6 Reasons I Felt ‘Older’ on My Trip to Colombia–and How I Coped

Me and the Aussies

During my recent trip to Colombia, I had more than a few of those “Am I ‘getting old’?” moments. Or perhaps I should say ‘older’. (‘Old’ on its own has a different connotation, I think.)

Now, in retrospect, I see that some of these moment were sort of funny and that many have something to do with being a low-budget traveler who prefers developing countries. 

Why am I sharing this? Maybe it’s therapeutic for me to do so. Or maybe I’m looking for company to share in my misery. Ha ha. Certainly, if you somehow empathize (and perhaps sympathize), that would be wonderful.

So here are the 6 reasons I felt ‘older’ on my last trip.

1. I was older–twice as old–as many of the people I was with

I wasn’t imagining it. Where I went/stayed (hostels/low-budget hotels),  I was older than 90% of the people I met. It was rare to meet people in their 30s or 40s or older.

I was reminded of this when I mistakenly stayed at a party hostel–twice–where my fellow travelers were in their late teens into their early 20s. Once, it was an obvious party hostel (so I left the next day). At the other hostel, it wasn’t so obvious.

Yikes, right? In these situations, I looked around and thought–oh wow…too bad I’m not a college student. If so, I’d love this. But I’m not. I’m actually a professor. Meaning that I felt more like a teacher who got into the students’ private college party.


It was awkward and, honestly, boring. The reason: much of it was about drinking. Believe me, there were times in the past when I loved the party scene–when I was that age. But now? A basic wine buzz (on occasion) will do me just fine.

What was different this time is that it really felt different–as in, not quite right.

How I Coped

I got drunk, really drunk.  Just kidding. Really, I told myself to more careful so that I don’t end up in party hostels again–to read hostel reviews more carefully. And that’s what I did. The rest of my trip was great because I stayed at the right places.

2. I ended up at a party with mostly teenagers

Angie, a girl I met at a Couch-Surfing meet-up in Cali (see photo below), invited me out dancing one night. I was overjoyed as it was something I really wanted to do. She said there would be a party first, then dancing at a club. I think she was 23ish. I thought she knew my age (slightly more than twice hers) and I assumed (wrongly) that we’d be going somewhere with a wide range of ages. That’s how it was when I went to Latin dance clubs in the US.

After the party, a non-event due to no one showing up, we arrived at the club and  I thought–oh crap. WTF is this? Sure enough, it was a couple hundred people at a salsoteca, spilling out onto the street. At least 3/4 were teenagers around 17 or 18 years old; the rest, with a handful of exceptions, were in their very early 20s. Back in high school, this would have been the ultimate party. For someone my age, it wasn’t fun.

Cali friends

I thanked Angie for inviting me, but didn’t stay too long.

How I Coped

I spoke to one of the older (40ish) employees at my hostel–which by the way, had people of a variety of ages staying there. He chuckled a bit, knowing the scene I’d encountered, and explained that there were clubs for people in ‘our age group’ and invited me to one with him and his wife.

Unfortunately, their child was ill and we didn’t make it. Still, just knowing that the option was available made me happy. If I return to Cali, I’ll stay there and hang out with them.

3. Twice, I was asked if I was someone’s mom

I get that red hair is less common than blonde and brown and if two people with red hair whose ages are significantly different are hanging out, one might wonder about their connection.

But hearing, “Is she your daughter?” (about a 26-year-old) shocked me a bit. I’d never in my life been asked that question.

Now, ‘aunt’ would have been a different story.

Here’s the girl. What do you think? (I’m in the photo below.)

Red-haired 'daughter'

Now, you might think–well, that’s an honest mistake, given the hair color. And sure, I agree. But guess what?

It happened again a few weeks later, this time with a guy. An Aussie with a reddish brown beard (right side of photo).

Me and the Aussies

What’s a girl to do–go blonde? :)


How I Coped

I drank a few beers with my ‘son’ and had a good time. Easy enough. The Aussies are easy to be with–regardless of age–and these guys were great. (They thought I was younger, by the way, so I’ll love them forever.)

I think that sharing in the adventure of spending the night at Playa Blanca (when most people just do the day tour), in super basic accommodations, somehow equalized our ages (except when it came to the number of beers we each drank.) :)

4. I walked up hills/dunes slower than my (younger) travel companions

I took a 3-day tour of La Guajira, Colombia’s Wild West, at the end of my trip and, at times, my much-younger travel companions and I had to walk up some kinda-steep-but-not–too-steep hills to get to various scenic overlooks.

The trails were sucky and my shoes were ok, but not quite ideal. And it was as windy as hell. There were also some sand dunes that were might steep.

Guajira sand dune

At times, I found myself falling behind.

