The other day in a coffee shop in Flagstaff I over heard a fellow say how much he enjoyed traveling and hosteling when he was in his twenties. Then he said he would love to backpack Australia but that he was too old, “I don’t want to be that 40 year old guy hanging out at the hostel”. All I could think was, “Why not?” It doesn’t get any easier after fifty and if you never do it then all you’re left with is regret.
Over the last couple of years I’ve lived some of the adventures I’ve always dreamt of but never got around to doing when I was younger. Many of the dreams involved physical challenges like hiking the Appalachian Trail, bicycling/camping the American West, learning to Alpine Ski and cycling across Iowa with thousands of crazies in the 100 degree heat as part of RAGBRAI 2012. Other adventures were simply moving and living in cities or parts of the country I had never lived in before like upstate New York, Williamsburg Virginia and the desert southwest. Some were technical and emotional challenges, like starting this blog. Ok, laugh but if you’re from the era where you typed all your college papers with the help of “white out” then you might understand. Plus putting your thoughts and feeling out there for all the world to see is a little daunting.
One thing I have learned from pursuing these goals is that most of the people that do these things are decades younger than I am. Sometimes it seems funny to share a common goal with people so young but it also illustrates how much age is related to attitude. What I find inspiring about the twenty-somethings is that they are filled with enthusiasm and are not afraid to dream. Those are traits that we tend to lose as we get older. At hostels some young travelers are a little inhibited when we first meet because of the white hair but it doesn’t take long to find common ground and the conversations flow smoothly from that point forward. Being around young people does help to keep you young and let’s you see the world from a different perspective. I have learned a lot from speaking with these folks on topics ranging from technology to music. In return I hope they learned a little from the old guy in loose fitting kit riding the Holdsworth twelve speed steel road bike.
The biggest difference between me and the younger travelers, other than the speed at which we move, is that they are much more interested in testing themselves, i.e., hiking 40 miles in 24 hours. Such behavior is normal for that stage of life. I’m content to be at the stage of life where the only goal is to finish in one piece.
So don’t let your age or attitude keep you from living the adventure you dream of.