I’m all about doing every trip with only carry-on luggage. My health goal in life is to be strong enough to carry my own luggage up the stairs on the train platforms in Europe. So it’s all about minimizing stuff. You can travel farther faster through the second half of your life if you’re not carrying around all your resentments, feuds, unmet expectations from the first half of your life like over-packed luggage. Do you need them? Really? Learn to let go and leave behind so you can concentrate not so much on the weight resting on your shoulders but the vista before you.
Sure, I mixed up “push” and “pull” in German and, therefore, gave the two Turks working behind the pizza counter in Wolfach endless amusement as I yanked, pulled, tugged, and everything else on a bathroom door that actually said “push” in the language of that country. But I knew how to smile and say at least “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” and order my lunch. I’m not great at speaking foreign languages, but I’m not afraid to try anymore and I don’t let my pride raise its useless head when any native corrects my mistakes. I just smile and say “thank you” in whatever tongue I need.Don’t let yourself believe the hooey about old dogs and new tricks. Open your ears when talk turns to Pinterest, Twitter, and smartphones even if you don’t think you’ll use them. Talk to people older, younger, and different than you to learn what’s on their minds. Don’t be pridefully ignorant of contemporary culture. Learn basics of the languages used by the worlds around you. It’s not necessary to get on a plane to experience something new. You can always learn a new tongue.
The best kind of travel takes you out of your routine and enlarges your world. It doesn’t always have to be about risking life and limb. You can set limits of how far you want to stretch your experience. There’s no shame in deciding not to bungee jump or eat fried monkey brain. However, a highly choreographed tour that promises comfort at every stage can put bars around you rather than expand you. If you don’t at least occasionally dare the unfamiliar and uncomfortable when you travel, how much do you learn about the place you’re visiting, or yourself?It’s the same at midlife. I give you permission to ignore all those stories about people older than you, 50+ years of age, who tackle Ironman Triathalons on a regular basis. Just step outside of your comfort zone. Learn a language. Take pastry-cooking classes. Travel – solo – to a foreign country. Stand on your head and look at the world from a new perspective.
Find ways to remember and record your life before it passes you by. Remember all those snapshots you made on every family vacation? Pull out the camera and record what’s important in your everyday, ordinary life. Establish a correspondence ritual with a family member or friend. Patrick McGraw began sending weekly e-mails to his mother at her request. He began grudgingly but now treasures the digital archive of his life. Take up pencil drawing or watercolors. Keep a daily one-sentence journal that notes one image, thought, emotion, or quotation that defined you that 24-hour period.In the first half of your life you were probably too busy to stop and reflect. Slow down and capture each moment now.
Last summer on a trip to France I almost missed my connection for the transatlantic portion of my flight. The plane got in late to Paris and I missed my train to Dijon, leaving me sitting on the floor among the Sunday crowd of travelers for almost eight hours until I could get a seat to continue. It rained almost every day of the 6-week stay in Burgundy. Due to my inattention and stupidity my wallet was stolen on the metro in Paris so without a license I couldn’t rent a car for my trip to visit a friend in Loire. And my pain that eventually led to surgery grew exponentially worse each day. Yet still I wrote, practiced my French any chance I got, climbed a mountain, and made new friends. It was a great visit.Plenty of aches, pains, economic uncertainty, family problems, and more are out of your control. Energize the second half of your life with all that you can influence such as what passions you follow, a healthy diet, exercise, how you spend your hours, how you think.Most of all, when you commence your second act, remember to enjoy the journey.
Julie Farrar left the life of a university professor behind and now follows her twin passions of traveling and writing. When she’s not on the road or writing at her desk in her apartment in Dijon, France, she’s sitting at her desk in St. Louis, MO where she lives with her husband Brad and ancient dog, Skyler.
Julie Farrar blogs at Traveling Through