The calendar switched to February with hardly anyone noticing, but I noticed. February to me is about one thing – no, not Valentines Day or Mardi Gras – it means I add another year to my age. This February I will be 42 and in some ways I care and some ways I don’t care; strangely it depends on where I am.
I love the thought that a number doesn’t define you. After you pass 25, age seems so arbitrary. I remember someone telling me once that you are ‘born’ a certain age, and when you reach that age in your life – that’s when life begins. It’s the eternal age you feel regardless of appearance or what box you have to check on forms. That age is different for everyone; some of us start our life as we know it at 14, some at 23, some at 35. For me, I feel like I was born 28. When I hit the age of 28, I felt like I really came into who I really am. I don’t feel like I even remember the person I was before 28, yet I seem to remember everything after it. In my mind I still feel like I’m 28 most days.
These days though I find that how old I feel depends completely on my environment. Letting my environment define me and my attitude is probably not a good thing, but it’s one of those things that I feel that I can’t control. My mind takes over based on where I am and whom I’m surrounded by.
Traveling Solo Abroad
You might wonder what age has to do with travel, but for me the act of traveling has a HUGE effect on how old I feel. I’m just happier when I’m traveling abroad. I feel younger, I think I look younger, and I don’t ever concern myself with what I ‘should’ be doing at my age. I feel like I’m blazing a trail with no cares about what other’s my age are doing. I simply live, smile more, and have an immense amount of energy and enthusiasm; my outlook is much younger and more positive when I’m traveling abroad. In fact, most people guess my age to be younger when I’m traveling.
In the US
However the moment I come back to the US I start to become aware of my age. I see my friends and see their stable lives and start to question my what I’m doing traversing the world in my 40’s with no home. I start to worry what I’m going to do as I get older, as I realize the longer I stay out of ‘typical life’ the more of a loner I become. I see 28 year olds and think, ‘boy do they look young’ and I start to compare myself. The thought ‘kids these days…’ pops into my head more often. I even notice my wrinkles more in the US. There’s something about being back in my own culture that brings the pull of ‘what SHOULD I be doing at my age’ to the forefront of my mind.
While in the US just recently I was taking care of my teenage nieces as my sister and husband took a vacation. This is the worst when it comes to how old I feel. Nothing, and I mean nothing will make me feel more ancient than driving a mini van around picking up kids. I feel like I look my age. I’m not fun, more negative, and I feel like I’m constantly lecturing. I sometimes have an out of body experience and look at myself and wonder – who is this person who’s lecturing about homework while making a well balanced dinner and doing laundry? Playing the role of ‘mom’ and worrying about how my nieces will grow up is exhausting.
I know these scenarios do play an important role into why I keep traveling. Just like a romantic relationship, if a person or thing can actually make you feel better and bring out the best in yourself, then it’s a keeper. Clearly that’s why I’m dying to get back on the road lately. I’m headed overseas in three weeks again for a total of 5 months; 5 months of not caring about age, ‘should’, or kids’ futures. It’s like feeling 28 again!
How does your environment effect your age? Please share in the comments!
By Gillian @OneGiantStep February 6, 2012 - 9:24 am
At 44 I also don’t live a life that most of my friends and coworkers do. Although not on the road full time I am not married (well, officially anyway), don’t have kids, don’t own a home, live in a VERY small space, love to travel etc. I am fine with it all until I think about what the heck am I going to do when all my friends are retiring? I am, obviously, not going to be in such a position – I worry that all the fun I’m having now will catch up to me later…but not worried enough to stop!! PS…I was also born 28.
By Kristi February 6, 2012 - 10:06 am
I was born at 33. I was just recently divorced and let go of all that baggage and control (and believe me, there was control). My mom commented on how I look happier and feel happier. I also took my first ever solo trip, even though I have been an avid traveler since I was 3 (with family, of course). But when I came back from that trip, I felt stronger, younger, and vibrant. I carried that with me, but I do feel my age when I am in the U.S.
And I’ve often noticed that when I go out of the country I get hit on ALOT whereas in a America, I don’t (too much of a tomboy). I always thought I’m just more attractive to foreign men, but maybe this is it. I do feel more confident and I smile more when I’m traveling. When I went alone, I was hit on by two roommates age 22 and a guy that was 23. I felt old, but they didn’t care and eventually, I didn’t either.
By Barbara Weibel February 6, 2012 - 10:30 am
Hi Sherry – in some ways I can definitely relate. I don’t worry so much about my age anymore and it surprises me every time I think that I’m going to turn 60 in April, but I do feel and act younger when I’m on the road. Like you, it’s just where I belong and I never question it any more. When I do come back to the U.S., I feel drug down, but I’m convinced it’s all the stress and unhappiness in this country. Despite being unbelievably poor, people around the world seem to be so much happier that people in our country.
