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Nov 11 2013

Youth Travel is a State of Mind

Having fun in Salar de Unyni

I attended the World Travel Market in London last week to get up to date, connect with others in the industry, and to get a clearer idea of what I want to do next year. I managed to do all of that but there was one session in particular that really interested me.  The thing is, it wasn’t one that I was going to attend because the session was ‘Investing in Youth – The Future of Tourism’ and my focus is independent travel for women aged 35 and over.  Naturally, I didn’t think it would be of any interest but I attended the session to find out what they had to say about the future of tourism.  Surprisingly, it turned out to be very relevant because the main message was that youth travel is a state of mind and it’s about how you travel rather than being age-related.  As a 40 something traveller, my ears pricked up when I heard that and I listened intently to the rest of the presentation.

When I went travelling around the world for the first time at the age of 38, one of my concerns before I left was being an older than average traveller.  The thing is, I really didn’t need to worry about that because the more I travelled, the more I realised that age wasn’t an issue.  I found that I had other things in common with my fellow travellers such as an interest in travel, experiencing new cultures, enjoying the freedom of travelling around, and having fun.

Five years on, whilst travelling around Europe this year, I started wondering if I was too old for the way I like to travel because, for the first time, my age seemed to be a problem.  Yes, I was 5 years older than when I travelled around the world but I didn’t feel older.  In fact, I probably feel younger now than I did when I first went travelling.

It got me thinking about what was different this year from the first time I went travelling.  I tend to stay in different types of accommodation but it’s often hostels.  I also try to encourage my readers to consider staying in hostels too because they aren’t just for young people.  Having said that, while I was looking for accommodation on my smartphone on my way to Amsterdam in May this year, I saw there was a maximum age limit of 40 on the description of some of the hostels.  As I was 43 at the time, that was a bit of a shocker.  Since then, I have noticed other hostels in Europe with maximum age limits, some of which are as young as 35.  These age limits seem a bit arbitrary.  I can only assume it’s either because they have worked out that the average age of their guests is significantly younger than that or they think we are just too darn old and like to sit in our slippers and jammies in front of the TV.  Well, yes, sometimes I have been known to do that but I also like to go out and enjoy myself.  I know for a fact that I’m not the only 40-something like that.  Just because we have reached our mid 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond doesn’t mean we don’t like to have fun, be silly, enjoy ourselves, and party.  We do!  And before you think it, it’s not because we are having a midlife crisis or are trying to reclaim our youth.  We are who we are, regardless of age.  Just because we have reached a certain age doesn’t mean we suddenly change.  I love life, I realise how precious it is, and want to make the most of it.  Life really is about living and you can do that at any age.  It isn’t just reserved for younger people.

So, please stop assuming that just because we have reached a certain age you can write us off.  Please stop limiting where we can stay by having age limits.  There are many more people over the age of 35 travelling and seeking adventure.  That is set to increase, according to the session at the World Travel Market on the future of tourism.  People, including those over the age of 35, are travelling for longer periods of time, tend to have more money, travel in a more sustainable way, and all of that benefits the country in which the person is travelling.

In case you are wondering, that is me in the photograph at the tender age of 39½ in Salar de Unyuni, Bolivia.  It was an incredible place and I was fortunate to be there with an amazing group of people, which made it particularly memorable.

Have your say

Do you agree that travel is a state of mind and not to do with age?  I’d love to hear your views.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.


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  1. Contented Traveller

    I am a little bemused that a session was “Investing in Youth – The Future of Tourism”, because I think that the future of tourism and the travel industry is in addressing the needs of baby boomers and empty nesters. Yes, that’s us (not you, you are a little younger) who have the money, the freedom, the health and the attitude to do a lot of different things. We want to ski, to dive. to stay on houseboats in Amsterdam or cave houses in the Capaddocia’s. I am seeing a trend towards this realisation so I am assuming that the World Travel Market was playing to it’s audience. I do agree and I think that I am trying to say that it is a ‘state of mind’. While we can … we will. But there are not alot of places catering for our needs, ergo bespoke holidays that we tailor make for ourselves. We are an untapped market and the travel industry is missing out on some significant money. Sorry for the rant but ….

  2. Alison Chino

    I totally agree that youth travel is a state of mind! I loved this idea and also that the young at heart traveller wants to have experiences that connect you with the local culture. I got way more out of this session that I expected to, since I am also a 40 year old traveller. 🙂

    (PS Lovely to meet you at WTM! XO)

  3. Esther

    When I was going to the US with a program to work as an au-pair I was 24 almost 25. The program was limited to people under 26. I was almost close to the limit. I think and thought that we limit ourselves so much to think in ages.

    But to add to my au-pair story: most of the girls were 18, 19 at the most. They thought I was some dinosaur or something 😀 All were thinking about the college degree in the few next years, house, tree, and pet in the future. Because that is what you suppose to do after the stone age of 25 (!). What kind of loser would go and have ‘that much freedom’ at such an age?! ;0

    I never liked hostels to much at any age, but I think its very weird some hostels limit the age. That makes me even a little pee off. The bulldog hotel and hostel in Amsterdam doesn’t have that policy I think. I have stayed in the hotel, but never read anything about the hostel having this policy.
    On a road trip to Boston we dropped of a lady in her seventies at a hostel.. So no age should be the limit. What do they think? People start acting weird when they reach a number? Limit the fun of the tender minded by reminding them of the “dark” future.
    I like the message of that session!

  4. Thanks for commenting, Esther. I started the site because I wanted to encourage women aged 35+ to travel. Once we get over our own limitations, we don’t need any imposed on us unnecessarily, such as where we can stay. We should be able to decide that ourselves. Many hostels don’t have that policy but I don’t think any of them should. There were a couple of hostels I wanted to stay at this year; that was until I realised I was too old!

    Best wishes, Teresa.


    Thanks for commenting, Alison. It was great meeting you too! I also got more out of this session than any of the others.

    Best wishes, Teresa.


    Thanks, Contented Traveller, for your comment. The session was about ‘youth’ travel being a state of mind rather than being related to age so, the way I see it, that basically covers people of any age. I’m interested in finding out more about the issues you mention related to baby boomers and what their specific needs are. I set up this site to help women aged 35+ to travel in the way they want to so that includes women of baby boomer age.

    Best wishes, Teresa.

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