Travelling when older is different; here’s why you should do it anyway

written by Alison Armstrong April 11, 2019

Mont Blanc, Quebec, Canada. For the first time in more years than I can remember I’m skiing!

I can hardly believe it. I do multiple runs on the bunny hill to get the feel of it again, then a couple of the easier regular runs. It’s both scary and exhilarating. I never was a “black diamond” skier, but I could hold my own on the medium runs. Now here I am, 68 years old and I’m far from the skier I was in my 30s, but I can still do it! It feels like such a victory. Despite ageing, arthritis, and a hip replacement, I can still ski.

I travelled a lot in my 20s and 30s, then lived a more settled life until seven years ago when my husband needed to retire. The only way we could afford it was to sell our home and become nomadic. I was 61 and he was 69. It never occurred to us that we were too old to do such a thing.

Exploring Egypt

We travelled the world, mostly independently, but occasionally with tours. We wanted to feel safe in Egypt so joined Intrepid’s Egypt Experience tour, which is still one of the highlights of all our travels. Then, after nearly 6 years, time and age caught up with us. I needed a hip replacement so we had no choice but to stop. But we never gave up on travelling. We still haven’t given up. The fact that I’m 68 and my husband is 76 seems irrelevant.

Travel enlivens us in a way little else can, so we continue to find a way.


Travelling is different now we’re older. When I was young I barely gave a thought to exercise and fitness. I took it for granted that my body would do what I wanted it to do. I was always fit and active but since I’ve gotten older, and especially since the hip replacement, and especially since my husband in his 70s had a blown disc, we’ve become very aware of how important a workout routine is. The stronger and fitter we are the easier the travelling is. We know this so we work at it.

At the same time I recently travelled solo in Japan and then joined Intrepid’s China Experience tour and didn’t do my workout routine for the entire 7 weeks. I was too busy sightseeing. And as the tour continued I got fitter and fitter because I was walking everyday.


Tiananmen Square, with my Intrepid group

Making it work

From my journal – before hip surgery, in Trinidad, Cuba: “we’re flying down the bumpy rutted street, the bicycle taxi bouncing as it rockets down the steep hill. Down to metal on metal the brakes are shrieking a loud high-pitched ear-splitting scream that drowns out all other neighbourhood sounds. Everyone on the street stares as we go by. Ricardo, the driver, is all but standing up, throwing his full weight onto the brakes, and I have a stricture in my throat hoping that the taxi will in fact stop before we go hurtling through the upcoming intersection at the bottom of the hill.”

This is what happens when you need a hip replacement and it hurts to walk – you have amazing adventures like riding in Ricardo’s beat-up old bicycle taxi. We spent four months travelling around Mexico, Guatemala, and Cuba. I admit I was in a lot of pain, but the novelty of everything, the excitement of experiencing new things, and my love of photography, all helped me keep going. I rode in a lot of tuk tuks and bicycle taxis during that time. I still had some excellent adventures.


Getting around in Havana


I find that I’m more concerned now about health and diet. I remember travelling when I was young. I thought I’d live forever – if I thought about it at all. It never occurred to me to be taking vitamins or other supplements. Like most young people I thought I was invincible and did things that I now think I was lucky to have survived.

Now that I’m older I travel with all the necessary bone and joint supplements. It’s bulky but without them I might turn into an old lady. Chuckle.


Just go for it!

Travelling in our 60s and 70s we still do crazy things, at least crazy for us, but we’re much more aware of how vulnerable and precious life is. For the first time in our lives we went ice trekking, scuba diving, and climbing a volcano in the dark.

Beautiful Bali

From my journal – at a lodge in the Amazon, Peru: “the zip line is about 60 metres high, up above the jungle canopy. You get strapped into a harness then hauled up to a platform high up in a tree. Then you’re attached to the zip-line, and sitting on the edge of the platform you launch yourself into the air. Yeah. That was a moment. It doesn’t matter that you’re harnessed in, and that you have a second safety rope attaching you to the line, there’s still fear, that part of the mind that says “you’re kidding right, you’re not really going to launch yourself into space right?” And then you do it. Screaming. It was so much fun!”

When you’re travelling, opportunities are offered to step out of your comfort zone. You think you’re too old. But you’re not! We discovered that the things that seemed initially the scariest turned out to be the most thrilling, the most exciting, the most enlivening. Drinking whiskey after we’d trekked for an hour on top of a glacier in Argentina. Now that is living!


Ice trekking in Argentina


In my 20s I stayed in hostel dorms, but we’re older now, we have a little more money, and we like our own bathroom. So we stay in hotels or apartments. The only time we broke this rule was when we saw the eye-watering cost of hotels in New Zealand, and at the same time discovered how fabulous the hostels are there. But still we always get a private room.

Maybe us old people are a bit slower in the mornings, maybe we don’t party the night away or even stay out that late at night, maybe we’re not as fast up the volcano as the 20-somethings, maybe there are things we simply can’t do anymore, maybe sometimes a comfortable bed and private bathroom is more important than the experience of sleeping on the deck of a felucca, but . . . there’s still so much we can do, so much that’s rewarding and uplifting, so much world to see and experience.

I say do it anyway! Do what you can do. Travel anyway! There’s nothing like living to feel alive.

Ready to take the plunge and take on the world? Check out Intrepid’s top destinations to find your perfect small group tour.

(All images courtesy of Alison Armstrong and taken on her adventures around the world.)

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