Everyone has a bucket list, even if they don’t call it that. No matter what your age or where you are in life, there are probably things you want to set out and do or experience. Today’s seniors—particularly members of the baby boom generation born roughly between 1946-1964—have an advantage over everyone else when it comes to travel goals.
Being either retired or approaching retirement, baby boomers, who account for almost a third of Canada’s population, possess two important commodities typically needed to complete a bucket list: time and money.
While most adults might only have one or the other at any given time, older adults are often no longer hampered by day-to-day obligations like work or raising young children. Combined, both time and money afford you the freedom and opportunity to finally do big, exciting things for yourself. Things you’ve always wanted to do before “life got in the way”—things such as travel.
Travel trends: More seniors are creating bucket lists
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the travel industry that more and more seniors are making up a significant percentage of global travellers. The world is a lot more accessible than it ever was, while technology has certainly changed the way we move around. These days, it’s easier and more affordable to discover new places thanks to the myriad of travel sites, apps and tools literally in the palm of our hands.
According to a recent study by AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), 4 out of 10 baby boomers have travel-related bucket lists. Creating a personalized one encourages enormous emotional, mental and physical benefits.
As 50+ adults think about retirement travel, it’s no longer a question of “Can I go somewhere?” but rather, it’s about asking yourselves, “Where have I always wanted to go?”
Making a list and checking it twice
Writing your own travel bucket list is easy; brainstorming simply takes a bit of imagination and plenty of curiosity. The tricky part comes after, when filtering your ideas and keeping your list within your means—ideas that are fun and inspired, yet realistic enough for the retirement lifestyle you live.
Of course, not every part of your travel plan has to be a grueling quest. It’s more about extending the boundaries of your comfort zone than it is about testing your physical limits, all while satisfying your sense of worldly curiosity.
With this in mind, try visualizing yourself in a destination on your list of places to visit and work your way backwards. Think about logistics such as budget and timeframe along the way (not forgetting about senior travel insurance). By treating each item on that list as a tangible goal, your “bold” retirement plans won’t seem as far-fetched or unattainable as you may have thought.
Travel inspiration: Bucket list ideas for seniors
Maybe you’ve already had your fair share of travel over the years, whether in the company of friends, on vacations with your partner or family, or on business trips throughout your career. But if you’ve only experienced world travel a certain way, now is your chance to look at it again from a different perspective. Without time constraints this time around, you’ll finally have the chance to truly immerse yourself in the spirit of a place.
Here are a few ways you can make your dream travel list a little different, a little more active and little less passive:
Go where the young travellers go
This might seem counterintuitive, but it could prove rejuvenating to visit a popular destination and do as active 20-somethings do there. That doesn’t mean you have to go bungee-jumping into a remote canyon or get lost in the haze of a weeklong music festival; depending on your level of health and fitness, activities like backcountry road trips or going on moderate hikes or cycling routes might just be the challenge you’ve been waiting for.
Even if your days of backpacking and hitchhiking solo across Europe are behind you, adventure is a relative term and that doesn’t mean you can’t go on any at your age!
Tip: Be sure to make good use of seniors’ discounts on your travels, whether it’s taking advantage of vacation promos, booking accommodation, or visiting popular sights and joining tours.
Pick a theme for your travels
Themed travel is nothing new. People often form travel routes and itineraries around specific subjects. The possibilities of themed vacations are endless in scope and scale—you could book reservations at several Michelin-starred eateries, visit the birth and/or resting place of your favourite deceased poet or composer, follow iconic routes that induce nostalgia (e.g. Route 66, the Orient Express, or the Silk Road), visit places once closed-off to certain tourists, or even embark on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts. The fun part is letting your imagination run free when singling out a theme!
Tip: You might find interest groups in your area or nearby who organize themed trips and would happily extend an invitation to you.
‘Give back’ through travel
For both young and old, voluntourism can be a fulfilling exchange. But with plenty of life experiences already under your belt, mature volunteers should think of travel more as a means rather than an end. This involves you choosing a community in a part of the world that will truly benefit from what you can offer as a volunteer (as opposed to simply picking a location on a map that you’d like to visit).
With invaluable skills in your field of expertise, you’ll have the opportunity to directly educate and empower community members you might meet along the way. And because of the self-funded nature of many global volunteer initiatives, seniors who do this might be able to invest more time and effort in working with communities, which in turn can bring about greater, longer-lasting results for all those involved.
As a conscientious volunteer, it’s often not enough to merely have altruistic intentions. It’s also your job to plan well by picking out the most sustainable choices, ones that cause the least negative impact on yourself and the communities you’ll be working with.
Tip: Prior research should be done on the network of charities or organizations you’d like to work with, looking at the channels they go through in carrying out humanitarian work. Try to ensure that their goals align nicely with yours and vice versa.
Revisit your youth through travel
Maybe your parents or grandparents were immigrants and you grew up hearing stories of the old country that fascinated you as a child. Or maybe you yourself are a first-generation immigrant, with memories of your old home and distant family members or childhood friends you haven’t seen in ages. These would make ideal places to visit because they can offer a deeper personal experience for the bucket list traveller.
Exploring your roots or reconnecting with your past through travel is a way to rediscover your own youth with different eyes and a lifetime of added perspective.
Tip: As multigenerational travel becomes more of a trend, it might be a great idea to bring your children or grandchildren with you on the trip and share this personal experience with them. If you’re travelling alone with your grandkids, don’t forget to carry a parental travel consent form.
Senior travel insurance for your bucket list destinations
Regardless of destination or the length of your travel plans, it’s always good to be prepared for uncertainties by being covered during your entire trip. And it’s just as crucial to understand the importance of disclosing any pre-existing medical conditions when you sign up for travel insurance. The rewards of travel are never without their risks, but peace of mind certainly makes a good companion on a voyage!
When most people think about the types of travel they can do after they retire, they think of cruise ships, luxury resorts, and convenient all-inclusive vacation packages. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these—they provide a level of comfort and security senior vacationers come to expect. They’re popular choices among the older demographic for the right reasons.
But now that it’s easier than ever to see parts of the world you’ve always dreamt about, and now that you have the time, energy, and opportunity to do something you’ve put off for far too long, why wouldn’t you travel on your own terms? Wherever it is your travel bucket list takes you, let your sense of freedom as an older and bolder explorer be your compass. After all, wanderlust knows no age.
Have any suggestions for dream destinations and activities for older or retired adults? Share your ideas in the comments below!