40 Travel Adventures You Need to Have Before You’re 40
These trips will revitalize your zest for living, test your physical limits, and help you cherish fleeting moments as you celebrate the mid-point of life. It's not all downhill from here!
Holi festival, India
It’s impossible to feel middle-aged surrounded by this fun festival of color! Taking place all over India and other Hindu countries at the beginning of March (the exact date varies each year), the celebration has its roots in Hinduism, but everyone is welcome to participate. Throw on some old clothes, stock up on naturally-derived dyed powder, and perfect your aim. Wondering what color to choose? According to National Geographic, green symbolizes new beginnings, perfect for those bursting into a new chapter of life. Inspired by color? Here are the most stunningly colored natural wonders on Earth.
Hike the Pacific Crest Trail
Make like Cheryl Strayed in Wild as you attempt the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail—or at least a few miles of it—and use the time alone in nature to reflect on your past and think about where you’re headed. Plus, the physical challenge will keep you in shape—something that unfortunately gets harder as you age. The trail runs along the entire west coast of the United States., with many spots to pick it up along the way. No surprise, it’s one of America’s most stunning trails to hike.
Drive cross-country with your kids
If you have children, take a major trip with them before they get too far into their prickly teenage years to enjoy it. Rent an RV, or even just pile into the family minivan for unforgettable memories from coast to coast, visiting national sites, parks, and monuments along the way. Stay in budget hotels and campgrounds to save money. If cross-country is too far, try a famous U.S. roadway instead, like Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here are 10 more family vacations even the most jaded teen will love.
Backpack around Europe
Follow the time-honored tradition of college students studying-abroad before you’re too old to pass for one (don’t worry, it’s OK if it’s too late). Staying in cheap, communal-style hostels is a great way to meet people from all over the world, and a Eurail pass is an inexpensive way to see a whole continent. You don’t even have to plan out your itinerary ahead of time—just decide on a whim where to go next. Or, pick one country and really get to know it, carrying everything you need on your back. Try more cheap travel destinations that can still feel like VIP adventures.
You’ve earned the right (and the finances) to travel in style. Visit the destination of your choice anywhere in the world with a five-star hotel-worthy tent. Glamping (or “glamorous camping”) lets you get off the beaten path and close to nature, but still gives you enough modern touches that you don’t feel deprived. It’s an experience you deserve! Here are some of the luxurious glamping excursions you can take around the globe.
Or, go old-school camping
If glamping’s not your style, revisit your childhood with an old-fashioned camping experience. With campgrounds all over the country, you don’t have to go far for a rustic getaway with your spouse, your kids, or by yourself. Setting up your own campsite and surviving overnight in the wilderness can rebuild your self-confidence—something that often starts to wane as we head into middle age. Check out the incredible American campsites that should be on your bucket list.
Learn to surf in Hawaii
C’mon, you know you always wanted to! According to surfing experts, this isn’t just a sport for young people, and it’s never too late to learn. Plus, the mental and physical health benefits of your newfound skill will help keep you strong in the decades to come. Although you can learn anywhere there are waves, we can’t think of a more quintessential place to start than the gorgeous beaches of Hawaii, where the sport is ingrained in its history and culture.
Explore the Costa Rican jungle
Costa Rica is a haven for young-at-heart adventure seekers who refuse to become set in their ways. With 26 percent of its land made up of wildlife preserves and other protected lands, this small country invites ecotourists to hike through pristine rainforests filled with monkeys, tapirs, macaws, and even wildcats like pumas and ocelots. Venture onto canopy walks, suspension bridges, and zip lines that might make an older person shudder! Ecolodges let you stay right in your own tree house.
Travel with your parents
Let’s face it: They won’t be around forever, so now’s the time to take advantage of spending time with them. Traveling with your parents as an adult is way different than when you were a kid—you can now better relate to each other, and might even find that you’re friends. Visit someplace relaxing for a lot of catch-up time, pursue an adventurous vacation (but not too strenuous) for bonding, or even visit your ancestral country to uncover stories your parents can tell you about past generations of your family.
Alcohol takes more of a toll on your system as you get older, so visit Oktoberfest in Munich for an authentic beer festival while you’re still young. But you can enjoy the festivities without alcohol, too (in fact, the real reason Oktoberfest is celebrated has nothing to do with beer.) Go for the traditional cuisine, spectacular tents, folk costumes, music, rides, parades, and gorgeous scenery in the surrounding Bavarian countryside.
Go on safari
No halfway-to-the-bucket list would be complete without an African safari. Seeing some of the most majestic creatures on earth is an adventure not to postpone. Some of the safest countries to visit on safari include Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia (check updated travel alerts on the State Department’s website). Other incredible safari destinations include Kruger National Park in South Africa, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, where you can witness the spectacular wildebeest migration July through October. Read about more of the world’s best travel experiences.
