unusual, shocking, rare… but just because it rings true inside of me. The inner adventure – that’s what life is all about to me. And yes, no planning. Organic, natural, spontaneous living. Listening to the voice inside of me. It is getting stronger and stronger every year. I was never a fan of being 20. In fact, it was hard to be 20. I would never want to go back.
I do believe that we can start living a dream life we want for ourselves at any age or stage in life. And that is a true adventure. I admire Vix for not settling for what majority thinks possible, but for actively building the life for herself that she loves. But that dream is unique for everyone. And so is the journey how to get there.
nancy @ adore to adorn says
what an interesting question. I never really thought about it like that. I just considered it part of my “growth process” vs. “aging.”
I’ve never been that much of a risk taker. I always found it so inspiring to hear and see people living the life they wanted. Even if they had no plan and no budget. I always WANTED to do that but could never jump on the risk. Personally, there was so much going on that the part of me that wanted to be a risk-taker stayed hidden in order to feel some sort of stability (since the stable parts of my life weren’t actually stable at all). So I chose to stay stable so I can grab back what I didn’t have. Sometimes, I think how I wish I didn’t hold myself back. But, I don’t want to look back all the time. I can only continue on and maybe take some risks that I may not have before. Isn’t there a saying that goes, “it’s never too late?” =)
Remote hunting lodge with no electricity?
Wow, that is amazing and challenging.
I get the partying in France!
What a wonderful bunch of adventures to have in your mind’s eye.
I think that sense of adventure really broadens a person.
At that age, I was not traveling, I was busy getting straight A’s….
now that I can I either deem it too dangerous.. or just think it is outside what I can do comfortably.
OH well, I can and do read.. that takes me away.
I try not to be too stifled in routine!
Great post, what a darling young girl you are ! 😉
Rachel G says
Well, I think you were far more adventurous than I am or ever will be. I do like to have a general outline of a plan…and after one experience in a hostel, I don’t like them at all. I do enjoy trying new things, but imagine I’d like luxury travel a little more than budget travel. 😉
You’ve had some amazing travels!! Bravo. My life has been quite tame compared to yours. I prefer to travel as comfortably as possible and the older I get, the more important comfort is. I don’t think it ages me, I think it makes me more discerning. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Happiness at Mid Life says
I have never been a risk taker and when I did “backpack” in Europe in college, I never stayed in hostel but hotels. I think there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in your travels as long you are experiencing new things. As long as you have a good time – then you are all good.
I certainly do not want to travel how I did in college, I had to eat baguette & peanut butter for a month because I didn’t have money left. Now, I want to make sure I try all of the local cuisines.
Great post and I enjoy reading the comments too. I don’t see you as any less adventurous because you like comfort. You still have that glint in your eye and are keen to try out new things. I’ve met +50 five-star-hotel adventurers and boring 20-something backpackers.
I remember hostels I stayed at when I was younger and every night there would be the Deprivation Olympics – where travelers would recount how dangerous their latest trek had been, ie. “My friend died riding in the back of a truck on the way to Lhasa,” (no, not MY friend, but it happened) Everyone would oooh and awe like this was great. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be secure. I look forward to reading about your next adventure!
Jill James says
Interesting post,Suzanne,my husband and I have been having a similar discussion.We travelled extensively in our 20’s and early 30’s,very much on a shoestring budget .We explored Europe by campervan and headed home(Australia) travelling overland through Turkey,Iran,Afghanistan,Pakistan& India.I have travelled through South America solo and am so glad I did in my early 30’s.
I am glad we did things that way then but like you I now prefer a little more comfort.My view is as long as the mind is open to new experiences a softer ride is not a sign of age .
If you want to take some chances in travelling the world, try a trip to Portage, and I’ll meet you at Bill’s Sticky Fingers for ribs…
I’m so envious of all your past adventures. I was always too much of a worry wart to experience life like that, and I do regret it. One of my big goals (once the boys are out of the house and on their feet) is to travel with my husband. I love seeing new places and experiencing new things. You seem very adventurous to me – as we get older our tastes change, and that isn’t a bad thing! Love the pictures from your past – you and your husband have always been a beautiful couple!
Ha! My family consider me ‘adventuresome’ just by living in France and becoming French. I like traveling and my hubby and I do quite a lot of it. In Europe I think folks are a bit more adventuresome as a rule than in the States (I don’t know about Canada), the majority of Americans don’t even have passports (last I read it’s something like 40% do). Europeans have about 6 weeks of vacation a year and they take them. They go and do…Europe, Asia, Africa…it’s not unusual here. Whereas, in the States it’s very unusual indeed. I like comfort in traveling, I admit it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, I think a person just has to do what’s best for them. And don’t you two youngsters look cute as can be!!!
