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.
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.)
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).
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.)