Three's A'loud

Top tips for travelling when you are older - Part 5

18 years ago I met a really cute guy at work. We were best friends for a year before he realised he liked me as much as I liked him. We were together for three years, working hard and slowly but surely building a life together. We had good jobs, reliable transport, a lounge suite, good crockery and nice glasses. We were all set for a good life and a white picket fence when we got a little rebellious and sold our bakkie and most of our crockery to buy plane tickets to London.

In the UK and Europe we not only discovered a whole new world but also a whole new side to ourselves. When travelling we were resourceful and independent and found that together we could solve dilemmas for which we would previously simply call our parents. We were daring and adventurous. We discovered that a home loan and a new car were not the only things worth working for in life: we could have a great life in our little room in a flat that we shared with six other twenty-something travellers from all over the world. We worked really hard to pay the rent every month, but with the rest of the money we paid for tours rather than tea sets. We booked excursions rather than shopping for furniture and paid off plane tickets rather than a home loan. It was magnificent. After a couple of years we returned to the country and the people that we love to get married and start a family. As a couple, we were prosperous even though we had no money. Our wealth was measured in shared experiences and yes, also in hardship. Back at home we started all over again with no money but our relationship was rich.

Gerhard and Susan. Machu Picchu 2018

We planned on travelling again soon but often a wealthy and healthy relationship leads to babies and so we put off travelling for a little while longer. Eventually it took us 12 years to get on an international flight again, but oh, when we did, we made every minute count.

Over the past 5 weeks I have been sharing my top travelling tips for when you are older. Although we certainly don’t see ourselves as being “old” we are definitely not 21 years young anymore. We could not just jump on a plane like when we were young but had to save for almost 2-years before we could make our trip to Brazil and Peru happen and not lose our house or business. When we were in our twenties we could arrive somewhere and figure out what was worth doing but with our kids and lives back home, this time around we had to do proper research and finalise most of our bookings before the trip to ensure we make the most of our limited time. As a young couple we didn’t mind sharing hostel dorm rooms with a dozen other travellers but now, well, we actually kinda do.

Lama drama photobomb

I really wish that this series not only helped you with the practical considerations when planning a trip in your thirties or forties but will also encourage you to get out of your comfort zone once in a while and explore new horizons. It does not have to be to another country. It does not have to be across an ocean. It should include at least the following three things:

  1. A couple of bucket-list-type experiences you will always remember.
  2. Time to rest and recharge in-between.
  3. Meeting people from or learning more about another culture.

Rio dreams

Before my very last tip of this 5-part series I want to suggest some not-so-obvious ideas and activities to include in your next trip:

  • Book a photoshoot!

    We all have fancy cameras (even if it is on our cellphone) and unlimited digital resources to store billions of selfies. But professional pictures of you and your better half are priceless mementos of a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We found an amazing photographer on Airbnb experiences that combined a walking tour of Copacabana beach with a mini-photoshoot. The most fun afternoon ever. The most beautiful pictures in the world.

Rio sightseeing-photoshoot

Rio sightseeing-photoshoot

  • Have a fancy dinner.

    We are foodies and really wanted to book a dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant. Sure, it is really expensive but it would’ve been a once in a lifetime experience for us. We even found an amazing restaurant with a Chef’s table where you are actually seated in the kitchen. Unfortunately due to cancelled flights and the resulting time constraints we had to cancel our booking but we still overdressed and went out for a fancy dinner at a less exclusive restaurant a few nights later. Dress up and show up. Luciano Pavarotti once said that one of the very nicest things about life is that ever so often you have to drop everything you are doing and stop to eat. You might as well make some of those meals a bit extraordinary.

Dress up and show up

  • Practise your favourite sport or activity locally.

    I am a runner. It was really special to me to go for an early morning run on Copacabana beach. I didn’t run particularly far or particularly fast but I ran on Copacabana beach!! If you are a golfer, play on a local course. If you are a dancer, go for a dancing lesson in the local style. If you play tennis, find a local club. Whatever the case might be, practise your favourite sport or activity locally. It makes for great memories and great stories to tell.

After 5 weeks I would like to recap my top 7 tips for travelling when you are older:

  • Start saving long in advance
  • Do your research
  • Find the balance between planned excursions and free time
  • Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone
  • Do something completely familiar and relaxing
  • Make the most of the little time you have
  • Do something special for your kids back at home

Selaron steps, Rio de Janeiro

And finally, maybe most importantly, wherever you go, whatever you do, regardless of whether you are young or old or just slightly older than the last time you travelled:

  1. Never lose your sense of wonder.

    On the 3rd day of our Incan jungle adventure we entered Machu Picchu town. In the days before, we had looked out over Rio from the Christ the Redeemer monument on Carcavado Mountain. We flew over Ipanema beach on a hang-glider. We trekked through some of the most majestic mountains on the planet; we had crossed roaring rivers and gazed at spectacular waterfalls. We had met some amazingly interesting local people and ate delicious traditional food. One could say that we already had our fair share of awe and wonder. But entering that mysterious beautiful little town on the Urubamba River, I was completely overwhelmed.

    It might have been because this area is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It might have been because I was absolutely exhausted and slightly hung over. Mostly I was terribly thankful and delighted that we survived that scary bike ride down the mountain and didn’t plunge to our deaths off a cliff on the Inca trail. Whatever the reason, I was flooded with joy and enchantment when we saw the sign welcoming us to Machu Picchu.

    Take the time to stop and smell the roses (and take some pictures)

    We stopped to take a selfie with a member of our tour group and another guy in our group got a little impatient. And suddenly I was reminded of all the times in the past two weeks when I had been impatient with other travellers during our various day trips. And I realised that was the most sad, arrogant thing to do. Never lose your wonder. Never stop being in awe. Never stop being astounded by God’s amazing natural wonders and people. Never, for one second, stop seeing things for the first time and start taking amazing experiences for granted.

    Never ever pretend to be used to awesomeness. Enjoy every once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Machu Picchu awe and wonder

St Augustine said that the world is a book and those that don’t travel read only the first page.

Read as many chapters as you can and be sure to find the awe and wonder on every new page.


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