The top 3 trips to make before you turn 40

 

Nora Ephron once said, “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.” The bikini is a metaphor. The ultimate luxury is youth. All the gold in the world cannot buy the spirit, optimism, and plain freedom of our younger years. But youth is wasted on the young.

The cruelest joke ever played on mankind was to combine curious energy and a lithe frame with cultural naiveté and an immature palate. Which is exactly what makes our late 20s and 30s so interesting. It’s the sweet spot in life when tastes are developed, yet appetite for newness is high; career is soaring, yet demands on wallet are few; and worldview is sage, yet knees are in working order.

So before it’s too late, take these three epic, game-changing trips:

Take a guided tour through West Africa

This part of the world is not for the faint of heart. The roads alone are enough to send most travel enthusiasts packing, not to mention the region is soaked in the sad history of the slave trade. But this is exactly why it’s a must-see for the truly intellectually curious who have the means to do it right. With a personal guide-driver and vehicle, you can get through Ghana, Togo, and Benin – and back again – in about 12 days, covering the most important “slave castles” along the Atlantic coast as well as sites of incredible local religious significance, like the python temple in Ouida, the 500-year old lake-village on stilts in Ganvie, and the voodoo market in Lomé. You’ll experience the absolute richness of an often over-looked part of the world and come to understand modern context in the Americas and the Caribbean in a way you never thought possible. It’s certainly not cheap to travel this way, but it’s a cultural lens not many in this world will ever have the opportunity (nor courage) to look through – and it will never leave you.

Go to the DMZ in North Korea

For any self-described world observer, the geopolitical implications of a trip like this are reason enough to place it high on the travel priority list. It’s not the kind of place you take kids, to say the least. Getting to the 38th parallel is no easy feat, involving half-day planes to Seoul, followed by lengthy bus rides north to the border. It necessarily entails a monitored tour sponsored by American armed forces stationed at the border, with seemingly endless security checks and mandatory army-led training on how to behave inside the zone. The experience includes two incredibly close brushes with the notoriously closed nation: 1) a brief trip technically into North Korea via one of the three eerily sky-blue-painted diplomatic meeting rooms that straddle the demarcation line at Panmunjom; and 2) a journey 240 feet underground into the infamous Third Tunnel of Aggression, one of several tunnels clandestinely dug by the North Koreans for the purpose of invading Seoul. The experience cannot be put into words. It’s more like outer space than any place you’ve ever been, and it’s something any serious travel pro must check off before the opportunity becomes untenable.

Learn to sail with a fleet in The Med

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the late 20s and 30s is the opportunity to vacation with friends. You’re out of the woods with respect to school, careers are on cruise control, paychecks are healthy, but the realities of raising a family haven’t fully set in. There’s no better time to learn how to sail, no better place than the Mediterranean, and no better way than via fleet. Sometimes called “flotilla” yachting, this mode of holiday feels almost like summer camp – several small 50-foot sailing yachts each berthing about 10 people travel together as a fleet from location to location on a pre-determined route for typically seven days and seven nights, adventuring by day and celebrating by night. With a professional skipper guiding each yacht, the guests (“crews”) learn to sail with old friends while invariably making new ones. Growing in popularity, it’s the fleet of like-minded individuals that makes these trips incredibly unique vis-à-vis simply chartering a single yacht. A week on the open water aboard a boat that isn’t simply a huge floating hotel – now that’s something to write home about.

Lisa Baird is a founder of YachtLegend.

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Comments (15)

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  1. Amy-Rose King says:

    Great article, and freshing to see different places offered to the normal, and well trodden, backpacking locations. The beginning paragraph also resonates very strongly.

    It would be great if you could extend the article by offering ideas of how to do it. For example, you say to take a guided tour through West Africa but don’t mention where or how to find a (safe) guide driver / vehicle. Equally, how do you get into North Korea? I’m assuming you would need some sort of native guide?

