Hyatt, an older emigre to Toronto from Trinidad is of Indian origin and an occasional gym buddy. As we worked the weights and after exchanging the usual “haven’t seen you in a while, been slacking off, have you” chitchat, I offered up my excuse: leading group travel to my roots destinations of India and East Africa.
He had been on a similar tour but solo with his wife. “Something we wanted to do for years. Bucket list and all. We booked everything ourselves and stayed at only the best 5 star hotels.” He paused. “We had a so-so time…disappointed.”
I felt for Hyatt. How many boomers approach their retirement hellbent on ticking off that bucket travel list? Lots. And how many, like Hyatt, come back vaguely disappointed? Many.
Unlike traveling in our 20’s when all we had to do was hoist a backpack and point our Tevas, boomers are happiest with upscale comforts and a subscribed itinerary. After all, they have worked all their lives to get to this stage. But unfamiliarity with their destination makes them equate 5 star hotels to a magic formula for maximum enjoyment.
What they fail to realise is that it’s the experience of a country’s culture that swings a trip from ok to good, and from great to fantastic. Everyone sightsees and tours. But not everyone cooks and eats with the locals, travels second class in a local train, befriends fellow travelers, and sips cocktails with royalty in palaces shimmering with the patina of a glorious age.
That is definitely not what they’d get staying at 5 stars within prescribed boundaries.
I never seek out the 5 stars, which are sterile environments designed to keep local culture out. Instead, boutique or small family run hotels infused with bits of everyday life can transform touring to traveling.
Travel, not touring, pushes the third dimension of a trip. Within a personally escorted group of like-minded travelers, boomers can feel freed up to push those boundaries.