WE THINK • November 2017
When it comes to travel, is it a carefree pursuit reserved for the young or does it become more rewarding as you get older? The Club asked two intrepid journalists – one under 50, one over 50 – to tell us what they think
The millennial viewpoint: Dolly Alderton (pictured below), journalist, author and director, 28 (@dollyalderton)
Unplanned, carefree travel has long been classified as the hobby of the young. The bad tattoos, the even worse sunburn, and the Facebook albums filled with drunk, smiling faces pushed closely together in European cities called: “Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my Rome”. Travel belongs to the late teens and early twenties. It always has done.
And yet, now I’m in my late twenties, I feel as though I’m standing on the sweet spot of the perfect travel age – young enough to still have a shiny, nomadic sense of adventure and good working knees, but old enough to know the whole experience is a little easier.
Firstly, you have more money, which changes everything. I’m not talking enough money to get you a ‘more-square-footage-than-your-flat’ suite – it’s not about luxuries that baby boomers enjoy – it’s the lining in your purse that makes a journey a little more comfortable: taxis instead of coaches without AC, a hut with a shower, and unlimited mosquito repellent.
Photo: Joanna Bongard
Secondly, you aren’t trying to drain every last drop from each place you visit. The fear of missing out (FOMO, as my generation refer to it) that plagued my younger travelling self became tiring and ‘box-ticky’. I’d stay out late even if I just wanted to go to bed or go on a long hike simply because everyone else was going.
Now I let myself luxuriate in a new place. I plan. I read maps. I slather on sunscreen. And those early nights? Well, they just help preserve that young, nomadic sense of adventure that you can only really keep intact in your twenties.
The experienced traveller: Simon Calder (pictured below), travel writer and broadcaster, 61 (@simoncalder)
Travel is the essence of humanity. A desire to explore, to experience and to encounter is part of our DNA.
Young travellers have always supported this theory, whether they’re on a volunteer project in Ghana, a university exchange in Spain or an indulgent gap year in South East Asia or Latin America. And thanks to the fact we live in an increasingly globally mobile world, they share wider horizons than any previous generation. Stepping way beyond one’s comfort zone is an essential rite of passage for them.
But I’ll let you in on a secret: their elders enjoy the enrichment and enlightenment that travel bestows even more. Why? Because with every passing year, appreciation of the gifts of travel really does intensify.
A piece of pizza: Italy has so much more to offer
A young person on a first visit to Italy might sum up the nation as Pisa and pizza. But older travellers realise the Leaning Tower is an uncharacteristic outlier in a nation blessed with outstanding architecture and art, and that Naples’ fast food is just one fabulous example of regional cuisine in the most delicious country on Earth.
Decades of meeting strangers in strange lands bestows the older traveller with the confidence that humankind is fundamentally good and hospitable, knowledge that encourages journeys far beyond the beaten track. Most empowering of all is the realisation that one’s risk tolerance should increase, not diminish, with age. At 21, an aversion to danger is rational, given the many years of joy that lie ahead. At 61, you can afford to take more chances. And (more importantly) savour more thrills.