Travel is a dream that many people put off (along with a whole laundry list of other things) until they retire from the workplace, and they’re free to pursue their own interests.
But is it realistic? Will it really be easier to travel when you stop working?
Here’s the thing. I’m all for delayed gratification. I have a retirement savings account, and in fact, think that the ability to plan for the future is one of the markers of true maturity.
So why am I telling you that putting off travel until you retire just might be a bad idea?
This isn’t about hedonism, or abandoning your responsibilities, or throwing away your future security. This is about taking a good, hard look at the realities that life can throw at you, and making a choice about how you want to live.
Here are 10 good reasons why you shouldn’t wait until you retire to travel.
It’ll probably cost more to travel when you’re older
It’s a simple fact that travel insurance is more expensive for older travelers. And that’s if you’re lucky. Many older travelers can’t even get travel insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions. Plus, if you’re like most people (me included), you’ll crave (or need) more creature comforts as you get older, adding to your travel bill. It’s one of the reasons you don’t see a lot of 70 year olds sleeping in hostel dorm beds.
You could die first
I’m not going to mince words with this one. Actuarial tables say that roughly 17% of men will die between age 25 and 65. Will you be one of them? It’s a gamble you take. For women, the odds are better, but there’s still roughly a 10% chance you’ll die from the age of 25 to 65.
Here’s how we got those numbers. If you look at the US Government’s Social Security actuarial table, if you start with 100,000 people, on average at age 25, 98,043 men will still be alive (98,447 of women), but at age 65 only 80,308 men will still be alive (87,769 for women).
Life has a habit of getting in the way
Life has a way of getting more complicated as you get older. You could marry someone who doesn’t want to travel or your current partner may decide they don’t want to. If you become a grandparent, your kids could need you to help take care of their little ones. Even more commonly, you could end up having to take care of your parents as they age. In short, a thousand things could change, making it harder for you to get on the road.
Will you be healthy enough to travel?
It’s a sad fact, but our health can often start to take a turn for the worse just as we approach the age of retirement. Your health could decline to the point that travel is difficult or near impossible.
Anxious to go on a walkabout through the Australian Outback or want to climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower? Make sure you’re healthy enough when you retire to still be able to do it.
Here’s a scary fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that almost 23% of Americans 65 or over are in poor to fair health (Table 52, Health United States, 2013). Couple that with mortality rates and your odds of enjoying your golden years abroad are diminishing all the time.
The world, she is a changin’
If there’s someplace you want to go now, keep in mind that the world may change a lot before you retire. Whether you want to hit the open road, hidden gems are getting harder to find and more and more people are traveling all the time. The world is getting to be a smaller place every year and a lot of time, our dream destination is often more than just a destination, it’s a frame of mind.
Ten years ago, seeing the pyramids in Egypt was on every round the world trip itinerary. Today, political unrest has made Egypt a much more dangerous place to visit. The same thing can be said for Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine. Of course, places can change for the better as well (just look at Sarajevo, which was a bombed out shell in the 1990’s), but you never know.
Just realize that if there’s someplace you’ve always dreamed of visiting, by the time you retire it might no longer resemble that same dream anymore.
What if you lose your nerve?
Adventure is like a muscle; if you never use it, it tends to atrophy. If you don’t travel at all when you’re younger, will you have the nerve to start after retirement? Will you have gotten so used to your routine that you can’t imagine finally breaking free from it?
Your kids are only young once
If you have little ones, think of the gift you could give them by letting them see the world while they’re young. Sure, traveling with little ones can be hard, but it can be an amazing experience as well. If you’re planning to travel with your older kids when you retire, consider this: by then, your kids could be well established in their own life, and have no time to wander around the world with you.
What if you’re short of money?
A lot of things can put a wrench in your financial plans for retirement. Divorce, losing a job later in life, rising house costs, increased health care costs, or just an increase in the cost of living can all push your retirement date later, or mean that you have to retire earlier on less money. What makes you so sure that all of a sudden you’ll have more money to spend on travel if you can’t afford it now?
That nest’s not empty
If you’re putting off traveling until you retire and your kids are out of the house, here’s something to consider: What if they don’t leave? A whopping 56% of young Americans aged 18 to 24 still live at home with 36% of them 18 to 31. Will you still be paying for a place for them to stay, and their meals? And don’t forget, university is expensive.
Carpe the diem, baby
Seize the day. Life is short and sweet and you only have one chance to make this one count. If you truly want to travel, find a way to make it happen, today.
Of course, the other part of this equation is figuring out how to make travel a reality when you’re younger. You can find some help here: