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Travel – an investment in healthy ageing

Ask any potential retiree what they are most looking forward to and ‘more travel’ is sure to be uppermost on the list. It’s a familiar escape from our everyday and an expression...

Ask any potential retiree what they are most looking forward to and ‘more travel’ is sure to be uppermost on the list. It’s a familiar escape from our everyday and an expression of our Aussie exuberance and curiosity. 

Dr Christina Hagger goes further to say that travel is an investment in healthy ageing. In her study, The Benefits of Travel, Hagger posits that travel is an important part of redefining one’s identity in retirement though social interaction, personal growth and meaning, regardless of our destination or the time spent away from home. Visualising the enjoyable moments lifts our spirits even before we have left home. The anticipation of travel can also give us a sense of purpose and engagement. Even better, when we come home the positive memories of our travels give us a sense of accomplishment, says Hagger.

So what happens in between the anticipation and the memories of travel?

Alain de Botton in his book, The Art of Travel, reminds us that there must always be a gap between our anticipation of travel and what really happens when we arrive at our destination.

We’re all familiar with those gaps between anticipation and reality.
  • The ‘internal’ gap of how we feel when the images of perfectly photographed guidebooks collide with our physical ailments, niggles and inconveniences, which add weight to our baggage and affect our attitude and patience.
  • The ‘external’ gap of the unexpected – from those joyous serendipitous moments to the crazy ones.

So how do we embrace the gap between anticipation and reality? De Botton offers us two ways to prepare that we won’t find in the guidebooks.

  • His first tip is to use the journey itself as the ‘midwife of thought’. The plane, train and ‘the waiting’ within the journey creates space for internal conversations of new experiences, cultures and ways of doing things. It’s even an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives.
  • De Botton’s second tip is to focus on ‘being in the moment’ which he calls ‘receptivity’. The challenge is to consciously do a bit of ‘attitude-planning’ beforehand, so we are free to immerse ourselves in the moment: see the beauty, sights, and colours; take in the smells, sounds and textures that give us a richer and deeper experience and that stay with us long after the trip is over.

 

The travellers I really admire are those who go without expectation. They go instead with the excitement of anticipation, determined to enjoy every situation, however unpredictable.

It matters more when we are retired that the trip provides the right level of challenge. ‘Too much’ challenge is stressful. ‘Enough challenge’ provides opportunities for problem solving and it engages us more.

On the memory of travel…

Travel can shrink the troubles of our everyday. This was certainly so for Chris and Merrin who encountered a cyclone at Exmouth on their four-month trip in WA. Safe in their bunker, they were awestruck by the fury of the cyclone as it bent the trees at right angles. Their ears were filled with the cacophony of wind whipping, wood and steel splitting, the popping, crackling and swishing so loud around them, that they couldn’t hear each other speak. Their travel reality created great memories, wholly unanticipated, and reflected upon many times over.

So to facilitate my healthy ageing

Here are my resolutions for my next trip.
  • I’ll make a deliberate effort to do a mind dump before I leave…. troubles will wait for my return.
  • I’ll be wary of the guidebooks - my planning will be to put myself in situations where I can be receptive …. be the first to say hello, to consciously savour the moment.
  • I’ll see the ridiculous, the difference or the culture clash in the unexpected.

 

My memories will never be the number of ‘must do’s’ I’ve ticked off, but those serendipitous moments of wow, I didn’t expect this!

 


 

 

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