How Travel Could Cure Your 'Mid-life Crisis'

Couple on a boat.
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Transformative travel is not just a game for the young.

Although the idea of a life-changing trip may be stereotypically tied to the post-grad years, one hotelier is arguing that a mid-life trip may be the best antidote for the dreaded "mid-life crisis."

“In 1900, mid-life was 25 years old,” Chip Conley told Travel + Leisure. “Now it’s anywhere from 35 to 75. There isn’t really any place or tradition that’s dedicated to mid-life transitions.”

Conley started the Joie de Vivre hotel group when he was 26. At the age of 52, he was hired by Airbnb as a hospitality advisor. He had to learn how to navigate a new workplace populated with much younger colleagues. From the experience, he birthed the Modern Elder Academy.

The Modern Elder Academy aims to create a new kind of time-marking tradition and fill in a gap for mid-life celebrations. The motto of the academy is to “grow whole, not old.”

Located in Baja, Mexico (not far from Todos Santos), the academy teaches those in mid-life how to adapt to a changing workplace — while encouraging individual soul-searching in a picturesque environment.

For those planning their own mid-life trip, Conley recommends thinking of travel “like a doctor would give you medicine.” Mid-life travelers should seek out experiences wherein they can learn something new, connect with new people, and do some introspective soul-searching. Whether that’s finally attending a surfing camp or trekking throughout Japan to different onsen, travel should be as unique as the traveler and there is no one-size-fits-all, cure-all trip.

But there are a few considerations to take into account when traveling in mid-life. Long gone are the days of being comfortable sleeping on bunk beds with strangers in hostels. Modern Elder Academy provides access to hot tubs, a pool, and a steam room. Make sure you’ll be comfortable (with plenty of opportunity to relax), wherever you travel.

While it’s not necessary to trek across the world for your mid-life trip, Conley recommends going far enough that you’re out of your comfort zone. He chose Baja as the location for the Modern Elder Academy because it is “close enough and easy enough” for Americans to access while still being “foreign and a little bit different to make people more open to learning.”

“When you move, you can be moved,” Conley told T+L. “Travel can transform how people connect to each other. We travel to connect to our humanity.”

The Modern Elder Academy costs $5,000 for a one-week session or $10,000 for two weeks (there are discounts if you share rooms). The price includes three meals daily, activities, and airport transfers. It’s also possible to apply for a scholarship and attend the academy for free.

Attendees of the camp will follow a course that’s set out in Conley’s book, "Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder."

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