I grew up in a culture that did not encourage women to travel, especially not without a man by her side. Though I constantly staggered under the weight of these archaic, conservative norms, there was a part of me that longed to fly. Lulled by the tropical sun in my small hometown, I dared to dream the most wonderful glimpses into the future travails of my soul.
I dreamt of tree-houses in far away woods, of oceans blue, green and turquoise; of people, cultures; of places that beckoned from thousands of miles away.
Mentally, I had already started packing.
Eventually, I did travel – from point A to point B, all the while madly juggling marriage, kids, career, and home. But I didn’t really ‘see’ the places I went to. Not with my soul. I visited places like a tourist: seeing all the landmarks, ticking off the places tourists normally see – skimming over the surface without really understanding the circumstances that make a place what it is. I guess I was too busy making sure the kids were safe or helping my husband plan the holiday budget or stressing to keep to the travel schedule. I always wanted to stay longer in a place and enjoy its essence but had to rush back so we could cover another landmark.
When the kids flew the coop, I looked out of my kitchen window and wondered – was I too old for soul travel? Had the best years of my life passed me by?
I wasn’t a ‘superager’ yet, but it wouldn’t be long before I reached there. It was now or never. So a few years back, I ruffled my feathers a bit, flew out of my comfortable perch and headed for new horizons.
Travel, of course, was never meant to be the prerogative of any one particular category of traveler, age factor included. The mountains, oceans, valleys and vast open spaces of this wonderful earth, call to everyone, everywhere. But now that I’m older, I can stay longer in a new city or town. I can absorb the culture, meeting the people and understanding their history. I do this to feel a connection to that place. It is no longer sightseeing but soul traveling.
I walk, drive, sail and fly wherever my heart takes me. I get facelifts from the sun and have no time to trace wrinkles or count gray hairs. Gravitational force may not be friends with some of my body parts, but it’s pretty faithful to my heart, and that’s all that matters.
The wind beneath my old wings has been propelled by some good old stuff like this –
- I never stopped dreaming: the dreams were all in color on the internet, in pixels and megabytes and they have never looked more amazing. Every time I planned a trip, I felt younger.
- I read about the travels of other people and got inspired: bloggers, travelers, photographers, videographers – young and old, I was inspired by every one of them – their passion, their commitment and their sheer happiness in exploring new frontiers.
- I pushed my physical limits by climbing hills (no mountains yet) and trudging down slopes. I got on wobbly kayaks on the still waters of Tahoe, and on river rafts that rushed down raging currents in Sikkim, North India. I battled vertigo on speeding vehicles and despite my acrophobia, I looked down into the deepest ravines in Arizona and Oman, ignoring the fact that my heart was pumping at twice the normal rate.
- I walked leisurely in woods and forests in California surrounded by ancient Redwoods and Sequoias. I ventured deep into an ancient pharaoh’s tomb in Egypt, allowing myself to experience the wonder and the stillness I found there. I have never felt more alive (or young) than when surrounded by dead mummies from a bygone era.
- I went to new places with old girlfriends, all of us supremely confident that we didn’t look a day over 45, at least, not in the mirrors placed strategically in hotel lobbies. For us, the time had stood still somewhere in our thirties when we stopped counting.
- I wined, dined and danced. A LOT. Some memories are hazy but last year we ‘old girls’ danced like crazy at a reggae bar in Krabi, Thailand like there was no tomorrow. We livened up the place so much that the band members had to extend their show by four more numbers.
- I traveled several times with family and friends. This enriched my life in a deeply satisfying way, giving rise to countless ‘forever moments’ to cherish – one of them was watching a family of whales frolicking in the expansive waters of San Juan Island, surrounded by my own family.
- I realized age was just a number. Heck, some of the oldest places in the world inspire jaw dropping awe, for example, Petra in Jordan and the pyramids in Cairo.
- I made new friends and gained new confidence. I gambled in Macau, shopped in Hong Kong, attended a wedding in Udaipur, and stood on a mountain on the border of Russia and Georgia. I met strangers in all these places who helped me, strengthening my belief in humanity.
- My travels led me to start a blog and I returned to my first love, It was just the right pursuit I needed at this point in my life. Sure, the blog is still in its fledgling state, but I’m pretty optimistic about this one. Plus I’ve slowly begun to get published in a few places outside my blog.
During these journeys and destinations, I cannot recall the number of times I have raised my glass (or paper cup) and said ‘Cheers’ to a beautiful sunset in some corner of the world. Thanks to my travels, I’m healthier and happier, both physically and mentally. My soul and I are finally, travel buddies.
As for growing old . . . the oldest redwood tree in California dates back 3000 years.
Yep, I’m still young. That’s my mid-life mantra.
Editor’s Note: Read more about women after fifty following their hearts into wonderful travel adventures here.
Introducing Rachel Brown, Luxury Travel Advisor of MilesAhead, a proud associate of Valerie Wilson Travel. Rachel is featured on the Fiftiness video, Let’s Talk. Last year, when the video was made, Rachel spoke about getting back into the work force after taking a hiatus to raise her girls, without any regrets! We are so proud of Rachel for having made the decision and taking action. Take at look at her bio and her site. She’s a great advocate for finding and following your soul while traveling!