By Lane February 6, 2012 - 10:53 am
Been there. Done that. Had the career. Raised the kids. And, now its my turn. Interests that were put on the “back burner” are now being explored — including travel. Yet, I don’t feel “old” in the traditional sense. And, retirement is only another phase in my life. Age is what you make of it.
By Gigi February 6, 2012 - 2:28 pm
Travel definitely impacts how young and beautiful and happy I feel, but I would add that warm climates vs. cold climates have about the same effect on me. In cold climates, I feel older and less healthy and less beautiful. In warm climates, I feel alive and young and lovely.
By Lori February 6, 2012 - 3:31 pm
I think I was born to be 25. I turned 40 in August and still can’t think of myself as being “40”. I spent my younger years raising my son who is now 19 and a freshman in college, but I love the fact that I was young when I had him, because we traveled and explored so many cool places together. It also helps that everyone thinks I am his older sister and not his mom (Boy does that make me feel good). I don’t think I will ever see myself at my true age, sometimes I forget that some of my co-workers are actually younger than me, I think age is really a state of mind and mine hasn’t moved past 25.
By Bisa February 6, 2012 - 7:11 pm
I was born 30. I am 38. I know most people didn’t like turning 30 but I didn’t feel like my true self until I was in my thirties. People always thought I was older in my twenties now people don’t believe I’m over 30. I do feel younger when I travel because I don’t worry like when I’m anywhere near home.
By kenncf February 6, 2012 - 11:29 pm
Sounds like denial to me.– escaping maybe the new therapy — but a temporary fix. What happen if you can’t travel anymore? And what’s wrong with graciously accepting who you are?
Traveling is fun, don’t get me wrong. I love to travel. But to travel to feel better about my age, hmmm….
By Sherry February 7, 2012 - 2:03 am
Well, I’m certainly not going to deny that most people who are eternally traveling are probably running/escaping from something! I travel for many reasons – and feeling happier, younger, and carefree is one of the multiple reasons. I guess I don’t worry about a time when I can’t travel – it’s never really occurred to me. But I’m pretty confident that I will find other things to occupy my mind – I’m fairly resourceful.
By Journeys and Travels February 7, 2012 - 7:04 am
One of the best kept secret of life is enjoying it to the fullest through the feeling of the earth on your feet, thus travelling is much rewarding than staying in the home and the office. I am a travel blogger, now aged 35 and has been thinking of quitting my job and travel the world, starting from where I left last month, the lovely Kingdom of Cambodia. I had been in love with the thought that one day, I will be able to see through life through the lens of my camera and through the photos I share with my friends that inspire them.
In hindsight though, i clearly understand the backpackers I met on the road does not have a house too, they dont have fancy cars or stable job but mostly, they are contend and happy. I even said in my own travel quotes about Cambodia which states, “I learned when I went to Cambodia last month where I see travelers, finding meaning into their lives by just even feeling the earth. It is one that distinctly made me understand my own humanity, perhaps redefined it to see what I missed while sitting in my office. I have had this realization that while I am stuck here, I am nowhere.”
That particular quote defines me and now, kept asking what will end up of me if I will choose to stay and not live further on because I will not travel. I say, I can choose travelling for I agree with you, it makes me feel younger, with younger and fresher thoughts and perspectives!
By Lisa @chickybus February 7, 2012 - 7:38 am
I’m in my 40s and also feel younger when I’m traveling–usually because I feel so free (and carefree). Sometimes I notice a line or two in my photos, but I shrug it off since some of them are smile lines. 🙂
By 50+ and on the Run February 16, 2012 - 9:45 am
Gotcha by ten years, girlfriend, and you are right–being “away” makes you feel younger. I think it is partly the adventure, but mostly the difference is responsibility. So, this decade, I’ve decided to become less responsible!
By Sherry February 17, 2012 - 9:58 am
Yeah for less responsible!!! Go out and do everything you shouldn’t – you have nothing to lose and the world to gain!
By Clayton February 23, 2012 - 10:33 pm
I’m cruising the Big Island at 27 and feel “old.” Like, wasn’t I supposed to go travel and blog about it at 24? 22?
So lets agree that its silly.
(As I write, a kid busts out a ukelele in McDonalds. Wonder and surprise and delight keeps you young I’m sure.
By Sherry February 26, 2012 - 9:28 pm
Ha – yes wonder and surprise keeps me feeling young…but I sure would like a ukelele now!