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The last hurrah

Life after work needn’t be a bore. Elaine Coles puts down the briefcase and picks up the rucksack to explore the possibilities


In a world where many thirty-somethings, myself included, have circumnavigated the planet at least once, what options will remain for life after work? We are constantly told ‘travel while you’re young’, but recent studies found that more adults will enjoy centenary celebrations. It is therefore appropriate to question where our travels will take us once our children and grandchildren have long fled the comfort of the nest.

Whether it is for work or pleasure, there is little doubt that our adventures will see our world getting increasingly smaller. Maybe trips to outer space will be on the agenda, though fuel costs may have to reduce somewhat before airlines can put a tourist on the moon.
Backpacking is not a pastime necessarily of the young, with many 50-year-olds taking to the road on adventures such as the infamous Route 66. And you can be sure it is not as expensive as leaving earth altogether.

An obvious choice is a cruise holiday, which has long held the stigma of being a retirement home on water, and in some cases a more financially viable one too. With business currently on the increase and new ships to be introduced each year, it seems one of the few sectors remaining afloat. With the option to travel to every corner of the globe, it allows us to leave no stone unturned. The number of itineraries available is increasing all the time and may offer a peek at destinations unexplored by the frequent business traveller.

Although you may dread the very idea of floating around the ocean with many other senior citizens, it is true that at a stage in your life where mobility may be difficult and boarding an aircraft challenging, this remains an option.

Seeing the under water world may also interest you. Even if you haven’t done it before, scuba diving can be something for retirement, when you have time on your hands and can explore at a slower pace. Having completed my very first dive on the Great Barrier Reef I can suggest that the results are well worth the heart palpitations alone. Australia’s reef is an impressive sight of glistening colours and eye-catching fish, just as pictures suggest. During my own exploration I was fortunate enough to meet, and feed, a large and friendly codfish adopted by the reef staff and nicknamed Wally. If taking care of creatures living in the blue ocean sounds like your worst nightmare, then your holiday of a lifetime is likely to be on dry land.

Ever visited the great Pyramids of Giza or the Sahara Desert? Although these certainly should be on your list, I suggest something even more awe inspiring: Petra, in Jordan. It is a vast, unique city that was carved into the rock face more than 2,000 years ago. Fondly given the name “a rose-red city half as old as time”, it was not discovered by the West until 1812.

When I was there, I was most impressed by the sheer size of the buildings around me, and could not imagine how a nomadic Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans managed to carve such grand creations into the soft rose sandstone with little more than a pick axe – and in 40 degree heat. Each sight faced me with a view similar to that of a film set and recreated scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as well as Arabian Nights which were both filmed there. Covering many miles on foot was demanding, but I was able to travel in style by camel or donkey. I found myself wanting to see a bird’s eye view, and wondered at the expanse of the city from the sky. I decided to climb to the highest point, which although not an easy task, provided a panoramic view and another fabulous photo opportunity.

Seeing the world from above provides a whole different outlook on life, as I discovered flying over the glaciers of Alaska in a helicopter. Flying from Juneau and over Mendenhall Glacier with a view of ice spires, deep blue crevasses and melt water pools was truly breathtaking. I was able to indulge in scenery that is out-of-this-world (or at least almost out of this world, in the far north) and enjoy a taster of a part of the globe that remains untouched.

All of these experiences are possible today at the drop of a hat. We can always question the price of hotels, ticket prices, air fares and travel agents. A more poignant question for today’s thirty-somethings might be their financial capabilities in retirement and the existence of pensions. I would like to think that it is far better to embrace travel opportunities when young through business or pleasure. The advantage of the world becoming so much smaller is that we can explore and maybe re-explore many more countries, in an attempt to travel around the globe at least once.

Elaine Coles has worked for Carnival UK on P&O Cruises ships as an Assistant Cruise Director for seven years. She also works as a freelance TV Presenter. www.elainecoles.com

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