The question of whether someone is too old to go backpacking is often asked in travel forums and it always promotes some interesting discussion. Everyone has their own opinion but all too often it is influenced by what society dictates that we "should" be doing at certain ages. These unwritten rules of when to go traveling also seem to declare when we are expected to settle down, begin a career, get married and have a family.
Let's be open and honest: the only one who should decide how you live your life is you! Often you'll receive advice from other people who have never even travelled before. They are afraid of the uncertainty that it brings and perhaps even jealous that you're brave enough to do something that they don't have the courage for. Are these really the people you want to influence your decision about traveling and seeing the world at a certain age?
Quite frankly, as long as you are healthy and have a reasonable level of fitness, age is irrelevant. What is infinitely more important is your attitude. People in their early twenties who need comfort and certainty in their daily lives will be far less likely to travel successfully than those in their sixties with a sense of adventure. Whatever your age, the key is being open to and enjoying new experiences even if they aren't always comfortable.
Through many different countries, I have met many older people who are happily living their travel dreams. At their age, they could easily be on a package tour following their guide holding a flag in the air. But like everyone else in the hostels, they share dorm rooms and use squat toilets as they explore the world. I love the opportunity to meet and talk with them because the conversations have an insight and wisdom that only comes with age.
There are actually a number of advantages to traveling when you are older. The first of these is that you have probably been working for a longer period and have more money than most young people. Even more importantly, you have life experience and a sense of maturity for which there is no substitute. It will allow you to plan your trip, budget, communicate and accept other cultures better than the vast majority of other travelers. And have just as much fun along the way!
Travel requires a positive mindset from the beginning. If you feel that it's getting too late in life or that you don't have the time, the opportunity will pass you by and you'll only be left with regret. Think for a moment about the inspiring words of Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do... Explore. Dream. Discover." The truth is that it the possibilities you have are no less than what you think you have and it is never too late.
It is certainly true that certain places tend to attract certain types of travelers, including crowds of young backpackers ready to party. Simple research using the internet and guidebooks will help place you in the scene that you are most comfortable with and where you will meet like-minded people. Either way, you will inevitably encounter people of all ages and cultures. Once again, age is completely immaterial in your quest to make these meetings memorable and creating new friendships.
The wonderful thing about other travelers is that they tend to be free of the prejudice and preconceived opinions held by much of society. Generally, you are welcomed into the global traveling community regardless of your nationality, race, religion, creed, and of course age. Older people traveling independently are admired for their adventurous spirit and respected for their knowledge. Visit those travel forums for yourself and I'm sure you'll agree that age is only a number.