Does Travel Make You Younger?

February 6, 2012 15 Comments »

birthday

My birthday celebration last year in Beirut

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!


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