Travel Isn’t As Fun When You’re Older

Hey everyone! I’m heading back to the U.S. next week. Woohoo! I’m so excited to go home. Chiang Mai is excellent, but I miss my family. Also, it has been a stressful 10 weeks. My mom is in the hospital and will stay there long term. She was touch and go for a while, but she is stable now. At least I’m heading back on the upswing. Anyway, I’m really ready to go home. There is a ton of stuff waiting for me to deal with. However, I am not looking forward to the long travel day at all.

These long travel days never bothered me when I was young. But I’m older and creakier now. My lower back has been in pain since last summer. I went to see the doctor and she said it was arthritis. Ugh! I have been doing some physical therapy and it helped a bit. However, it is difficult to be consistent while I’m not home. I need to do those exercises more often. My back is better, but it is still a bit painful. Sadly, I know it will be bad on a long travel day.

Crazy travel day

My trip back to the U.S. will be pretty crazy. I must have booked it when I was young. Nuts!

8 am – The first flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok will take 90 minutes. I booked this flight early in the day because the airlines used to cancel flights during the pandemic. They combined flights if there aren’t enough passengers. I didn’t want to miss my connection in Bangkok so I gave myself plenty of time. As it turns out, too much time. Flights are full again.

12 hours layover in Bangkok – I plan to put my luggage in a locker and go into town. I’ve been to most tourist attractions in Bangkok so I don’t have any specific place to see. I’ll probably go see my aunt and maybe go shopping at Terminal 21.

9 pm – This flight from Bangkok to Incheon will take a little over 5 hours. Hopefully, I’ll be able to sleep on this leg of the trip.

12 hours layover in Incheon – Incheon is a great airport. There are lounges for travelers to sleep in and good Korean food to eat. I plan to nap for a bit and see if I can join the Incheon Airport transit tour. There are several free tours that travelers can join. I signed up to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insa-dong. You need a valid visa or the K-ETA to enter Korea. The K-ETA cost only $8 and I was approved in a few hours. It should be a lot of fun.

11 hours flight to San Francisco – I’ll be exhausted by this time and shouldn’t have any problem sleeping on the plane. I got some muscle relaxants from the pharmacy so they should help relax my back and neck.

2 hours layover in SF – This probably will be just enough time to get through customs, immigration, and security.

2 hours flight to Portland – Yay… Mrs. RB40 will come to pick me up at the airport.

That’s 46 hours in total! I must have been crazy when I booked this. This kind of trip wouldn’t faze me 10 years ago. Now, I’m seriously dreading it. My back can’t take this punishment. Maybe I can go sleep in a capsule hotel for 4-5 hours during the layovers. Actually, I should fly to Bangkok a day early so I can get a good night of rest before the long-haul flights. Let me see if I can find a ticket.

Travel isn’t as fun

My enthusiasm for travel diminished greatly last year. I spent more than 6 months away from home. It was fun to travel around, but I’m exhausted. I’m ready to spend a year being comfortable at home.  

My prediction from 10 years ago is coming true. Travel is more fun when you’re young.

I can still travel for many more years, but we’ll have to change the way we travel. We’ll try to have shorter flights. Maybe we can stop in Hawaii for a couple of weeks and then continue on to Thailand. Maybe we’ll feel wealthy enough to splurge for business-class tickets at some point. Although, I doubt I’ll ever get there. Those tickets are so expensive!

Do you have any good tips for older travelers?

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image credit: Susan Bughdaryan

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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33 thoughts on “Travel Isn’t As Fun When You’re Older”

  1. It’s interesting, but I traveled so much between ages 0 to 35 that after I had kids, I was happy not to travel again. Working in international equities, growing up in a foreign service household overseas, etc tired me out.

    But I do want to travel in a more luxurious manner now in middle-age. Flying first to Hawaii was awesome! I’ll do it again!

    Time for you to live the good life Joe!


  2. Business Class is a Game Changer! We usually pay for Economy Plus and then use Air miles to upgrade to business class. I’m 60 and my husband is 59, and business class has made traveling fun again.

  3. Abosultely. A trip like this was already bad when I was 26, but now at 39 I can’t even think about it. Travel is no fun at all and airports are the WORST part of it

  4. Hi Joe,
    Have a safe trip back. Yeah, aging sucks. The 13-hour flight used to be not a big deal to me, now it is. Travel is more a mixed bag with both fun and exhaustion. I try to reduce the time for each trip to max 10 days. At the end of each trip, I just can’t wait to be home again.

  5. Safe travels Joe, that is a part of the world I’ve never been to, but I’d like to! Glad your mom is stable, and hope things are looking up for her!