Have a spa weekend with your girlfriends
Whether you’re a busy career woman or a busy mom (or both!), you’re undoubtedly due some rest and relaxation. Catch up with your gal pals on a memorable weekend of doing nothing. Destination spas can be found anywhere in the country, but laid-back California might have some of the best, such as Cal-a-Vie Health Spa outside San Diego. Find out more about the best girls’ weekend getaways across America.
Remember the hidden temple at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It’s a real place, and you can indulge your childhood dreams of following in that famous (if fictional) archaeologist’s footsteps by traveling to the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. Built into the red rock face, the site is full of hidden passages and jaw-dropping finds around every turn. Start in the gorge known as the Siq, and eventually make your way up 800 steps to a monastery high in the mountains. Plus, Jordan is one of those “dangerous” countries that are safer than you think.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
Start chasing the world’s biggest waterfalls now—it’s a pastime that will last the rest of your life. These amazing South American falls, which dwarf Niagara, are almost two miles across and over 260 feet tall, made up of a system of around 275 waterfalls. In addition, Iguazu Falls are in the midst of gorgeous rainforests full of wildlife. There’s a lot of walking involved, but you’ll feel like you’re an explorer on your way to discovering a magnificent sight to behold. Read more of what you need to know about the world’s most incredible waterfalls.
Mount Everest base camp, Nepal
Although “base camp” sounds like no big deal, just getting to the bottom of the massive mountain is a huge, days-long undertaking best done when in “peak” condition. Although altitude sickness is a risk, prepare properly and you’ll be able to make the trek to the camp at nearly 18,000 feet, while learning a lot about Nepalese culture along the way. You might even meet some fellow climbers who are actually attempting a summit. Nepal is also one of the 14 best budget travel destinations for 2018.
La Tomatina, Spain
Food fight! Rediscover the simple childhood joy of throwing edibles at your pals with the La Tomatina festival in the town of Bunol in the Valencia region of Spain. Trucks bring the tomatoes to the center of town and a cannon kicks off the throwing frenzy. Tip: Wear protective goggles and gloves, and squish the tomatoes before throwing. After a couple of hours, another cannon signals the end, and everything (and everyone) gets washed down. Find out more about the wildest parties around the world.
The fjords of Norway
Active travelers swear the Norwegian fjords are one place you have to travel to now. You can cruise through these deep glacial cuts at any age, but they are best experienced by getting off the beaten path onto rugged hiking trails that wind through the imposing yet beautiful landscape. Plus, you want to see these crazy cliffs before the effects of vertigo (which is most likely to affect older people) set in. Venture to western Norway to see the majestic Sognefjord and many others, as well as picturesque villages and stunning glaciers.
Have a culinary adventure in Thailand
While your stomach can still handle new and unusual food, take a culinary tour—any nation will do, but Asian countries have been gaining notice as top foodie destinations. Try the cuisine of Thailand, which is world-renowned for its complex flavors created by an abundance of herbs and spices. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the delicious street food in Bangkok. Thailand was also named one of the 10 places you need to go in 2018, according to travel experts.
Trek through Patagonia
Many visitors to this region at the southern tip of South America, straddling Chile and Argentina, describe the experience as life-changing—perfect for those heading into the second half of their time on earth. See jagged mountains, ice-blue lakes, glaciers, and tons of wildlife, including everything from puma to penguins, depending on what areas you visit. You can opt for luxury tours, or do it yourself on a budget. Two highlights are Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park and Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park.
The “sailing capital of the world,” the British Virgin Islands (or BVI) are a collection of 60 isles of pristine white sand and turquoise sea. Steeped in pirate lore, the unspoiled scenery will have you feeling like you’re in Treasure Island. And if you’ve always wanted to learn to sail, now’s your chance: You can even take a whole “learn to sail” vacation, or travel with pals and split the cost of a charter. If that’s too pricey, do a day trip out to sea. One blogger even found a way to sail for free: Make friends with boat owners and they’ll invite you on board. BVI is also home to some of the most gorgeous beaches with the clearest water in the world.
Visit a dude ranch
This is a must-do trip for your kids while they’re young—but can be a challenging adventure for adults as well. A dude ranch is also the perfect place for horse lovers and those interested in agro-tourism, as well as those looking to unplug by the campfire. Learn to ride, perfect your skills, and go on jaunts through easy or mountainous terrain. Cattle drives and overnight trips are also possible, and accommodations vary from rustic to luxury. Although the classic “cowboy” experience can be found in the western United States, there are dude ranches in the east as well, so no matter where you are there’s one close by. Saddle up!
