She was haggard. Chicken bone haggard, barely a wishbone.
And as I looked on with my twenty one year old eyes I couldn’t stop them squinting with disapproval. She was offering her raggedy tanned kid some bread from a dirty bag, though I suspect she didn’t eat it herself. No, she was mainlining her sustenance.
As I continued on my way, on the roughest sea voyage I’ve ever taken across the Gulf of Siam I wondered if she was what lay ahead for me, and all the rest of us young lithe backpackers. There she was, testament to the sad hippy’s route to old age. She’d taken the Hippy Trail, and got lost, and tired.
Or simply, older.
I started wondering then; ‘What happens to backpackers when they get older?’
When others their age are feeding the mortgage and the babies who wake in the night, and refilling the lunch boxes with Vegemite sandwiches? What happens when the crowd – who once drank at the Full Moon Party – have gone home to a career a house and a one hour commute?
I seem to have done it the wrong way around. I wasn’t incredibly ragey when I was a backpacker in the late eighties, but I did backpack Asia alone. Single, white, female. And despite the Koh Samui stall holders protestations (You NOT small, you HUGE) I wasn’t so big, and strong. Or brave.
Of course after my return to normality, I did the babies and the Vegemite thing, swiftly followed by the divorce thing and the new life on the other side of the world thing. Like so many others of my age, I am still curious, keen to know more about this world I’ve missed whilst I’ve been birthing and raising the next generation.
So, as soon as I could like the protagonist in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ I set out to rediscover the world on my own in 2007, starting with fairly safe places (France, London) and then, of course meeting my Englishman and starting a new life. But still, the restlessness I have to travel on my own isn’t satiated. So it was with great interest that I bumped into Leyla, an older adventurous woman with a sore head, at the TBU conference in Porto.
She’d dismissed the sore head by pointing to it and blithely saying ‘Bad water. Albania.’
As. You. Do.
It turns out that Leyla is who I want to be when I grow up.
When I’m in my fifties I want to be discovering the bad water in Albania, with or without my other half. And let’s face it, other halves are not always able to come with us. Meeting Leyla was a godsend, because it reminded me that getting older doesn’t necessarily mean the end of my travelling adventures.
In fact, it could be just the beginning.
Leyla’s recent book, Women on the Road, published by Indie Media, (the coolest little travel publishing company in New Zealand, maybe the world) tells me how. But perhaps more importantly, she makes it all so easy, and sensible. From lists of what essential first aid equipment you must have to how to get rid of unwanted male attention on the road (I’ve done the bogus wedding ring myself), it’s all there.
If you ever wanted to go out and explore, and have refrained from doing so because of the lack of a partner, this is the book for you, because Leyla will give you confidence. Written with humour and abundant good sense, Women on the Road is easy to read. More a helpful, gentle poke in the right direction, than a packing list. Though there is one of those too, if you should need it, on her Women on the Road website, along with the most divine pictures from her travel experiences.
Whilst I’m not in the target market for this book, yet, (I’m only 44! This book is aimed at the Baby Boomer Generation) I truly believe that even us Gen X women can glean some useful titbits of advice from Women on the Road.
Funny, sensible, pragmatic. Like a Two Fat Cooks’ recipe for the travelling older woman.
The best example I have that demonstrates that not all old adventurers fell by the wayside in deepest darkest Asia.
You can get yours here. And, you should.
Disclaimer: I will receive an affiliate commission for all sales of this book that originate from this page. But it’s still good, and you should still buy it!