The Vagaries of Travelling after 40

Either there is no one above 40 left in the country anymore, or they are all actively conspiring to avoid each other at any cost. The latter seems to be more plausible because the more you meet people of your age at this stage of life, the more are you made painfully aware of how fast you are racing away towards the inevitable. So, better stay away, right? Anyway one of the problems of not having many people of your age around you is that you are forced to listen to a lot of travel escapades of the young ones, who all seem to be up and about all the time these days.

This is when you realise that you have literally become a hermit whose life has shrunk to a circle with your office in the center and your home and a mall at either ends of its 8 km diameter, and that you haven’t left your state in the last 6 years and have barely ventured past 200 km from your home. And the young ones can’t believe that you haven’t travelled at least 10 times to Munnar and Bangalore (never been back since I left for good in 2016) the past three months despite having a “falimy” and a car (of course – why would anyone want to own a car and not drive it for at least twenty thousand kilometers every month?).

Well, the young people who rule the internet with their infinite Instagram travel pics and stories seem to be painfully unaware how everything is so different when you turn the wrong side of 40. What we don’t realise in our youth is how the post-40s are a completely different universe. Your life becomes a complex equation with so many variables that all need to align perfectly for anything to happen at all. If you as a “carefree, unstrung, free bird” in your 20s/early 30s think that your lifestyle will continue to be the same forever, you will be in for a nasty surprise.

What is going to happen is that you are going to be hit by the 4x Factor – which means that everything you know about your life pre-30s will go up by 4x post-40s. The cost, the planning, the things you need to take into account, even the inconveniences and the “blocks” – everything is 4x. You need four tickets, four beds, four bags, 4x set of clothes and so on. The cost, the care and effort to be put in all go up by a factor of 4. Imagine your life now, and complicate it by a 4x. Not so fun anymore, right?

Of course you have learned a long time ago that it after a certain point in your life it is impossible to just wake up one afternoon and head out to wherever, but you hoped you would still be able to take regular trips because, hey, what could be that complicated about a trip other than having to probably pack extra for the kid? Well, when you are post-40 you will learn that that even a small vacation that lasts anything more than a weekend goes from dumping some clothes in a bag and heading out the door to at least a couple of months of meticulous planning and preparation that would rival a space shuttle launch. (No, you cannot just “carry” the baby along with you on a trip.)

It starts with the dates. The options seem to be aplenty, after all, you are magnanimously offered a whopping 52 options for a one-week vacation! Well, at this point all those numbers on the calendar mean all the same. You need a gap of at least a week for a vacation, and amazingly no one seems to remember school and work! You need to get four sets of leave (the 4x factor strikes again!)

Yes, it is the children’s routine and schedules that command primary and pole position and dictate all your life after 40. School, weekend classes, Sunday school, coaching, tuition, extra classes, Karate, Swimming, dance classes, music, and so on and so forth. And no, those cannot be adjusted or negotiated with. This now obviously means that we can go on holidays only when schools are out. This again means that your options for vacations are suddenly limited to April, the first half of May, 10 days in either August or September (Onam) and the second half of December. The plentifulness of options to choose from has suddenly dwindled from 52 to 10-ish weeks. And then comes the next part.

Well, you also leave from work. And not just you, your partner too. Two people in possibly two different streams of work need to get leave at the same time. During those exact 10 weeks. Which need to be confirmed months in advance. Anyone working in a typical Indian company will know the unpleasantness of trying to wrangle two weeks of holidays from disapproving bosses when there are project deadlines/client visits/sprints/escalations/releases etc., or just plain simple ego mandates to be met. “Do you realise how many stars have to perfectly align for just this to happen? “Sorry, man, you realise we have a major product release during April/May which needs your absolute presence. Take your holiday in June!” – This means no vacation for your this year.

This is when you realise that how perfectly the travel and hospitality industry has mastered the art of screwing you over. Of course, everyone else is stuck in the same loop as you because the same constraints apply to them too, and you all are headed to the same places at the same time, because you are obviously not going to Sunburn with your kids. You will quickly find out that prices for everything, considering something is still available, are at such stratospherical levels that your vacation will cost the equivalent of the GDP of a small country. No, it doesn’t matter what booking-portal gymnastics you try, they will all be futile and the results always the same. No, it does not matter how much in advance you book. Do you think they wouldn’t raise fares during the most busy vacationing times of the year? “Demand and supply, bro. It is the rule of nature, bro,” as our libertarian free-market delulus like to say, in addition to saying things like by raising prices to levels that are unaffordable for everyone we actually are ensuring that they remain affordable for everyone or some bullshit like that.

Not only but also, the post-40s universe changes your perception about the utility of money in a manner that makes you question if the vacation thing is worth it at all. A week-long outing to the north of the country will set you back by a cool cento-mille at least. You will start to find it a ridiculous waste to splurge a couple of lakhs to fight crowds and traffic in a different part of the country when you can do it at home for free. You will start to think that it would make better sense to rather have that money stay invested in mutual funds or even a damn FD which you can make use to bail yourselves out when life hits you with that inevitable shit, or,if you are lucky, you can maybe put your kid through that medical education.

And finally, your thankless pre-teens of this universe have very different ideas about vacations, destinations and the whole point of travelling than your sorry ass. “Why we are going to sit around in another resort? Boring!”, “Can we stay home?”, “Can you buy some more books with that money?”, “Can we take the Fire Stick with us?“, “Can I have your phone?“, and of course, “How much longer? When will we reach? Are we there? I am bored! This is so boringg!

In short, in the post-40s universe, forget travelling, making any plans about anything at all is like buying the lottery. You are bound by countless threads of commitment that can throw a spanner into any of your plans. Anything can crop up at any given moment and any of the variables can change, screwing up your equation. Classes. Work. Family. Extended family. Children fall sick at the most unexpected times. Holidays and leave can get cancelled. Elders might develop sudden needs. Bureaucratic requirements. It is so bad that you really can’t even plan and book a movie with the complete surety that you will actually end up watching it. If you are going to plan an expensive vacation you better keep your little ones under wraps lest you are going to lose all those refundless tickets. And oh yes, ALWAYS make sure everything you book is refundable. You will need it.

Or, like the more sensible lot, you can choose to stay unmarried and unencumbered and make full use of the benefits of being able to wake up one evening and throw a bunch of clothes into a bag and head out to wherever the hell you feel like heading out.

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Why did you get rid of Disqus in favor of this? All I see here are obviously bot generated comments now. Coming to the subject – I’m still living the 20s life, having gotten married late and with no kids.

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