Take a bike tour
You’re going to need to be in decent shape for this one. But seeing a destination by bicycle gives you a new perspective, with more time to reflect on your surroundings (and your life), plus you’ll reestablish a sense of pride in your physical accomplishments. Bike tours can found anywhere in the world, but one amazing place to cycle is rugged and remote New Zealand. Want to stay closer to home? Find out the best bike tours you can take around the country.
Great Wall of China
The problem with some of the world’s biggest tourist attractions is that they’re full of, well, tourists. But this is one of those tourist traps that are actually worth visiting. And those intrepid travelers who are willing to travel further from Beijing will be rewarded with fewer crowds and more tranquility when walking the Great Wall. Parts of it can be accessed by even the mobility-challenged, but visiting when you’re able to hike a distance will lead to a more challenging and transformative experience. (Travelers should note that there are currently some concerns with travel to China, so read the State Department’s advisory.)
Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
There’s nothing that can restore your fervor for life than seeing up-close the only living thing on earth visible from space: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Plus, given that the reef is dying thanks to global warming, you should see it while you still can. Made up of living coral, underwater plant life, and more than 1,500 species of fish, the reef is surprisingly accessible. The amazing underwater scenery can be reached via boat or in some locations, right off the beach. You need to be a somewhat strong swimmer, but breathing through a snorkeling tube is easy to get the hang of. Here are more breathtaking places to visit before they disappear.
Dive Belize’s Blue Hole
Once you’ve mastered snorkeling, you’re onto the next underwater adventure: scuba diving. Although diving can be done at older ages, there is more of a concern with medical problems over the age of 45. Once you’ve become certified and gain some experience, venture to one of the greatest dive sites in the world, Belize’s Great Blue Hole. This massive sinkhole, 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep, provides an otherworldly experience as you descend into the dark abyss, where you’ll see stalactites, sea life, and even Caribbean reef sharks. Check out the most stunning deep-sea sights in the world.
Walk the Path of the Gods
If you’re looking for a spiritual experience in Italy, forget St. Peter’s—head instead to the “Path of the Gods,” the walking trail that extends for five miles above Italy’s famed Amalfi coast. The hike up is strenuous, hot, and not for the faint of heart (another starting point allows you to drive up by car), but the views of the mountains and coastline are worth it. You’ll truly feel immortal looking down on the resort towns below, before descending 1,500 steps to Positano. Then you can splurge for Le Sirenuse, one of the hotels with the most stunning views in the world.
Take the kids to Disney World
OK, so this is not an “adventure” in the traditional sense, but traveling with young children is definitely a challenge—and one you shouldn’t miss. The awe you’ll see in their eyes when they get to Walt Disney World—and their excitement when you tell them the news you’re going—is something you’ll cherish when they’ve grown. You can even make it a family reunion, with your parents, your siblings, and their children joining the fun. These are the memories that last a lifetime. Use these insider secrets for the best Walt Disney World vacation.
Go rock climbing in Utah
Rock climbing at the gym is one thing, but doing it in nature on actual rocks tests your mettle and will cure any approaching midlife crisis. The canyons, cliffs, and towers of Utah provide some of the country’s best and most interesting rock climbing terrain. There are opportunities for all skill levels as well.
Island hop in Greece
Our 30s are generally a busy time of life: having and raising kids, getting ahead in our career, struggling to maintain our relationship with our spouse or partner. Make an escape for some alone time with your significant other on the romantic islands of Greece. It’s easy (and reasonably priced) to get around via ferry, so you can visit as many as you want. Or, just park yourself on one beach and stay there forever—at least until it’s time to go back to reality. Read about more of the dreamiest adventures for couples.
Ski the Swiss Alps
Before your knees give out or you develop arthritis, get in some skiing time at one of the top downhill destinations in the world: the fabled Alps of Europe. Ski resorts abound in France, Italy, and Austria, but the charm of the Alpine chalets of Switzerland make it our top pick for European skiing. Check out cozy Zermatt in the shadow of the Matterhorn, or classic St. Moritz, one of the area’s oldest ski resorts. Here are more enchanting places that look straight out of a fairy tale.
Relax on Rottnest Island
Our busy lifestyle sometimes needs a throwback to a quieter, slower pace. Off the coast of Western Australia, Rottnest Island is the perfect, if far away, place to find it. With no cars allowed, you can spend your days bike riding like you did when you were a kid. Lounge on the beach, snorkel the clear waters, or have an encounter (from a safe distance) with the “happiest animal on earth,” the quokka. “Rotto,” as it’s locally known, is a fitting spot to vacay with family, friends, or even solo. Here are more travel hot spots you haven’t heard of…yet.