Was this because of getting ‘older’? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve been slacking on the workouts. :)

No matter what, though, I made it to the top.

How I Coped

I reminded myself of group hikes I’ve gone on and how there were people in their 70s doing 8-miles like a stroll in the park. I then told myself–Get your butt back to the gym.

5. I didn’t feel like staying up late

There were times when I could have stayed up late, really late, with some of the people I met. Most often, I didn’t feel like it. Sleep because more important than chatting. Also, reading in bed became super appealing since I rarely have time to do it at home.

Does that mean one is getting older? Or that one simply likes sleep and quiet time? Who knows?

How I Coped

I didn’t need to. I simply embraced it. Also, I think it’s healthier for me to go to sleep early-ish (11-midnight) versus at 1 or 2 am anyway. And in hot weather, which I encountered for much of my trip, being an early riser was best.

6. My backpack felt heavy…even though it wasn’t

I packed well/light for this trip–really well–but there were times when my backpack felt heavy and where I didn’t feel like schlepping it around. I even had ‘suitcase fantasies.’ Yes, the idea of wheeling a suitcase around became rather appealing…

How I Coped

I told myself that the backpack schlepping was actually a form of exercise, which would prepare me to walk up the hills faster in the future, so it was worth it. :)

Final acceptance and why I’m laughing about all of this now

I think I realized somewhere along the line that not a lot of people my age are traveling solo/independently to Colombia and so, some of what happened (except my hill-walking challenges) had to do with that. There truly were many younger travelers where I went (quite a few destinations), except maybe in the Coffee Zone, which seemed to attract more mainstream and slightly older tourists.

Reframing aging and the experience

What I’m choosing to do is reframe my ideas about aging and give myself credit for traveling to Colombia, solo–that is, for actually doing it. Many people are afraid of the country, which is much safer than the press wants you to believe, and it has so much to offer. I’m happy I finally went after wanting to for so many years.

So, it was a great trip, despite some of the moments I described above. Fortunately, they  were few and far between. There were many more that were incredible, enjoyable and unforgettable. In some way, now that I’m looking back, I feel I appreciate it all even more .

Your Thoughts/Feelings/Reactions

Are you a traveler somewhere between 35 and 55–or maybe 55 to 75–who can relate to some of my experiences?

Have you experienced moments of ‘feeling older’? If so, where and why? What happened? Was it for physical or emotional reasons? Was it about the people you met? Did you choose accommodations that cater to younger travelers (e.g., a hostel)?

Where do you typically travel to, by the way? Perhaps if you tend to go to Europe and stay in mid-range hotels, I would think you’re encountering older travelers. Just a thought.

PS: I dedicate this post to Mike Hinshaw, aka, the Nomadic Texan–a fellow travel blogger and cool dude who often refers to me as ‘young lady.’ I love you for doing this, Mike. Please continue. :) 

26 Responses to 6 Reasons I Felt ‘Older’ on My Trip to Colombia–and How I Coped
  1. Gray
    December 21, 2014 | 9:24 pm

    Oh, Lisa. I can definitely relate to this. I haven’t been asked if I was anyone’s mom since my red-haired oldest niece was a toddler (thank God), but the physical slowing down is definitely happening. I do not have the stamina I once did, nor can I sit up late at night after touring a city all day. It’s a little demoralizing to realize it’s an age thing, but there are worse things that could happen. I think we just have to adjust.
    Gray recently posted..Feeling My Age at the NewseumMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 21, 2014 | 10:45 pm

      Hi, Gray. You got the ‘daughter’ comment, too? Phew. Glad to hear it’s happened to others.

      I agree. It’s a matter of adjustment. In my case, I need to get back to the gym. Then, the mini mountains won’t seem like major ones. :)

  2. Frank
    December 21, 2014 | 10:01 pm

    Can relate. But you know what? The kids pretty one-dimensional and boring. I remember being that age and it was all about drinking and getting laid. And so much insecurity. Nothing wrong with being a bit older. Hmm..I don’t think she looks like your daughter. But I’m surprised you didn’t mention the lady with the big gun right behind her!
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted..Ancient Angkor and the Top 10 Temples of Angkor Wat Archaeological ParkMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 21, 2014 | 10:47 pm

      Ha ha–that’s what it was about, huh? :)

      So she doesn’t look like my daughter? OK, cool.

