Lonely Planet Writer

Travel debate: Who travels better - the young or the old?

It's the ultimate travel divide - the older traveller vs the bright young backpackers. But let's think about it: which one of these groups are actually better at travelling? Let's debate it!

Arguing the case for older travellers is UK travel editor, Tom Hall:

It's the same story every year. At travel fairs, book signings and get-togethers, the old trump the young's travel plans. Those advancing in years, unfettered by youthful debt and the need to work, are showing younger wanderers how to explore the world. It's got to the point I don't even blink when a lady who must have been retired for a long time complains about the cost of travel insurance for her upcoming trip to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Overland. Where younger travellers aim for beaches, party spots and must-see ancient sites, these ancient sights cover the globe and then some.

It's enough to shatter your preconceptions forever. I attended a travel book launch recently and was chuckling to myself when I encountered a grey-haired couple who of course spoke many languages and had breezed past a hundred countries. They confided they were going on a cruise. 'Aha!' I thought. 'I know your sort. Deck quoits and gin slings and an early night'. 'To Madagascar. And the Comoros.' they added. 'Have you been?' I had, but I could teach them nothing.

Like many senior travellers, they were flawlessly informed, patient and curious, and the very best sort of adventurers. Give me a room full of silver foxes over moaning student backpackers anytime.

Beware of passing judgements on older travellers: they are the future.

Tom Hall is 34.

And in favour of the young, we have Lonely Planet digital copywriter, Jane Ormond:

Youth is wasted on the young? I don’t think so. They’re not wasting it – they’re too busy travelling their way through it. They’re the ones who don’t care about a bumpy overnight bus ride through some gnarly part of Panama – they just want to be there. They’re the ones who don’t hold up queues fumbling with an Escher-like maze of bumbag zippers to get their neatly folded documents and whatnots out. They’re travelling lean and mean, unfettered and unhindered by the hurdles and barnacles of age. You won’t hear them kvetching about their luggage being mishandled or the lack of soft food at the 7-11 near the hostel.

What the young traveller may lack in expertise and experience, they more than make up for in fearlessness. They haven’t had the time to be burnt by bad experiences. The world is there for the exploring – they embody the essence of travel.

Yes, you might say the older traveller is more thorough and considered in their approach to travel, while the younger folk are going off like firecrackers in all directions but that’s because they can. They can spring out of bed, rather than click into place in stages. And for this, you’ve got to love them.

Ask yourself: Did you ever see a young person wandering the colosseum in white socks and sneakers, a polo shirt tucked into shorts with the waistband under the armpits, and a souvenir sun visor? I rest my case.


Tom: Youth wasted on the young? Maybe not, but travel is made for those with time, patience and attitude to make the most of it. Jane accuses the old of fashion crimes, but who came back from Thailand with those fisherman’s pants first, eh?

Jane: One person's 'flawlessly informed, patient and curious' is another person's sanctimonious know-it-all. Kudos to the silver foxes for still roaming the world - with any luck we'll all be one one day, and at least they don't say 'like' 45 times per sentence - but when I'm travelling and itching to get through a queue, I'd rather be stuck behind a nimble young person who can just bound through the gate, paving the way for me to saunter through.

So, what team are you on? Have your say!