Choose Your Own Adventure: How Boomer Travel Is Booming for Women
By Sonya Stinson
At age 70, Mary Stone took a journey to Mongolia, a trip that included lodging with several Mongolian families who, at the end of each stay, transported her by motorcycle, jeep, horse or even camel to the next house.
Three years later in 2013, Stone took a two-month spiritual pilgrimage to India, visiting and meditating at several Buddhist sites. On each of these trips, she traveled solo.
“There aren’t many people my age that I know who want to travel the way I do,” Stone said. “Most of them are more interested in going to Europe or staying at home.”
Stone, now 74, is semi-retired and runs a mental health counseling practice part time from her home in Bellingham, Washington. The practice brings in just enough money to pay for “extras” such as her Asian expeditions.
Stone may be a lone traveler, but there are plenty of others like her with an appetite for adventure and a determination that age won’t quell.
For those who prefer to travel in groups, several tour companies cater specifically to women adventure travelers aged 35 and older. These adventure tours emphasize camaraderie, health and fitness; they foster a cooperative rather than competitive atmosphere. Other tour companies that serve a broader market offer options that would interest active women traveling either alone or with friends and family.
Donna Hull, 63, who writes a blog for Boomer travelers called “My Itchy Travel Feet,” has hiked Glacier National Park and cruised southeastern Alaska on group tours. Her favorite spot on the national park tour was Many Glacier, where, Hull said, the wildflowers and granite peaks reminded her of the Swiss Alps. The Alaska trip also provided Hull with her first kayaking experience.
Hull, who is now planning a 2015 polar bear-watching cruise in Norway, believes traveling with groups is a great opportunity to meet others with similar interests. “It’s not hard to sit down at dinner or lunch and get to know each other better,” she said.
Based on her experience, Hull has the following advice for would-be adventure travelers:
- Before selecting a tour company, find out how it handles medical emergencies. Some companies include medical evacuation as part of their medical assistance programs. If yours doesn’t, consider purchasing an insurance policy that includes this service—it can be very expensive to fly home on a commercial airline after being injured or falling ill thousands of miles away.
- If you’re traveling solo, ask your tour company about getting a roommate. Some programs will match travelers so they can avoid paying the single traveler’s surcharges.
- Know your physical and emotional limits. Choose a tour that gives you options when it comes to the level of difficulty for activities.
Whether going solo or with a group, there’s also some general advice you should consider before you start your adventure.
- Consult the State Department’s travel website, where you’ll find fact sheets for every country of the world, including the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate and information on health conditions and security issues.
- Leave a copy of your passport and traveler’s checks with a trusted friend back home so they’ll be easier to replace if they’re stolen.
- Pack an adequate supply of any medications you take, and research the location of any pharmacies at your travel destination in case of emergency.
- If you are planning to drive abroad, check to see whether you need to apply for an International Driving Permit.
- Consider signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that makes it easier for the State Department to assist you if there’s an emergency.
As you’re planning your trip, take inspiration from Margie Goldsmith, 70, a travel writer who has visited 124 countries on seven continents, has climbed Mount Everest, kayaked in Baja, snorkeled among the whales in Newfoundland and experienced a host of other travel adventures. Age has never been a barrier to any activity she wanted to pursue.
“As you age, things break down sooner,” said Goldsmith, who practices mixed martial arts twice a week to stay in shape. “I get more winded and my legs get tired, but I don’t let that stop me. I just take it in stride.”
Sonya Stinson is a writer for print and web publications, businesses and nonprofit organizations. She writes about higher education, careers, small business, retirement and personal finance.
This article originally appeared on Northwestern Mutual Voice on Forbes.com.