We asked for advice from world-renowned travelers as to how our AARP customers should think about exploring. Their simple guidance? Travel slowly.
In our ever-connected world of digital maps, travel guides, and planned itineraries, we often miss out on what made travel exciting in the past. If we over-plan, we miss out on moments of serendipity. We miss out on the opportunity to discover something unexpected.
At AARDY, our staff members have lived on four continents. Our advice is to take the time to live like a local. The best way to know a place is to live in it, rather than visit it.
Here is the advice from our experts:
Slow Down — Mary K. Jensen — World Traveler and Author
For a richer travel experience, whether in the small town next to yours or half way around the globe, here are two words of advice — Look up. The people and their city or the farmers and their market are in front of you. Taking time out from cellphones, selfies and TripAdvisor can leave you open to discovering the tiny café not listed in any guidebook, the classical concert in a neighborhood park, the little town bookstore, the park bench perfect for a nap. And speaking of naps, carve out time each day for yourself — time to rest and reflect upon the serendipities of the day, perhaps time even to get pleasantly lost. Slow down.
Mary K. Jensen, World Traveler. Author of Rudy’s Rules for Travel
Don’t Feel Compelled to Join a Tour — Bob and Ellie Tupper — Beer Geeks
Bob and Ellie are almost 140 years old. They are Beer Geeks. They still go to Europe every summer and still find places they’ve never seen. Here is some advice they give other boomers who may be changing less of the world than they used to but are seeing more of it.
Choose a passion and follow it. We have sought new beers for over 40 years and found over 32,000 of them. But much more important than the beers were the amazing people who brewed them for us, served them to us, and drank them with us. Any personal quest can get you off the tourist track and closer to the real culture of the land you’ve visited. Don’t be too eager to snatch up a guided tour. Most of us over 70 are perfectly capable of handling our own baggage, using a credit card and an ATM, and reading basic signs in countries that don’t officially speak English. Read compulsively — intros of travel books especially. Plan a budget from what you learn. Use a smartphone app or a pocket notebook to stay on it. Plan an itinerary that is much less ambitious than the one you think you want. Build in time for unexpected treasures. Seek out the local tourist offices for maps, brochures, and advice. Get better advice than you can obtain from a concierge by spending a bit of time at the bar of a pub, tavern or coffee shop.
Bob and Ellie Tupper, “DC’s original beer geeks” (Washington City Paper)
House-sit to Travel the World — Kelly Hayes-Raitt — HouseSit Diva
Kelly Hayes-Raitt is a world-expert in house-sitting. She is the HouseSit Diva.
My travel tip for retirees is to house-sit! I’ve been traveling full-time for the past nine years as a house-sitter, where I live at no cost in someone’s home and care for their pets while they vacation. I’ve house-sat in London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Gibraltar, throughout Africa, Hanoi, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur — even Ya’an, a village in China where I was the only non-Asian face I saw for a week! I’m writing you now from Mexico, where I house-sit every spring. Not everyone house-sits full-time, as I do. Many retirees house-sit during their vacations or summer breaks, while visiting adult children without being underfoot or to explore a potential retirement destination before making a permanent move. House-sitting not only saves senior travelers money (in myriad ways!), but allows them to live like a local, more safely, and travel more authentically. Engaging a house-sitter is also a great option for pet-owning seniors who long to travel. House-sitters enable them to keep their pets home in their routines — and avoid the expensive boarding fees.
Pack Light in Italy — Francesca Montillo — Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures
Francesca Montillo is the Founder of the Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures. She advises us to eat more and carry less — admirable advice.
As an Italian travel guide, I have seen my fair share of travel snafus. By far the biggest regret all travelers have is in the amount of stuff they pack. They all overpack when it comes to clothing, shoes and even toiletries. It’s amazing how many people pack large bottles of shampoos, conditioners, soaps and other items that can be easily found abroad. Other than medications, which are an obvious must, everything else can be purchased as needed without adding weight to your luggage. That said, one other key piece of advice is to make sure a light-weight outfit, pajamas, and undergarments are in your handbag. Always go on the assumption that your checked luggage could be delayed in meeting you at your destination. Ladies should always wear a cross-body handbag and gentlemen should never place their wallet in their back pocket. Don’t make it easy for pickpockets to target you. Avoid counting cash in public spaces and always try to speak a few words in their language. You may butcher it, but it will go appreciated.
Go Slow — Stephanie Montague — PoppinSmoke
Stephanie Montague of PoppinSmoke has been traveling the world, slowly.
Travel slowly and try to experience life in the places you visit rather than merely being a tourist. You will save money and have a richer, more memorable experience. Here are a few tips:
- Limit the number of cities you visit in a single trip. It’s tempting to squeeze as much as possible into whatever time you have, but you will get more out of your experience if you pick a small number of places and take the time to enjoy them.
- Don’t over-schedule your days. Leave time for wandering, people-watching, and exploring side streets. In many cities, you couldn’t “see everything” if you stayed there for a month, let alone a few days. Pick a few tourist sites that are most important to you and leave the rest of your time for discovering gems.
- Find out where the locals hang out and make yourself a regular. If you spend all your time at major tourist sites or TripAdvisor’s top-10 recommended restaurants, you will only get the tourist experience. Try a few hole-in-the-wall bars and ask for recommendations for a restaurant frequented by natives.
Thoughts from AARDY
We love that these widely experienced travelers all seem to conclude something similar: you gain richer experiences by taking time to be curious. We share the belief that it is often better to immerse oneself in a culture by moving at a local pace, rather than a tour-guide pace. Less is often more.
**Please Note: AARP does not provide sponsorship or endorsement of travel insurance brokers. No such endorsement or sponsorship of AARDY exists and none is implied. At AARDY we strive to bring world-class travel insurance to our customers, so they can compare and contrast mulitple insurance plans to find the right plan for their travel needs, and travel with confidence.
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