Adventure Travel for Seniors, Part 1

Article by Dr. Michael Tobin
Colder than a Witch’s Tit, Filthier than a Pig in Shit – I’d Rather be Here than Bali
Trekking to the Everest Base Camp – Is Adventure Travel for You?
Part I

I’m old fashioned.  I still believe that the most cherished things in life are what we sweat for, like love, health, happiness, and beauty.

Nope! Bad metaphor when talking aboutthe Everest Base Camp (17,550 feet/5350 meters).  At minus 20, you don’t want sweat. The climbing’s a challenge, the altitude’s a challenge, the wind’s a challenge, the dust’s a challenge, but the cold …. What can I say? It’s colder than a witch’s tit. 

Doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? Yet,it was one of the greatest experiences of my lifetime, a view that was shared by my fellow adventurers, whether they were 20 or 75.

Who can bitch about the cold when you’re an intimate witness to God’s Magnificence?

How can you whine about the wind and the dust when you’re among a fellowship of international trekkers who care more about your humanity than your nationality?

How do you let some transitory discomfort like five days without a shower and a change of clothes interfere with the transcendent sense of grace that accompanies you as you slowly ascend step by step, breath by breath?

So, I ask you if what I’ve written so far intrigues you, and you’re older than 60, then stay with me and we’ll discuss what it takes to be a Premium Adventure Traveler.  If not, then go to this link: How to have the Bali Vacation of your dreams.

Do You Have an Adventurous Spirit?

First let’s do this brief questionnaire to determine whether you’ve got an adventurous spirit.

  1. Would you rather sip a PinaColada in a 5-star hotel in Jamaica or drink lemon ginger honey tea in a guest house heated by yak dung, surrounded by fellow trekkers from Malaysia, China, Iran, Germany, Taiwan, Israel and the US?
  2. Would you rather forgo a potentially extraordinary experience that pushes you way beyond your comfort zone for the security of an elegant hotel, gourmet cuisine, an attentive staff, i.e. the total absence of suffering?
  3. Are you intrigued by the idea of heroic suffering or would you rather mentally escape into a vision filled with Olympic levels of leisure?
  4. If you knew that mind-blowing beauty awaited you for the mere price of extreme effort, would you consider it?
  5. Do you like to sweat, to push yourself physically a step further and faster than yesterday, to seek amazing vistas that you can only reach by foot power?

So, let’s say your answers reveal that you’re a Marco Polo Wannabe, willingly ready to sacrifice comfort for adventure.  If so, then a word of caution before you embark on your once-in-a-lifetime, mind-blowing journey into uncertainty, serendipitous encounters, unimagined beauty, and Herculean effort:  You need months of physical conditioning to prepare yourself for this adventure.


Assuming you’re already in good shape and you’re committed to a regular regimen of exercise, here’s a recommended training program for you:

  1. Once per week, go on three-hour plus treks in the hilliest and roughest places you can find. If you plan on carrying your own pack (that’s for another blog), then carry more weight than you plan on carrying on the actual trek.
  2. Twice per week, go to the gym and work up to an hour on either one of the following exercise machines or some combination of all of them: the step machine at a slightly challenging pace, the running machine, at maximum incline, at a pace that’s within your breath, or the elliptical trainer, at maximum resistance, at a pace that’s within your breath.
  3. Once weekly, do HIIT (high intensity interval training such as the app Seven). Start at one circuit and see if you can work up to five.
  4. Once or twice weekly, do yoga or some other form of stretching.

You can substitute gym work with running outside. Be sure to do some hill work.  The emphasis in this training program is on strengthening your legs and building sufficient endurance to be able to trek seven hours daily for over two weeks.  Speed is irrelevant.  You’ll never be going fast on a high-altitude trek.

Here are two additional training resources. EBC 1EBC 2

There are 3 other essential areas that I’ll cover in Adventure Travel Part 2 and Adventure Travel Part 3.

  1. Clothes and equipment
  2. Group or solo travel (solo is up to 5, including guide and porters)
  3. Logistics: food, accommodations, guide and porter, travel, and costs
  4. Premium altitude and health issues
  5. The culture of trekking

If you have any doubts whether you can endure such a demanding mental and physical challenge like trekking to the Everest Base, let me remind you that at least 20% of the trekkers I met were over 60.  They did it, slowly and carefully, but they did it.

So can you.

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