Once, in college, I knew a boy with wild blonde hair who got stuck in Paris at the end of the summer. The last I heard, he was trying to get back in time for term to start. He’d been backpacking, spent all his money, and couldn’t work in France. If he could get back and register for school, he could pay for his return with his student loans. But he couldn’t get back to register. Oh, the traps college travelers fall into.
I remember saying, “He shouldn’t be going. If he can’t go, then he can’t go! If he can’t get back, then clearly, he wasn’t in a position to be going in the first place!”
Well, you know what? He was in Paris. I wasn’t. And I’m sure he eventually made it home, and whatever damage was done from that misadventure, he’s got a good story and a history of living his life, rather than thinking of reasons why he couldn’t.
I’m not that person. Never have been. There are certain things we do and certain ways we do them. Letting go of the house and getting on a plane is NOT how I was raised. Nosiree. That’s.just.not.how.we.do.things.
But that is where I find myself today. Contemplating collapse. Destruction. Chucking it all. It’s not an easy decision, nor is it the kind of glamorous I hoped it would be. It’s scary, and that Victorian, midwestern voice in my head might go so far as to say, “stupid.” But you know, I don’t see her showing up on my death bed telling me I should have done less with my short and wonderful life. It may be time to tell her to go screw herself, and give my kids and myself something bigger. The world.
As I contemplated this murder of my inner voice, she resurfaced to make her worth known. “You know you have kids,” she said. “Are you going to be allowed to take them away from school and your ex for half a year? May as well not try at all.” And that’s when I realized. She was soaking all this up from the culture, all these admonitions. All this negativity. And she was really screwing me over with it. We hear a lot about when and how we “can” travel out there. It isn’t always kind of those of us who have left our college days and even our 20s behind.
I googled “should you travel in your twenties” and an obscene number of list blog posts tumbled out. Twenty reasons. Eleven reasons. 101 reasons to travel in your twenties. It seems like everything’s a go for 20-year-olds. Their careers suck anyway; they can pick something up on their way back. Or teach English. Or live in their parents’ basements. No one is out there (except me, Little Miss Priss on Campus) telling them not to try.
So I googled “should you travel in your thirties.” Guess what happened?
Wow, thanks, universe. At least there are still some bucket-list trips available for me to cross-off.
Spontaneous travel doesn’t seem to be on the agenda anymore, and regrets loom large. Some of the bucket list destinations are made to be kid friendly (Safari! Biking the Golden Gate Bridge!) and others are decidedly grown-up (drinking wine in Tuscany). The whole thing actually made me feel schizophrenically 21 and 65-years-old alternately. Or maybe at the same time. Who are these people? Who are family travelers? Are we really supposed to sit home and wait for the RV fairy to deliver our next travel experience?
Of course, there are a smattering of family travel blogs. There are tips on flying with carseats for families who, I don’t know, have funerals to attend. But the general message seems to be, “this was a great educational experience you have already missed.”
So then I really threw caution to the wind and googled, “Should you travel in your 40s”:
The gap-year folks seem a little self-conscious, eager to talk about their backpacking plans with others, explain “what happened” in their lives (both lucky and unlucky) that have gotten them to this point. This precipice that others don’t seem to dive off.
Is it a gap year? An expatriate life? An extended holiday? Do they have kids? Exes? A partner? A job? A home? What do grown-up (non-20’s) people need to really make this happen?
And they certainly demand more advice. “How to travel in your 40s” blogs seem insane to me. There are different travel products a 40-year-old needs compared to a 20-year-old? I still use the same toothpaste, and like a window seat, so I’m not sure what that could possibly be. In two short years, will I need accommodations for my artificial knee? A TSA-approved list of medications? My AARP card for discounts on museums?
So let go. Make that list of “cant’s” and burn it in a symbolic ceremony where you vow to take it one step at a time. There is no “can’t” in baby steps. You only have to move an inch at a time.
And I will too. The related posts are inspirational to me because they help you feel confident about every little part of planning, with kids, and fears, and reservations, and even family baggage (ha!) telling you not to. You can. You already are.