Raft the Grand Canyon
Go outside your comfort zone with a reinvigorating whitewater rafting trip. And perhaps the quintessential place for rafting in the country—and the world—is the stretch of the Colorado River that runs through Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Rafting is an unforgettable way to see the canyon, whether you go for one day, a week, or more. Multi-day trips allow you to camp at the bottom of the canyon, a peaceful, soul-cleansing sojourn not many people get to experience. The Grand Canyon is one of those awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Sites everyone needs to visit.
Soak in Alaskan hot springs
For some people, visiting the natural splendor and wildlife of the United State’s northernmost state is the adventure of a lifetime. But along with the glaciers and grizzlies, work in some time for rest and relaxation—you’re no spring chicken anymore (kidding, kidding)! Chena Hot Springs, north of Fairbanks, is naturally fed from a geothermal system under the earth. At an average temperature of 106 degrees, the hot springs have been in use for over 100 years, and probably longer by indigenous people. The location is also one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Take a dip in more of the best natural pools in the United States.
Hike to the Boiling Lake
This is one hot spring you definitely don’t want to soak in. But Dominica’s Boiling Lake, which bubbles due to volcanic activity, is definitely is a sight to behold. The seven-hour round-trip trek in the Caribbean heat a test of mental and physical endurance best accomplished before you have any medical conditions to consider. Travel across misty, muddy, mountainous terrain, through a volcanic valley (watch where you step) to the lake—just don’t get too near the edge. On the way back, there will be some hot springs to soak in, and you can end your journey with a swim in the cool waters of Titou Gorge. Here are more under-the-radar gems only found in the Caribbean.
Kayak the Galapagos
The remote Galapagos Islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, famous as the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theories and considered a top destination for wildlife viewing and conservation, might seem out of reach. But you can avoid the tour boats your parents might take, maximize your time with endemic species, and get your money’s worth with an unforgettable, up-close-to-nature kayak tour that goes to islands the bigger ships can’t. Galapagos contains some of the best spots on earth you can only reach by paddle. You can even camp on the beach!
Eat, Pray, Love it in Bali
Mid-lifers needing to reevaluate can follow in the footsteps of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert to the island of Bali in Indonesia. That’s the “love” part of the book, but you can also find plenty of eating and praying to go along with it. Plus, you’ll definitely discover serenity in the natural scenery, beaches, and culture of this predominantly Hindu region. It’s possible to do Bali on a budget, but you can also stay at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, rated by Travel and Leisure as the best hotel in the world. Another reason to make the trip? Bali has some of the most photogenic beaches in the world.
Walk the Inca Trail
Anyone can take the rail to the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru, but only those in prime physical condition can get there by trail, so cross this one off your bucket list as soon as possible. Plus, the high altitude can take a toll on your system, giving an older body one more thing to handle! When you get to the site, you’ll be more exhausted than your well-rested, train-riding fellow visitors, but you’ll know you really earned the experience. Discover more of the most popular travel destinations in South America.
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Taiwan
It’s kind of like that scene from Tangled (moms of young Disney fans will know it), but this annual February release of paper lanterns is actually an old Taiwanese tradition. It still gives a magical feel to be among all the beautifully lit balloons in the night sky, especially as you recognize that each one represents someone’s hopes and dreams. Write your own wishes for the future of your life on your lantern before you let it go. For the environmentally cautious, don’t worry: A clean-up crew is on hand to pick up the lanterns after they drop. To further ensure yours is environmentally friendly, use a traditional lantern made of natural, biodegradable materials like cotton and bamboo, and only set it off during official festivals when cleanup has been prearranged.
Although there’s no official age when you’re too old to paraglide, health issues can make it more tricky as you get older, and some outfitters require those over 45 or 50 to fill out a medical questionnaire before participating. So if you want to try it, do it now! Although there are paragliding sites all over the world, the sport offers an unforgettable way to see the South of France, and the country is one of the top paragliding destinations in Europe. View the mountains and the sea from a unique vantage point, and go tandem (with a professional) if you’re a beginner. Here are more of the most extreme travel adventures in the world.
No matter where you’re headed, consider a trip by yourself: no spouse, no kids, just some alone time away from your busy lifestyle. One solo traveler says, “Traveling alone is restorative and brilliant. It lets you be selfish with things you want to do without worrying about the complexities that come with traveling with someone else.” Sounds perfect for those at the mid-point of life! Do research on which destinations are friendly and safe for solo trips, especially if you’re a woman. Here are the best—and safest—destinations to travel alone.