After a grueling ballet class this morning, my friend rolled her eyes and whispered, “I am getting too old for this.”
I smiled, acknowledging that the combination had been tough for me, too. But her comment made me wonder: at what point do we start convincing ourselves that we are too old for certain things—and whether just thinking this way makes it true.
What have you told yourself that you are too old for?
What have you given up on long before you had to? Do you yearn to turn the clock back to your more youthful self? Does the idea of your world continuously narrowing, opportunities closing off as you age, scare the crap out of you? It sure scares me!
However, over the last several years, I’ve met some amazing people who’ve convinced me that adventure travel might be a fountain of youth of sorts.
At 74, Pat was the oldest person in our group hiking Peru’s famous Inca Trail. To be honest, I was shocked when I learned her age. I had pegged her as being 10 to 15 years younger. Embarrassingly, she even outpaced me on all but the dreaded Dead Woman’s Pass.
And, no, she wasn’t a former marathoner, tri-athlete, or similarly genetically gifted specimen of humanity. She was a retired lady who stayed fit by walking 6 miles every day around her San Diego neighborhood.
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Since I’ve started a philanthropic adventure travel company, Llama Expeditions, I’ve met many people just like Pat.
In fact, most of our guests are in their 50’s and 60’s. It makes perfect sense. These folks finally have the time and money to heed the call of the wild.
They trek, kayak, horseback ride, raft, dive, bike, and camp all over the world. They’re addicted to adventure travel. I think they might be onto something.
Here are 5 reasons why adventure travel might be that long sought after fountain of youth.
1.- It’s a better motivator than a drill sergeant
If you are going to hike the Inca Trail, you better be in shape. There is nothing more motivating than the embarrassing prospect of being sent back if you aren’t fit enough to finish.
When I am preparing for an adventure, I find a way to work out even when I have the energy of a slug in reverse.
I also aggressively treat injuries instead of using them as an excuse to do less.
2.- It slows the relentless pace of time
Have you noticed how each passing year seems to speed by just a little faster? I’ve found myself decorating Easter eggs when it seems like I just took down the holiday lights.
The reason for this phenomenon is that the more life experience you have, the less work your brain has to do processing new input. When your brain isn’t busy working, time seems to fly right by.
When you add adventure to the mix, all of a sudden your brain goes into overdrive processing new experiences. This slows down time in a way that is reminiscent of childhood, making you feel like a kid again.
3.- It awakens your inner child
There is the reason why Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. Growing up meant that all the joyful play of childhood would be sucked out of life only to be replaced with the dreary, rigid world of adult responsibility and work.
Adventure travel, in contrast, infuses your life with play.
I’ve swung from ropes in the jungle, cradled in the welcoming branches of enormous trees, slipped down a muddy trail, and galloped a horse through the woods.
Pure play! Pure unfettered joy!
4.- It makes everything new again
This is especially true when your adventure takes you to foreign lands. All of a sudden you’re thrust back into the world of childhood in a different way.
You don’t know the most basic things about the most basic things.
I remember being stumped trying to do the laundry in France and dancing around in the shower in Costa Rica trying to figure out how to get the hot water to flow.
If you can get let go of the “this-is-not-how-we-do-things-back-home” attitude, you might even open your mind to different perspectives and become less set in your ways.
This attitudinal flexibility is just as important as physical flexibility in the quest to stay young.
5.- It shifts your perception of what you can do
There is always some point during an adventure when I genuinely worry that I might not be able to keep on going.
On the Inca Trail, that point came when I started the ascent of Dead Woman’s Pass. I honestly didn’t know whether I would make it. Then, I went ahead and did it.
There I was, standing at the top of the pass, grinning in relief with the rest of the group.
Hiking the Inca Trail shifted my perspective about my ability to push forward and break boundaries. So instead of my world narrowing as I got older, it actually got bigger.
In fact, four years later I hiked the even tougher Paine Grande Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
Are you ready to dip your big toe in the fountain of youth of adventure travel? It will widen your world. This is what staying “forever young” is all about.
Diane Valenti is wildly passionate about changing lives through philanthropic adventure travel. She is the founder of Llama Expeditions and author of the Ultimate Guide to Peru.