I admire how you brave you have been in your travel choices throughout your life. You have wonderful stories to share and remember! I didn’t have the opportunity to travel until I was in my 30’s, and since then, I get very excited when planning a trip, no matter what the destination. I missed out on the backpacking and hostel experiences of some of my friends, and there is no way I would try that now. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be safe and comfortable when travelling. I mostly travel alone and while I make some plans ahead of time with regard to places to stay and buy tickets to things that require advance booking, I leave myself open to meeting people and having adventures. I hope that I will always remain open to trying new things.
I seriously think you should write a memoir about your travels.
That said, I think there is value in both ways of traveling- no plans and you get an exciting experience, but more comfort and/or plans also shows you another side of a place (especially to meet bloggers you have “met” online, which would likely require plans!)
Oh my goodness I hear ya! I am awed over your travels, risk taking when younger isn’t risk taking, you just do it. Changes happen, preferences happen, then you discover what you want and expect from a holiday. I agree new experiences are harder to find, I’m finding that right now but the one thing I really want to do is travel across Europe in a car, with Dave and the kids, no-one is biting though! I suppose I’ll do it when they are all bigger x x x
Sylvia @ 40PlusStyle says
So interesting to read Suzanne and great questions! I love how you chose to truly live life and be adventurous. I’m sure you will have many more adventures. I’ve been quite open to new adventures throughout my life but have now also settled a bit more. But that also comes with the responsibility of raising a child and the stability you like to provide for him. For travels, we actually like to go unplanned as much as possible. This keeps us open to new experiences. This year we go to the US again and will only book our hotels on the first few nights, after that we will go where our adventures take us. As you know I also have my month long New York trip to look forward to. Quite an adventure to do that on my own. Like you I do prefer more comfort now though. Although I’m more risk averse, I still feel I’m adventurous. I currently take risks with my business also and am prepared to fail in order to learn. My husband and I have no idea what we will be doing and where we will be living after our son goes to college. We have no clear sense of home. I feel that the world is my oyster and I could do anything or live anywhere. I plan to have many more adventures and take inspiration from the many older bloggers who do just that! My work as a blogger helps with that as I can do it from anywhere so it may help me finance that lifestyle…. Perhaps that is one reason why I’m working so hard; it gives me options and the freedom to be adventurous!
No Fear of Fashion says
Oh definitely. But that is not so much old age as it is character. I have always been like this. So I haven’t got such a past as you have. Always knew I wanted to lead a comfortable life from when I was 17. I was old before my age hahaha. I don’t mind. The only thing I am striving for is lots of laughter. Doing pretty well in this area.
For you travelling has become less easy because of health issues I suppose. Or has that nothing to do with it?
Me again! I thought a lot about this post. I used to make lots of dangerous decisions, not really sensing any possible danger, turning up on my own in the early hours of the morning to foreign counries, and it all seemed to turn out ok! It was such an experience, I loved it, but I think now I would make more of it just because of an increased mental capacity!! So, I am still game for the adventures. Bring them on xx
Val S says
You have had an interesting life! And your discussion is something that’s been on my mind lately because I’ve noticed how much I’ve come to appreciate routine and home life. I don’t enjoy travel as much as I used to – I like having my own bed, my own kitchen, my own bathroom, my own town. I’ve only really noticed this change in the past year! But it doesn’t bother me because I have traveled quite a bit, and with a British husband and stepkids, there will always be travel in our lives.
Debbie Stinedurf says
You have had so many fabulously cool adventures. I have never ventured too far from home. I don’t really regret it, but sometimes I wish I had taken more risks when I was younger. I think due to the nature of my childhood taking risks was just not something I did. I was also responsible for taking care of my very ill mother from the time I was very young until she passed away when I was 17. Therefore the opportunity to be young wasn’t something I had. In some ways, because of that, I’ve never grown up (which is actually a good thing!), but I never did develop a taste for taking many risks or being spontaneous.
The Style Crone says
I was so happy to see you and your headwear pop up on Hat Attack. Thank you so much. Hats are always an adventure, don’t you think?
Julia (The Velvet Runway) says
This is a great post Suzanne and I can totally see myself in your words.
I, too, have become more risk adverse as I have aged (I think it is no doubt linked to being responsible for your children so it’s not just yourself you have to consider)
I do still love to travel and I certainly don’t want to go back to the same place each year, but I think the carefree attitude of my youth has definitely gone!