When is the best time to travel? If you are single and in your 40s, it is now. That magic combination of no ties, a disposable income and being young and fit enough to climb up a mountain, means the moment is ripe to start ticking off places on your travel bucket list.
And you wouldn’t be alone. Research published by Mintel showed that more than half of solo travellers aged between 35 and 54 have taken a holiday alone, or as part of a group of people they didn’t know, because they have more freedom to do what they want. This was the largest percentage of any age group. They can’t all be wrong.
Travel with a local twist
So you know where you want to go but how can you make the best of it? If you want a holiday that will create memories that will last a lifetime, I’d recommend travelling to your dream destination but experiencing it in a unique way.
I’d wanted to go to Cuba for years but I didn’t want to stay in one of those gigantic, generic, all-inclusive hotels that shield tourists from the realities of visiting a communist country. So when I turned 40, I opted to stay in a Casa Particular; a private room in a family’s home.
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I’m not going to lie, it was a bit strange at first, waking up to the banging and crashing of pots and pans in the kitchen next door; and then the two ladies who were looking after me waiting patiently for me to surface for breakfast.
Then I was joined at the breakfast table by Roberto, who owned the house. He took me through his photo album from his recent trip to Reading, asking if I’d visited the various pubs and car parks in the pictures. He surprised me a few days later by waiting for me to get home from an evening out, standing by the door in all his finery so we could go back out clubbing.
By the end of my stay, the ladies who had treated me as a member of the family for the past four days worked up the courage to ask why I was in Havana by myself, and wasn’t I totally bored? I explained in broken Spanish, while sheltering from the torrential rain in the family kitchen surrounded by photos of Fidel Castro, that it had been a very interesting experience.
The adventure you want
If, like me, you have a few adventure destinations on your wish list, now is the time to go experience them. As one of my parents kindly pointed out, if I wanted to go on my dream trip of trekking in the Himalayas, I should go while I’m in my forties before I become too infirm to walk up and down mountainous terrain. I suspect they were talking from bitter experience.
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No-one wants to think about getting old, and how this can restrict your ability to have the holiday you want. But there are things you can do to make life easier for yourself.
My favourite way to travel is to enjoy a bit of luxury along the way. Sharing a hostel dormitory, complete with a pungent gap-year backpacker, lost its appeal a long time ago for me.
For example, I’m planning on returning to Torres del Paine National Park in the next few years. But instead of shivering in a tent wearing every piece of clothing I’ve brought with me after a full day of traversing the stunning Chilean peaks and valleys (like last time), I’ll be staying in a luxury yurt or even a hotel.
Getting a good night’s sleep and having a decent meal, rather than cooking instant noodles over a camp fire, can make all the difference when you’re looking to max out your 40s travel experience.
A city break is also a popular option for people aged between 35 and 54, according to the Mintel research. So, here’s five of my favourites to do in your forties…
5 solo travel cities to bookmark
Go in winter for a chance to see the Northern Lights, and drink a cold beer in the steaming pools of the Blue Lagoon while the snow falls on your face. Head there in summer to experience the mind-blowing volcanic landscapes and awe-inspiring waterfalls, as well as partying through the night in the sunshine in its world-famous bars.
A train-ride away from London, this medieval French city is a great weekend getaway in the heart of Provence. Top-quality restaurants are hidden within the cobbled lanes enclosed by the city’s ramparts. Highlights include the annual arts festival, the spectacular Papal Palace and the nearby lavender fields that bloom in the summer.
It’s Italy so you know the food and drink is going to be exceptional. Mix in some Renaissance architectural masterpieces, and the art of the Uffizi, and you get one hell of a city to visit. And I haven’t even mentioned the shopping.
Next up? Hit the Prosecco hills of Venice
Nearer than New York, this French-influenced Canadian city is only seven hours away from London, so it’s easily doable in a long weekend (all the more so if you’re based on the US East Coast). This is one cool city, from the laid-back, basement jazz clubs in Centre-Ville to the vibrant bars and restaurants in Vieux Montreal. In summer, the place fills up for the International Jazz Festival at the end of June but in winter you can ski just outside the city.
Pop summer-time Canada on your wish list
Despite the notorious reputation, there is a lot more to this Mediterranean port city than English breakfasts and drunken clubbers. The 2,500-year-old town is a historical treasure trove. Add the great bars, world-class restaurants and some of the best people-watching on the planet, and Ibiza Town will call to your traveller within.
Discover the delights of Ibiza
Images: Flash Pack, Tony Stevens, Shutterstock, and Samuel C., Benjamin Patin and Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash