Adventure in my 30s: I broke free from society’s plan for me

By Clare Bacon, as told to Anna Pollitt

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For many years I’ve possessed a useless kind of superpower; an unfailing ability to generate “the look” from family members, strangers and friends when they learn about my next travel adventure.

Slack-jawed and wide-eyed, a stab of exasperation pierces the air as I confirm that despite being a thirty-something woman, I have no desire to be anchored by a mortgage and a veg box subscription.

I emigrated from the UK to Australia on a whim and am toying with a move to Singapore. I’ve already visited four countries this year alone. Oh, and I also work as a teacher and have a 21-month-old child.

My responsibilities are a pleasure, rather than a chore, because I refuse to be led down a conventional path for no better reason than “it’s what people do”. Time is precious and I use it wisely by embracing my innate curiosity to see new places and meet new people.

As a society, we tend to pride ourselves as a forward-thinking, mind-your-own-business lot. Yet, my travel plans can invoke a puritanical hysteria in even the most right-on hipsters. A road trip round Romania? Is it safe?!

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I’ve ridden on waves of adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy biking down Bolivia’s “Death Road” and pushed through physical and mental barriers climbing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. Thai boxing in a camp in Northern Thailand refocused me after I split from my first boyfriend.

Anaconda-spotting in the Amazon and working with elephants in a sanctuary in Cambodia opened me up to nature’s beauty in a way even David Attenborough can’t manage through a TV screen.

Obviously, the Death Road in Bolivia speaks for itself; “Don’t do it, it’s so dangerous”. But every country comes with an “oooh is it safe?” stigma. It’s not until people visit for themselves and see the true beauty of the people, heritage and land that they truly change their minds.

I travel wholeheartedly, because I couldn’t bear to live with the spectre of “I wish”. I’m not interested in confining myself to the grounds of an all-inclusive hotel when I can be in places that are rich with life-enhancing natural beauty and entertainment. Everything I’ve done has been so rewarding.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have the encouragement to believe I could do, and achieve, anything I wanted. Somewhere along the way though it seems these parameters quietly narrowed and the scope of my dreams should have shrunk to incorporate a husband, house and career ladder.

Only, they didn’t. I chose to invest my money in trips, not a mortgage. Houses aren’t going anywhere, but the time to travel is. Following my heart has allowed me to make lifelong friends, visit amazing places, have the opportunity to work abroad and fully embrace different cultures. I’ve always firmly believed that striving to say “yes” to new opportunities has enriched my life and means I never miss out on possibilities and rare experiences.

It’s not always easy and not all my nomadic encounters have been a life-affirming bless-fest. Chicken feet soup in Africa, for example, is one delicacy I won’t be revisiting.  But my “yes” attitude allowed me to try it, why not?

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Climbing down a working Bolivian mine and seeing the dirt-smeared faces of young workers tore me up emotionally. But seeing the world and being immersed in other cultures has opened my mind to other perspectives. I think that’s one of the most important things we can teach our children, given how much ignorance there is in the world today.

For all the naysayers, doom mongers and travel fun sceptics, there are people who’ve praised my move across the world as courageous. Initially it was wholly impetuous. I was living in London, had split from my boyfriend and decided to read Eat, Pray, Love. I’m fully aware of the cliché there, but it inspired me to do something big.

I also knew I wanted to do it on my own – there’s something hugely empowering about travelling alone, which many people don’t understand, or don’t feel comfortable enough to begin to embrace.

I’ve had some of my most powerful, soulful experiences when I’ve been on my own abroad. I moved to Australia for a man I’d just met. The relationship didn’t work out but I fell for the country and it changed my life from that moment on.

I didn’t – and don’t – think about the problems, only about the positives. That may seem naïve but I haven’t come across a challenge yet while living abroad that I couldn’t overcome.

My father always says that moving to the other side of the world is silly at my age and that I should settle down in the small town where I grew up.

Sometimes I do wish I could move back and live a more ordinary life, but I know it would gradually wear me down. It’s just not in my nature. I believe if you want it, you have to do it – with no regrets.

Say yes to your own adventure

Sail down the Amazon at twilight

… and immerse yourself in the magic of the nocturnal rainforest. Plus, cycle through Inca ruins in Peru’s Sacred Valley, learn how to make Pisco Sours in Lima and climb to the summit of Rainbow Mountain with an overnight camp at altitude.

Take me there

Canyon through the Wadi Mujib


Get to grips with Jordan’s spectacular wadi terrain by rappelling down waterfalls and rock-climbing in the shadow of towering ravines. After, unwind with star-watching in the desert and a soothing soak in the mineral-rich Dead Sea.

Let’s go

Join a dawn bush walk in Zimbabwe

See the Savannah come alive in the morning sun on a spell-binding walking safari, for up-close encounters with some of Africa’s finest creatures. Strap in tight for a helicopter ride above Victoria Falls, and go rafting in neighbouring Botswana.

Yes please

Images: Clare Bacon, Shutterstock, Flash Pack

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