  2. Ruth says:

    Good topic to discuss. I am the kind of traveler who likes to explore by foot, bicycle or public transportation. At the end of the day, I am dead tired and have to admit it is sometimes hard to wake up early the next day. However, the excitement of discovering new places helps me to keep up. Even though not everybody follows my travel style, I believe most aspects of travel requires some sort of endurance (and good health). Things are going to get more complicated with age so it is better to start traveling young and stay fit so you can continue enjoying as time passes. So, agree with the article. Try to visit those physically challenging places sooner than latter.

  3. Lisa Baird says:

    Amy-Rose, great comments. You raise good points. I’ll think about how to answer those questions via follow-up posts. Happy to share knowledge with kindred travel spirits. Cheers.

  4. Lisa Baird says:

    Ruth — right on. In West Africa, I was jostled to the point of no return by potholes the size of hot tubs. At the DMZ, the descent into the tunnel was ok, but the ascent back out was a true test of lung capacity. And on flotilla yachting weeks, tacking takes a fair amount of body strength! (and the whole week takes a fair amount of good balance!) Thanks for your comments.

  5. Alyson says:

    Great destinations, but, I have to say, I’m a little offended by the strange idea that, at 47, I’m too old or too broke to be doing any of this. Not so.

  6. Lisa Baird says:

    Alyson — prove it!! 7 days // 7 nites // balearic islands off spain // ibiza + mallorca // 24-31 august // http://www.yachtlegend.com ;) xo p.s. love your fiery spirit!

  7. Nicole says:

    West Africa and DMZ, oh yeah! That sounds awesome! The med, however, I don’t know about that. We are planning sometime in the future to take a 190 mile trek in Nepal to visit monasteries.

  8. Lisa Baird says:

    Nicole, love your enthusiasm about destinations! The thing to know about flotilla yachting is that it really has nothing to do with “destination traveling”. It is not about the destination. YachtLegend happens to be in the Med, but it could be anywhere, even Lake Michigan in the summer. The magic of this kind of travel is that sense of being a *part* of something new — and that’s something you can only do with a gaggle of other people. It takes a brave soul to open themselves up to new places, but an even braver one to open themselves up to new people. It’s a leap of adventure unlike any other! That’s the ultimate kind of travel!

  9. Michael Payne says:

    I have been lucky in my 23 yr Air Force career I have been stationed in 13 countries 10 diff states Korea Japan Phillapines Antigua Greece Spain Australia Crete turkey Seychelles Islands Italy Ascension Island of South Africa Portugal my fav was Seychelles n Greece

  10. John says:

    I have to add that any self respecting adventurist should definitely give the sailing a go, the Med is currently my playground but also on my list is to sail the Greek Isles and the Croatian coast. Before or after 40, never stop having an adventure list.

  11. Josie Leung says:

    im definitely putting the 3 items on my bucket list. they all sound really expensive and time consuming!

  12. Elliot B. says:

    Great post! I certainly hope to be able to do one if not all of these. Thanks for sharing.
    Elliot

  13. Tara says:

    Oh well, too late for me! :-)

    I think so much of traveling to these places is to make a decision to do it. When I had a dear friend pass away at the age of 38, I realized (in a very personal way) that life was happening NOW and that I should not put off the things I wanted to do.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas. I especially resonated with chartering a boat. We plan to do this very soon!

  14. Sue Frause says:

    I’m not quite sure what 40 has to do with any of these trips. I’m 62, have been to all seven continents, and grow weary of these youth focused articles. As a travel writer and photographer for 25 years, I understand the value of a SEO friendly headline, but you’re leaving out millions of baby boomers who are the original adventure seekers. My husband is 67, and we’re planning next year’s adventure to Hong Kong, the Seychelles and Kenya. And no, we’re not retired!

  15. Kevin says:

    Great destinations – and I won’t be offended just because I’m more than a little over 40! My wife and I have had a goal to visit 3 new countries a year, and have achieved it for over 15 years. One unique trip I’d add to your list is floating down the Mekong in Laos. Beautiful… but incredibly violent history. You can’t help but reflect a lot about the human “condition” while doing it.

    Off to South Africa, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Tanzania (including Four Seasons Serengeti) in three weeks!

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