      Re: the lady with the big gun…yeah, I was thinking about posting that as its own photo. Just her. Then, ask people to explain. As you can see, though, it was part of a game. :)

  3. Gilles Barbier
    December 22, 2014 | 12:04 am

    Hi Lisa,
    I somehow can relate, as I just started an open-end trip, and am now in Asia (southern Cambodia), where I am one of the oldest (41 years). Many could be my kids if I had any…
    I fully agree with avoiding party hostels, at my (our?) age we need our beauty sleep ;-) I also fully agree with going out… I don’t travel to party all night but to discover a country.
    I actually think that 40 is a great age to travel. True, you no longer feel like party & drink all night (it is anyway not the point in traveling), but you also have more experience and I think more ability to enjoy the countries you visit…
    So, why “cope”? Just enjoy the difference! And also maybe that the money you save on booze can be used for discovering the country more in depth!
    Gilles Barbier recently posted..The Floating Villages Of Tonlé SapMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 22, 2014 | 12:13 am

      Hi, Gilles. Thanks for joining in! 41? Yup. I remember that age (not that long ago). Same idea, same feeling pretty much. Yes, they could be your kids.

      I’m with you when it comes to discovering and not partying. Why travel to do that?

      Good point re: saving on the booze–ha ha–I like that!

      Cheers and nice to ‘meet’ you here. :)

  4. Tom @ Waegook Tom
    December 22, 2014 | 4:35 am

    I’m only 28 and I’ve experienced moments of feeling older, like when I’ve stayed in a dorm and it’s got to 11pm, I’m ready to go to bed yet my dorm-mates are pre-drinking before the club. One of the reasons I don’t stay in hostels quite so much anymore! Like you, I read the reviews thoroughly, and if I get even the vaguest notion that a place might be a party hostel, I steer well clear!
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..I Broke Less Than 80% Of My Resolutions. Huzzah!My Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 22, 2014 | 8:32 am

      Hey, Tom. Sounds like you totally get it. The dorms are the worst! I avoid them like the plague…but on this last trip, I got stuck a couple of times. It was either stay in the dorm or relocate and there were reasons whey I stuck around. At one place, it was fine. I was in a dorm of 3 and it was town that was geared to hiking and outdoor activities. There was only one other person in the room, a 32-year-old from Argentina, who was into trekking. We both went to sleep early. The other place, however, was hell. It was exactly as you described–that ‘pre-drinking’ preparation thing. I had to use noise-canceling headphones AND white noise on my iPod. Ugh.

      Yeah, those reviews help. But one must ready very carefully and look for references to bars, pools and ‘lively crowds.’ :)

    • CB Driver
      December 22, 2014 | 8:33 am

      Oh and if you’re 28 (and I could technically be your mom), imagine how I’ve felt! LOL Although when I met you, I felt we were close in age due to similar travel sensibilities–if you know what I mean.

  5. runawaybrit
    December 22, 2014 | 5:01 am

    I am 35 and managed to find myself in a hostel in Croatia that was mainly a crowd of 18-24 year olds. One day I overheard two 17 year old girls complaining that they felt like ‘babies’ in the hostel as they were the youngest, so I said ‘Believe me, you don’t want to be the oldest in the hostel’.

    They looked at me in surprise before saying ‘Oh, you’re not the oldest here. We met a girl yesterday who’s 28!’. They said it as if she was expected to be on her death-bed, rather than backpacking Europe! I didn’t know whether to be pleased they didn’t realise I am mid-30s, or mortified that 28 is considered ancient!
    runawaybrit recently posted..Why You Should Visit Stockholm in WinterMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 22, 2014 | 8:38 am

      35? Cool. If I met you at a hostel, we’d be instant BFFs. LOL So you were in one of those–the 18-24 hostels? Oh boy. The ‘babies’ were complaining. Jeez.

      That is so funny about the 28-year-old comment! If they saw me, they’d think I was a grandma (even though I look younger than my real age).

      Thanks for sharing this; it feels good to know that I’m not alone.

      I may have to do a post on ‘Staying at Hostels When You’re Older.’ Although I’ve had some of these experiences, I’m not giving up on them. I do believe there’s a way to choose the right one–that is, one with mixed ages. At those places, there’s really no problem. I’ve spotted people well into their 60s. :)

  6. Dubai Desert Safari
    December 25, 2014 | 10:53 am

    I felt great reading your post here and how you dealt with aging….surely i will have to remember these on my next travel..!thank u sooo much! :D

  7. Missouri
    December 30, 2014 | 1:34 pm

    I have been through this but now I simply feel youthful inside. I give myself credit for taking on adventures other people my age might just dream about – and you should too :) This is the stuff that keeps you young, vibrant and anticipating great things in life.

    • CB Driver
      December 30, 2014 | 6:32 pm

      Hi and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I feel the same way re: giving oneself credit–yes! And true, it does keep you young. Here’s to more great adventures for both of us! :)

  8. Lainie Liberti
    February 20, 2015 | 12:16 pm

    I get it! I’m 48 and most of the people we meet are closer to my son’s age (15) than mine.. but I think it’s the spice of life, really, sharing our world views from all perspectives, ages, experiences, etc.. But I’m not interested in partying all night nor do I move particularly as fast as the younger ones, but I love experiencing the contrast. I think it’s about outlook on life and attitude that keep us young. I hope to bump into you somewhere on the road!! Great article and great exploration.
    Lainie Liberti recently posted..For the Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement – Epi#3My Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 23, 2015 | 12:20 am

      Hi, Lainie! I’m glad you get it and yes, I agree re: variety being the spice of like. I really enjoyed the hostels where there were people of all ages; those were the best.

