How to have a midlife adventure – the ultimate guide to active holidays for baby boomers

KL - cycling Italy - camel Egypt - rickshaw India -2

Whether hiking to Everest Base Camp or rafting on the Zambezi, growing older is no barrier to daring escapades, as these famous faces concur

Baby boomers have redefined every decade we have lived in – and now we are redefining ageing. We’ve had the kids, the marriages, the divorces, the promotions, the betrayals, the heartbreaks, the breakdowns, the tears and the triumphs, and gained wisdom from them all. Now, it’s time for a magnificent Second Act. And how is this carpe diem craving for excitement manifesting itself? Wanderlust. A midlifer’s motto is: “Have globe, will trot.”

Intrepid Travel reports a noticeable rise in bookings from the over-50 demographic. In 2018, only 25 per cent of bookings came from the 51-70 age group. This year, that has risen to nearly 40 per cent. “After the restrictions of the past two years,” explains managing director Zina Bencheikh, “many over-50s are keen to book that trip they have always dreamt about, whether it’s an Antarctic expedition or a foodie tour of Thailand.”

Lisa Fitzell, managing director of Elegant Resorts, backs up these findings. “Bucket-list holidays are definitely having their moment. Our latest customer survey saw a 25 per cent increase in requests for holidays of a lifetime from our clients compared to before the pandemic. Exploring at a slower pace is becoming increasingly popular, alongside a desire for longer trips.”

Clearly, daredevil escapades are no longer only the preserve of the likes of Bear Grylls and Benedict Allen. Mid-­lifers are increasingly opting for sand-dune dinners under the stars in Pushkar; gorilla encounters at eco-friendly jungle hideaways in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia; or trekking deep into the Amazon jungle for a community stay with the Ese’Eja ­people, to name but a few.

This preference for exotic destinations proves that people in their prime want to make the most of life – and have the money to do so. Studies reveal that 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds are healthier, happier and richer than any generation in history. We are still young enough to have adventures, but also aware that the clock is ticking. If you are healthy in middle age, then you will probably live to 96, which means there is still a hell of a lot of zip-wiring, abseiling, scuba diving, kiteboarding, kayaking and white-water rafting to be enjoyed.

Older people are also excellently equipped for intrepid travels. Years of parenting have honed our survival skills. Take, for example, our excellent ear for language, evidenced by the fact that we are able to speak fluent teenager, which means communicating by eyebrow only during the monosyllabic years. We are also harder to scam, being expert codebreakers. What parent can’t decipher “I’m just having a few friends over while you’re away” as a house-trashing Facebook party for the satanic masses?

Mature travellers are increasingly choosing to discover new experiences. Baby boomers are also courageous. Clearly an elite commando endurance course requires little stamina compared with a mother’s legendary fortitude, including going through the menopause while simultaneously teaching her son to drive. Mothers and daughters have more wars breaking out per day than in the Middle East, which means we are also adept at diffusing tense situations.

But don’t expect to find us mature travellers on “fly-and-flop” holidays. Parents have spent enough time lying supine by hotel pools, cheering doggy-paddling offspring as though they are Adam Peaty. Middle-aged mums seem particularly keen to be taken out of their comfort zones. Harsh weather, rough seas and arduous hiking don’t daunt us. You’re talking about people who have given birth. What could possibly be more gruelling? (Except perhaps parent/teacher night.)


clockwise from left: cycling in Italy; camel trekking in Egypt; a rickshaw road trip in India

We can rough it, too. What’s a slithering snake or a hairy arachnid to people who have poured boiling hot wax onto our private parts, then ripped the hair out by the roots? When travelling off-grid, things can go wrong – but mums are used to thinking quickly. We have successfully juggled kids and career – a gruelling and heroic challenge not even James Bond has ever had the courage to master.

Of course, announcing that you are throwing in the tea towel to head off on a little SKI trip (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance) will not impress your offspring. News of your independence will go down like Pavarotti over a pole vault. But feel no guilt. Simply remind your progeny of all the things you have given up for them – your figure, your pelvic floor, sleep, privacy, that coveted sports car, the ability to wear bikinis… A loud pronouncement such as “I have nipples down to my knees because of you!” should definitely shut them up in the short term.

So, what’s on your bucket list? I’m eager to shark-dive and skydive. I’ve also never tried wingsuit base jumping. Not that I really want to… But I so want the opportunity at least to chicken out at the last minute. My message to more cautious midlifers is this – when the window of opportunity opens, don’t close the blinds. And if opportunity doesn’t knock – get a doorbell. I mean, if not now, when? I look forward to continuing this conversation with you, soonish, atop Everest or down the Amazon – so get packing.

credit: Telegraph Travel

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