Helping baby boomers travel is what The Travelling Boomer is all about. And there’s no doubt the ability to travel more freely is one of the great perks of getting older. But now and then it’s worth taking a look at some of the other benefits of baby boomer travel: apart from sheer enjoyment, it’s pretty darn good medicine.
Two years ago I wrote a post about the different ways travel is good for your health, from less stress to better sleep to lower risk of a heart attack. It was based on a report by the U.S. Travel Association, a summary of which you can read here.
But the benefits go beyond the mere physical, especially for baby boomers. Let’s face it: as we get older, some of the vigour we felt when we were 25 goes missing, and life’s not quite the adventure it used to be. We need an elixir to recharge our batteries, refresh our spirits and keep us in top condition, and the best one I know is travel.
Here are some of the most important benefits of baby boomer travel:
It keeps life interesting
One of the biggest challenges for retirees – and even those nearing retirement — is keeping life vibrant and interesting. Once the kids are out of the house, things can get pretty quiet. And while it’s nice to lighten the load a bit, slowing down too much is not always a good thing.
Travel helps fill your days with excitement and expectation, activity and experience. It makes life more fulfilling, and that helps you keep a positive outlook. After all, it’s hard to get depressed when you’ve got a cruise or a European tour just over the horizon. And that improvement in your mood has been shown to last for weeks after the end of the trip.
You learn to be amazed again
When you were young, life was new, and the world was full of wonderful new discoveries. Then the years went by, you saw most of what there was to see, and started to feel like there was nothing new under the sun. When was the last time something in your neighbourhood really amazed you – in a positive way?
If you’ve got case of tired eyes, travel may be the best remedy out there. Suddenly you find yourself in places you’ve never been, seeing things you’ve never seen, or even imagined. You see world-famous landmarks with your own eyes, stand in front of iconic works of art, gaze over stunningly beautiful landscapes. You meet new and interesting people. And you remember what it was like to be amazed.
It teaches you new things
They say one of the best ways to stay young is to continue learning: in fact, there’s a travel company called Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) that’s dedicated to that very principle. But it’s a fact that learning new things creates new pathways in your brain, making it function more effectively, and that’s important as you get older.
Even if you don’t travel to take courses or study new things, the very act of travelling in a foreign country is a learning experience. You have to learn a few words of a new language, figure out how that European ATM works, learn about local customs, master the art of ordering a meal in a restaurant where no one speaks English. And if you’re cruising, there are lots of courses on offer for those sea days — why not sign up?
It keeps your mind open
There’s an old saying that “travel broadens the mind”. It was true 100 years ago, and it’s still true today. I’ve heard veteran travellers lament the narrow views they notice in their friends and family who never leave home. If you don’t travel, what you know of the world is what you see on the evening news — and believe me, it never tells the whole story. As you get older, it’s easy to let old beliefs harden into convictions that may not be founded in fact.
The best way to have a more realistic view of the world is to travel. See a place for yourself, speak to the people face to face — you may come away seeing the shades of grey in that black-and-white portrait the media paint. When people ask me what I’ve learned from travelling, I always say: it’s taught me that there are many ways to live in this world, and some may even be better than mine.
It keeps you sharp and confident
It’s easy to lose some of your confidence once work has ended and you don’t need to perform every day. Even people doing the same job for a long time can find themselves getting a little less sharp. The best way to restore that confidence is to undertake a big, complex project and carry it out. Organizing a trip is just that kind of project.
The whole process of trip planning — researching your destinations, booking your flights, tours and hotels, and then carrying out your plan — provides mental stimulation that can help keep you sharp and in the game. In fact, it has been shown to improve brain function, and scientific studies indicate that it can even help keep you from developing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Baby boomer travel is already one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry, and for good reason: there are a lot of us out there, and most of us love to travel. That’s good news for airlines and hotel companies, but it’s even better for the baby boomers who are filling those airline seats and hotel beds: while we’re out there having a good time, we’re also doing ourselves a lot of good.
If you want to know more about baby boomers’ attitudes toward travel and its health benefits, read this report by the Transamerica Centre, called Journey to Healthy Aging: Planning for Travel in Retirement.