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Blue sky thinking for the over-50s

Press Association logoPress Association 6/02/2017 Abi Jackson

There was a time when conquering mountains, crossing countries on a bike or on foot and trekking through jungles was the sole domain of professional adventurers, something most people only read or dreamt about, or watched on TV.

But all that is changing as holidaymakers embrace more adventurous travel choices.

British tour operator Saga, which specialises in the over-50s market, recently commissioned research to mark its 65th anniversary, which found a third of us now feel "more empowered and adventurous than we did 10 years ago".

Bucket lists are expanding, and people are increasingly embracing physical challenges, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Travellers over 50 are often visiting places that have been on their wish-list for a long time.

"I climbed Kilimanjaro with a woman who was doing it for her 50th birthday; she had first read about it in a Michael Crichton essay when she was 21, and wanted to do it herself ever since," says Jae Hopkins, marketing director for adventure travel specialists Exodus, who've noticed an increase in booking from people aged 50-plus.

"People of all ages often tell us a trip has changed their life - travel is life-changing, often in tiny ways, occasionally in big ones. Learning about a new culture, meeting new people, taking time out from our normal lives, all have the potential to make us see things in a different way. For some, that'll be climbing a mountain, for others it could be photographing a cheetah in the wild."

British adventure travel experts Explore says the average age of their customers in 2016 was 54, and they're seeing more and more travellers in their 50s and 60s. "These customers may be at a new stage of their lives and want to challenge themselves and experience new destinations and cultures," says Ashley Toft, Explore's managing director.

Of course, simply venturing beyond your comfort zone, and trying something totally new could be classed as a challenge. But more and more of us are pushing our physical limits too, making the most of our health and fitness while we can. "Interestingly, we're seeing an even larger increase in the number of over-50s going on our walking and cycling trips," Hopkins points out. "As people stay fit, and want to remain fit, for longer and longer, an adventure that combines culture and activity is especially attractive. Cycling around Cuba, for instance, means you're going fast enough to cover lots of the island but slow enough to soak up the views and stop if you see something interesting."

Climbing Kilimanjaro won't be for everybody. But conquering a challenge is a very personal thing - it all depends on your starting point, after all - and everyone has the potential to experience the buzz and boost of doing something you'd never have dreamt possible.

If you're new to adventure travel, it might seem a little daunting, and organising a trip to more remote places - especially if it involves a physical challenge, lots of logistics and possibly going a little off-grid - is quite a task. Therein lies the appeal of booking with a specialist company, who can take care of all the planning and admin and look after you.

"I've been lucky enough to spend time with some of our customers on tours and, after speaking with them, it was extremely apparent that many are real adventure seekers, but want to do it on an escorted tour as it gives them the confidence to try something genuinely new or different," says Saga Holidays managing director Maria Whiteman.

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