      Thanks mucho for the positive feedback–greatly appreciated–and I’d love to bump into you on the road sometime, too. :) I’m sure we’d be able to communicate well in Spanish and would have lots to chat about! :)

  9. Naomi
    March 13, 2015 | 10:35 pm

    I still stay in dorms at hostels, with few bad experiences. I still go out drinking with the youngsters, but I do it very infrequently. And suffer the consequences!! I definitely screen hostels I stay at, and interestingly, so does everyone else, so the crowd that ends up at your quieter hostel have often chose it for the same reason as me and are really interesting people, whatever their age.
    I went through a stage of being “ageist” where I thought that those young people were boring and not fun to be with, and they’d find me boring too, but it isn’t the case and if you just surrender to the experience it can be fun.
    I’ve been everyone’s “mum” for a while, someone they can come to for a little wisdom, and it’s a real compliment. Just a few weeks ago I spent a few hours in a dorm room in Kyoto, me drinking sake, while I helped a girl reduce her clothing pile by at least a half. I got drunk, she really valued my help. Her back will be grateful too, LOL!!
    As for hills, yeah that’s fitness, and I know a lot of very unfit 20 year olds!!

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2015 | 3:04 pm

      Hi, Naomi. Thanks for sharing! I laughed when I read about how you also ‘suffer the consequences.’ I hear you. That’s what’s happened to me those times I’ve stayed up late drinking. :)

      You have children, right? Hazel’s mum? Or a pet? My apologies for not remembering!!

      PS: You sound like a cool lady. I hope our paths cross someday. Maybe you’d be an aunt to me? Or just a fellow traveler. :)

  10. Wayne Seto
    May 10, 2015 | 11:48 am

    Great post! Timely as well, since I’m 45 and spent last night hanging out with a couple of guys aged 19 and 22 here in Chiang Mai. I’m 45 and these guys had baby faces that made them both look 15. I totally relate to all your points. By the end of the night, I felt like was 70! Thanks for the post, helped put a bit of humour and perspective into today. Cheers!
    Wayne Seto recently posted..How India Challenged Me And Rebuilt Me.My Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 14, 2015 | 12:06 pm

      Hi, Wayne. Sorry it’s taken me forever to reply!

      Anyway, I’m so glad that you relate to my post and that you enjoyed the humor. My feelings on this past trip were a bit complicated and stronger than previously. I’d never been asked about being someone’s mom before and ending up at 2 party hostels was not pleasant. I definitely learned a lesson or two, the main one being that I must read many reviews before staying at a hostel to make sure it’s more of a mixed-age kind of place.

      So you were with baby-faced kids? Funny! :)

  11. Céline Bouchard
    June 13, 2015 | 10:41 am

    Heard on the radio that older people feel 19 years younger (in their mind) than their age, which makes me a 41 year old. Nonetheless I’ve decided that Jules (my backpack, like in Jules Verne) would stay at home next time I hit the roads. 15kg feels like 30 after a few months. Smaller/lighter backpack ? Maybe. But my smallish suitcase on wheels is great, except on sand and in snow.
    Advantage of being an female-older-solo-traveler: you get respect from locals and most younger travelers. I don’t mind being addressed as Mama in Africa.
    Want to feel younger ? Take a long cruise (like 35 days from Singapour to Rotterdam), meet interesting people who have roamed the world before your time.

    • CB Driver
      June 14, 2015 | 12:03 pm

      Hi, Celine. I like that re: the 19 years….ha! Jules? Very funny! I hear you re: the backpack vs suitcase on wheels. The latter is becoming more and more tempting as I get older.

      I agree with your re: the respect factor. Definitely. Hilarious re: the cruise!

      Nice to meet you, by the way. :)

      • Céline Bouchard
        June 14, 2015 | 12:10 pm

        See you somewhere on the planet !

  12. renzo
    June 18, 2015 | 9:49 am

    i am in my late 50s and i have travelled extensively for more then 30 years. i travelled to colombia last summer and really loved it. i stayed in hostels a few times and it was like being transparent. only teens, chatting, drinking, smoking and shouting all night.

    • CB Driver
      June 27, 2015 | 3:09 pm

      Hi, Renzo. Yeah, that sounds like the hostels I stayed at–two of them, anyway. Other had mixed ages and were different, fortunately.

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