Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

What Every Older Woman Needs in 2023

At the dawn of a new year, this is the gift you should give yourself.

Comment Icon
a topiary cut in the shape of a plane between two sphere topiaries
Gregory Reid
Comment Icon

Following the pandemic pause, we’re having a travel renaissance — and my suitcase has been getting a workout. Yes, there are always excuses to stay home, especially as we get older. The long list may include money worries, health concerns or simply the comfort of couch, cat and Netflix. But over my decades writing travel stories and designing trips to Italy for women, I've met many who are grateful that they put those excuses aside. It’s essential to remember that travel has the power to invigorate us on all levels: body, mind, and soul.

So here are five ways travel renews us, that may inspire you to pack your bags — and give yourself a transformative holiday gift.

Our brains love a change in routine

Though I don’t love the time difference when I land in Italy and it’s morning, while back home in Los Angeles it’s the middle of the night, I do love the taxi ride from the airport and that first sight of the Roman forum.

Ever since my first trip over 40 years ago, I’ve found Italy to be a place that brings me a revitalizing zing — whether I’m standing in Florence gasping over Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, swooning over pizza in Naples or getting a kick out of Italian signors who continue to flirt with me, even though I’m now 65 years old. According to Lauren Maher, a Los Angeles-based author and psychotherapist, there’s a science behind this zing.

 “Travel is great for brain health,” she says. “When we’re bombarded with new stimuli, from different scenery to meeting new people, a new language and new food, the brain makes new connections, so cognitive thinking (including problem-solving, focus and memory) is strengthened. Travel can also stimulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that contribute to feelings of pleasure and happiness.”

Our perspectives get refreshed

My friend Carol tells me that after her breast cancer chemotherapy treatments ended, the trip she took to the Catskills was a kickstart to getting back out into the world. “I wasn’t sure how my stamina would be, so I didn’t go far,” she recalls. “I simply rented a car and drove from Manhattan to join old friends in an Airbnb. More than the spectacular fall colors and beautifully converted barn, it was so good to step away from everything at home that had been centered around cancer, and simply to be laughing, eating, taking walks and having great conversations that weren’t all about how I was feeling.”

We all know friends and relatives who are mourning the loss of a loved one or recovering from illness, feeling weak and sad. “Travel is a way to build confidence, and bring back some joy,” says psychotherapist Maher. “A trip gives a person a feeling of accomplishment, that they are able to move forward and experience pleasure, which is something they thought they had lost. Also, from a place of relaxation and distance, they can see their situation in a different light.”

Our social circle expands

Another friend, Diane, celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary with her husband on a Uniworld River Cruise in Burgundy and Provence. “It was so different for us socially … we’d never done a group trip before,” she recalls. “In some ways, it reminded me of my first week in college, when we were with strangers from all over the place, and there was a lot of partying!”

With only 120 passengers, Diane found that fellow travelers really got to know each other during their cruise week. I had a similar experience on a group biking trip I took years ago in Italy’s southeast region of Puglia. I went as a solo traveler and met Joann, who was my age, and also traveling on her own.

At the first night’s dinner, over pasta and wine, we discovered we were both Italian-American writers. Our new friendship deepened as we found ourselves often lagging behind in the villages on biking stops, chatting away. We’ve kept in touch and visited each other since then in Los Angeles (where I live) and in Miami (where Joann is based), celebrating birthdays together and cheering each other on, through the highs and inevitable lows of life.

Friendships are essential to our well-being and can be more challenging to make when we’re older, so a group trip can be a perfect way to break through that social barrier, meet like-minded people, and perhaps connect with companions for future travel.

Our bodies get a new workout

My sister Patti’s happy place is anywhere there is an ocean. She gets a great physical recharge from time at a beach — swimming and body surfing and getting wonderful foot massages after long walks barefoot in the sand.

Casco Bay, in coastal Maine, is one of Patti’s favorite spots. “And it’s so different from when I used to go with the kids,” she says. Now that her children are grown and she’s retired, Patti enjoys planning her beach getaways spontaneously, without having to pack and plan for the whole family. While at home, physical exercise may seem like a chore, on vacation it can be a natural pleasure. Many of us are surprised to look at our high step count at the end of a travel day when we’ve toured a museum or walked around discovering the wonders of a new city. An added benefit: The extra exercise helps us sleep better, which is an all-around boost for our health.

We experience the happiness of anticipation, reminiscence and gratitude

According to a 2020 report published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people get more happiness from buying experiences like travel than from buying material goods. The study included thousands of participants and covered a full range of time — before, during and after purchases. The conclusion was that at every turn, happiness levels were highest with experiences, and in the researchers’ words, “Experiences thus appear to be a more promising route to enhancing well-being than possessions.”

So, though it’s obvious that we feel renewed when we’re sitting on a terrace in a foreign land watching a breathtaking sunset, it’s also good to know that the positive effects of travel can begin right now with planning that trip and imagining the beautiful future experience! And we can rest assured that even years from our adventure, remembering and sharing our travel stories and photos with loved ones will also bring us happiness.

Do you have a trip planned in 2023? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Fulfillment
Editor's Picks
Find money-making endeavors that are personally satisfying.
, July 18, 2024
Here are the ones that top the list.
, July 18, 2024
It's incredibly welcoming, especially for older women travelers.
, July 18, 2024