Life without limits: the retirement travel boom

Nothing compares to the sense of freedom that exploring new corners of the world represents. From grey nomads to the golden travel boom, people of a certain age are making the most of life post the nine-to-five grind.

Marcia Hill has always loved travelling. In her youth, the Menzies Malvern resident’s career as a model saw her regularly traversing the globe. In retirement, the sense of freedom that travel inspires is as exhilarating as ever. “Travelling opens up your mind to everything. It’s the best education. You meet lovely people of all different nationalities,” she says. “Before my husband Sidney passed away last year, we had the most wonderful time going wherever we wanted to go. We were married for 48 years and together for 50.”

Marcia cites France as one of her favourite destinations (“It’s a great people-watching place – you can just stand in the street and watch the people go by – they’re so stylish. I love it,” she says) and there’s almost nowhere she’s been that she hasn’t relished. “I’ve had an absolutely sensational life. I’ve done everything, and loved everything and wouldn’t change it for the world, but new places excite me,” she says. “I love cruising – they transport you everywhere, you don’t have to think, and it’s beautiful. I did a Mediterranean trip with Sidney, to the Greek Islands then around Dubrovnik and to the top of North Africa. It offers an opportunity to visit some of the more unusual places.”

Marcia isn’t alone. Seniors are fuelling a travel boom with a sense of adventure and joie de vivre that the small matter of ageing has no chance of diminishing. According to a survey by online retirement community yourlifechoices.com of their 155,000 subscribers, 51 per cent of respondents are planning to travel overseas within the next 12 months, and 22 per cent intend to set off even sooner.

Europe is top of the travel bucket list with 15% of respondents citing France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany (in that order) as the most sought after holiday destinations. The Grey Nomads movement is also well and truly in full swing, with 11 per cent of respondents looking to explore Australia. Canada is beckoning 10 per cent of travelers and 9 per cent dream of skipping across the pond to enjoy the luscious views and laid back vibe of New Zealand. Senior Aussies are also regular tourists in their own country, with 36 per cent stating they travel three to four times a year in Australia.

It’s not surprising companies catering to boomer and beyond travel are thriving. Over-50s travel specialist, the Senior’s Holiday Travel Team, has over 100,000 members and books adventures for seniors to locations across the globe. They cater for every tour and mode of travel imaginable – think ocean and river cruises, coach and rail tours, train trips and tailored experiences for couples, groups and singles alike.

Grey Nomads with dreams of caravanning into the red-dust horizon of Australia’s majestic landscape, need look no further than Camplify. The ‘Airbnb of caravans’ launched only two years ago, but already boasts a membership of over 23,000, allowing members to tow a van, drive a motorhome or have a van all set up by the owner for them anywhere around Australia. It not only offers flexibility for travelers, but added income for the many RV owners whose vehicles might otherwise gather dust for most of the year.

For Marcia, who is now 80 years old, a recent back operation – requiring her to learn to walk again - isn’t going to stop her achieving her travel dreams. Next stop? Canada. “I’m mad about trains and I’ve always wanted to go on the famous Rocky Mountaineer’s Glass-Domed train. It takes you right up into the wilderness and has a clear ceiling so you can see everything around you,” she says. “I think I’ll go with a girlfriend, but if I end up going on my own, that’s fine too - you always meet people and I talk to everyone anyway. I love going away, but you come home and kiss the tarmac when you get back to Australia. We’re in a very lucky country, this one.”