“My goal is to visit 50 countries before I’m 30!” the young woman declared.
“How old are you now?” I asked.
“23”, she responded, “and I’ve already done 19.”
I didn’t know whether to feel jealous or merely ancient. At that moment, I felt both.
I was in the travel writing section of a bookstore. A young woman employee had seen my lost expression at the stacks and asked if I needed help. This was her ‘favourite section’ the girl shared, as she located the perfect book for me, and we struck up a conversation about our shared love for travel. She ‘had the bug’ she admitted and was working to save enough for a year or so of travel…first across Russia by train, and then into Indonesia and possibly Australia.
As we talked, our generation gap closed and I realized she was doing exactly the kind of thing I had done when I was 23; she just had a few more countries under her belt. What I knew – and she didn’t – was that life has a tendency to interrupt those best laid plans, for really good, really wonderful reasons, and she might miss that 50-countries-by-30 goal.
That’s the beauty of having the perspective, or wisdom, or patience, that comes with being older. I know one important thing about travelling: unless you’re on a reality show, it isn’t a race. And just because I am over 50 doesn’t mean I’ve been left behind. After all, if 40 is the new 30, then 50 is the new 35. I’m actually catching up!
And I still have miles to go before I sleep.