  6. That’s a letdown because I know your game plan was to ramp up the traveling in the upcoming years. Like you said, no reason you can’t slow it down though.

    I struggle with being on planes longer than a few hours. One of the things I liked about traveling back and forth between Ohio and Panama was that we usually had a layover in Miami, which made it about 3 hours for each leg… that was doable. I’ve told you on here that I would love to see Thailand, but I gotta say, the travel to get there just sounds painful. 🙂

  7. At age 67 I have to roll my eyes when a sprout like you talks about the impact age has on their lives. My personal best marathon and 5K were both after my fiftieth birthday. As was my best tennis and Grand Canyon rim to rim. It’s like reading a post titled “Twenty things I learned by age twenty”. I know there won’t be anything worthwhile in it because…they are twenty for Pete’s sake! I can’t recall how young you are but I know you are way too young to get much sympathy from a true fossil about your aging travel woes. Suck it up Buttercup! And stay off my lawn.

  8. The airline you fly on can make a huge difference too. Economy class in Emirates can be almost as pleasant as business class in many of the budget carriers. Do some research on if you can fly with better carriers – new planes, better reviews, etc…

  9. Maybe also priorities change with time and comfortable life gets you.
    CM is also one of my favorite places on Earth… Doi Suthep etc.
    I once saw a backpacker in Pai, whose friend assembled his wheelchair from the minivan and I have met 80+year-old backpackers. Few, but still.

    • You also have Fez in your bucket list… This place is crazy uncomfortable, max harassment+heat. Arabic culture is much more intense(hostile?) than Buddhist.

    • Business class? it makes some diff. You still have to go thru airports and layovers and there’s no way around that! Flying is not the problem, the problem is everything around the flight itself

  10. Yeah, I agree. Once you get older travel is definitely more difficult. My butt gets sore after about 4 hours on a plane. Those long flights are killer.

    I think you just need to change how you travel. Instead of laying-over for 12 hours, just give yourself a couple days at each stop. Don’t try to push it all into one marathon.

    You also need to travel to *different* places to keep things interesting. You’ve been traveling to Thailand a lot lately. Even paradise can get tiresome if that’s all you get to see!

    Sorry to hear about your Mom. I hope her condition improves.

  11. I’m with you, travel isn’t as fun as it is when you’re used to sleeping in various situations or everything is an “adventure”…I’m bummed about the day I can’t go camping anymore because sleeping on the ground isn’t feasible. And airplanes you’re packed like sardines for hours.

    I even wrote a post about how travel is overrated, probably connected to my distaste for travelling as I get older, ha!

      • I’ve realized that pillow makes huge difference, probably more than matress itself. Usually going with inflatable matress and compressable pillow(so much better than inflatable ones, one of the better investments I’ve made over the years!). Definitely never going to skip on sleep comfort whenever I go camping 😀

  12. That’s a long trip indeed (understatement!).
    Was this one of the cheaper options?
    There weren’t any shorter ones available for booking?

    Traveling is never fun. People who tell you otherwise are lying.

    The best way to relax is to take a stay-at-home vacation.

    Best of luck, Joe!


    • That’s pretty normal if you fly through Korea. There are other options. But I like the Incheon airport and I want to visit Seoul anyway. Next time, I’ll try to have a few days of stop over so I can rest.

  13. That’s a brutal itinerary. As Freddy Smidlap said, air travel sucks. Even shorter trips. I’ve reduced flying trips to 1-2 a year, which is a little easier since the families are here in the US. We’re doing road trips and bike travel now. It’s much more pleasant.

  14. Even when we were 31, we stopped in Hawaii on the way to Australia (then to Thailand). You should stop and scout out places for your compound – LOL.

    I think I remember you having Tai Chi on a list in the past. Maybe that’s something that can help with back flexibility once you get back into a routine at home? I think I’m going to look into these kind of core/flexibility exercises.

  15. I have to get up and walk around on long flights. The last long flight I took there were multiple older people doing the same. I was on the aisle so o didn’t feel too bad about getting up every hour but the walk around the plane helped with the pain. I wish you luck.

    Also glad to hear your mom is doing a bit better.

      • Have you tried compression socks? I have to wear them now for any extrended trips. Car or plane. Super cool! At least there are some better looking ones for sports now and not just the old school beige ones. Even some toe-less ones if you like wearing flip flops.

  16. Glad to hear your mom is stable and you got to spend time with her.

    For travel i would recommend the credit card sign up bonus miles and splurge on biz traveling route.

    Any progress on the beach property development?


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