As explained in the About page, I missed out on travel. International travel is huge – and critical to global thinking, opportunity, inclusion and diversity. Many employers regard international travel experience as an important hiring attribute – even for positions that do not require travel.

As an older adult, my goal is to “catch up” with the experiences many have had, and to develop the skills and knowledge that comes from international experience and perspectives.

Supported Versus Unsupported Travel

Starting travel as an older adult has its own challenges such as lacking the support networks built for new, young travelers.

  • In 2018, 25% of U.S. families with children traveled abroad. Many youth grew up with travel skills they learned from parents.
  • In college (and high school), we have opportunities for study abroad programs – and students have a support network. They also have opportunities to develop friendships and support from other students.
  • Young adult travelers frequently stay in “hostels” (something I am not yet much familiar with and unclear if they make sense for older travelers – indeed, some of these are named “youth hostels”) which provide for interaction and sharing of information, new friends and companions in strange lands.
  • Others travel on business – with trips organized and paid for by the employer and with business contacts in destination cities.
  • Some adults first traveled internationally by traveling to countries where they had family contacts living in the country, or traveled with a family member who spoke the local language.

In each of these examples, “first time travelers” had a support structure in place.

As an older adult, first time traveler, I have none of these support structures – and international travel feels bewildering.

“Organized group tours” are not something I have any interest in doing (for reasons I’ll omit for now). Thus, my first time travel will be on my own or with my spouse, and unsupported.

Some experienced travelers tell me “Just do it! There is little to worry about!” – which seems true, but many undervalue the help they had when they first traveled. They did not do it alone!

My preference is to just do it – and do it right now!

I planned to travel in early 2020 but the pandemic shut down all travel. Unable to “just do it” I chose to at least prepare myself, to the extent I can, so that when travel becomes possible, I can maximize the experience. As of November 2021, I am stuck in an indefinite holding pattern and, in fact, as I write this, nations are erecting travel restrictions due to the Omicron variant.

So what can I do while waiting?

Besides studying and learning, I created this blog as a diary of my pursuit of travel.

Covid Travel Restrictions

I likely see Covid travel restrictions differently because of where I live. I live in a state that maintains a high level of fear – until just 48 hours ago, my state was the only one in the country that required fully vaccinated persons to wear a cloth facial covering outside.

42 U.S. states have no mask mandates and 75% of those surveyed say they have resumed normal life activities. If I were living in one of those states, I might see things differently!

Unfortunately, on day #620 of “two weeks to flatten the curve”, we are not to the point of making travel plans other than vague ideas for possible destinations.

Studying History

While waiting for “permission” to travel, I am doing what I can to prepare.

My ancestry is European (Norway, Prussia/Switzerland, England) in that order and hence, I would like to visit Europe, and ideally, my ancestral countries. 50% of Americans have visited an ancestral country!

I am reading multiple books on European history – and learning a lot!

I knew literally nothing of European history, even where that is critical to understanding America’s own history. I did not know the that the Pilgrims originated their travel from the Netherlands, and their concepts of democracy, freedom and civil liberties originated from the Dutch. Clearly, my past public school history education was awful.

I am also reading a text book on international business, used in undergraduate and graduate schools of business.

My goal is to obtain a global perspective. I will eventually post summarizes of the books I read.

Language Study

While English is commonly spoken in many countries, I am also studying two languages:

  • Norwegian
  • Spanish

At the time of this writing, I am 5 months into studying every day and making good progress. I have posted some information on helpful language learning resources.

As mentioned in another post, Americans have little skill in other languages besides English. In that post, I shared a joke:

  • What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
  • What do you call someone that speaks multiple languages? A polyglot
  • What do you call someone that speaks one language? An American

So true!

Travel Guide Books

While I have some “travel guide books”, I am not spending much time on those – will wait until we are “post Covid”. Am figuring some things will have changed by the time we get there – no sense spending time on items that will be out of date.

Books By Those Who Have Traveled

I am reading books by others who have traveled – ranging from Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, to contemporary titles like “I lived in Shenghai”.

I watch many travel related videos on Youtube.

Through these, I can live vicariously through others – until such time as travel is permitted.

International Foods

I do not live where there is an international restaurant scene. We have Mexican and Chinese restaurants – and that is it! I bought some international cookbooks and am making many excellent dishes here at home. I only just discovered Spanish cooking – and wow – so delicious!

My Preference

I would prefer to have just gotten on a plane and traveled somewhere – as about 99% of travelers do – with out this absurd degree of prep work But that option is not available.

Thus stuck waiting until public health gets its act together – I am doing what I can.

Goals

I have lived my life in backwards order. Where most go to grad school after their undergraduate studies, I did not earn my M.B.A. until I was 41, and my M.S. in software engineering when I was 54.

Many do much travel in their 20s and 30s – I won’t be starting until in my 60s.

Yet I would like to have some of the experiences my peers had, and so many young people have had. Obviously, there are differences that make replicating the experience of a 23 year old impossible at this point. But I hope to develop an understanding and appreciation of those experiences.

First goal is to travel – literally almost anywhere that is not an English language-native country. Am interested in “slowcations” traveling where I or we spend an extended period in one place (versus one day here and one day there).

Second goal is to do several separate trips – to have visited multiple countries and to have developed travel skills.

Long term stretch goal – is to spend an extended stay living in another country. At this point, I have no idea how long that would be – but thinking on the order of 6-12 weeks. Due to visa restrictions it is nearly impossible for someone my age to stay longer than 90 days.

My goal is to catch up with the experiences, the knowledge and the skills of the typical 25 year old who has a global perspective.

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