What gift do you give a woman turning 50 – especially if that woman is you? I planned to celebrate my 50th birthday with a life-changing pilgrimage to India. Instead, I found myself exploring the historical neighborhoods of Dubai and climbing to the peak of Hong Kong Island. I didn’t go where I wanted for my 50th birthday, but I ended up where I needed to be.
If you’re looking for ideas for a 50th birthday celebration, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re ready to walk into the second half of your life with confidence, faith and freedom then you’ve definitely found the right blog! I’m not a travel planner, nor am I selling 50th birthday travel packages. I’m just a 50 year old woman who celebrated her birthday in places she never thought she wanted to see.
When I wrote 17 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Your 40th Birthday ten years ago, I included trips and travel ideas. At that point in my life – when I was turning 40 – I was more interested in traveling to places like Jamaica, Vietnam and Croatia. But things are different now that I’m turning 50. Now I’m keen on traveling to destinations that transform me and the way I see the world.
What about you? Where do you want to celebrate your 50th birthday? I can’t tell you where in the world to go because there are no “best places to spend your 50th birthday.” The fact that we’re turning 50 and searching the internet for dream destinations and birthday trips is a miracle in itself! I won’t plan your 50th birthday trip, but I will encourage you to explore the world with faith, not fear. I’ll offer birthday travel tips for trips that transform you. And I will cheer you on every step of the way.
I recently returned from a month-long trip to Nepal, Dubai and Hong Kong. I was supposed to travel to India but wasn’t permitted to board my flight to Varanasi, much less celebrate my 50th birthday with a stroll along the Ganges River! In What to Do When They Refuse to Let You Board the Flight I describe how I messed up my India visa and had to take a last minute trip to Dubai instead.
And there, fellow traveler, is the first thing to remember when you’re deciding where to spend your 50th birthday: hold your travel plans loosely! The tighter your grip, the more painful it is when you’re forced to release control.
5 Birthday Travel Tips for Women Turning 50
Where in the world do you want to celebrate your 50th birthday? Maybe you’re like me, yearning to smell the spicy air and unique scents of India. Or maybe you’ve already traveled to India and are dreaming of a ski holiday in the Swiss Alps, or a walking pilgrimage along the El Camino de Santiago. Maybe you want to go camping in the Canadian Rockies, or bunk down with the cowboys and cowgirls on a dude ranch in Wyoming.
I want to go everywhere! Luckily, my job as a travel blogger lets me do just that :-) My next trip is to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a Travel Writers Conference (TravelCon). Then I think I’ll start researching all the Salvation Army Thrift Stores in the world. I went to three Salvation Army thrift stores in Hong Kong – they’re so clean, organized, and welcoming. Maybe I want to spend the second half of my life – the next 50 years – wandering the world, looking for thrift stores.
1. Weave your interests – and your passions! – into your 50th birthday trip
If you weren’t constrained by responsibilities, money, time, health issues, energy or your own self, where in the world would you celebrate your 50th birthday? Take out a piece of paper and write “50th Birthday Dream Destinations” on the top. Make a list of 10 places you’ve always wanted to go. Let your imagination run wild! This isn’t a one-time exercise; set aside five or ten minutes every day for a week to simply daydream. Where do you want to spend your 50th birthday? Maybe Disneyland, or a singles cruise. Maybe Paris, or Shanghai. Allow your true self — your heart’s desires — to bubble to the surface. You aren’t just a woman turning fifty. You are an explorer, a woman created in love and goodness.
Include your favorite activities, foods, and passions in your 50th birthday travel plans. What is the theme of the second half of your life? I recently heard a travel writer say that bloggers would benefit from having a specific interest, or niche. One travel blogger, for instance, researches how different countries celebrate birthdays. Is a 50th birthday celebration in Brazil (a youth-oriented, beauty-worshiping culture) different than a 50th birthday event in Iceland or India?
2. Look inside you. What parts of you have been lost, buried, or ignored?
Give yourself permission not to embark on a “meaningful” spiritual pilgrimage to India or Spain for your 50th birthday. Some women don’t even want to travel; they’d rather write the book they always dreamed, take the auto mechanics or engineering degree they always wished they could take, or eat a chocolate croissant and sip a steaming cappuccino in a coffee shop in a different part of their own city. It doesn’t matter where in the world you turn fifty because there are no best places to celebrate your 50th birthday! What matters is that you know and accept your true self.
There is an ancient legend from India that says that, once upon a time, humans shared in God’s wisdom, but that they so abused it that God and his heavenly court decided to take it away from them and hide it until they were mature enough to appreciate it.
But where should they hide it? One angel suggested, ‘Let us bury it deep within the earth,’ but God said, ‘No, they will dig down into the earth and find it’. Another angel said, ‘Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there,’ while another said, ‘Let’s hide it in the depth of the ocean’. But God rejected both suggestions: ‘They will eventually climb every mountain and explore the depths of every sea’.
‘Then there is nowhere to hide it,’ said the angels. God thought for a long time and then said, ‘Here is what we will do. We will hide it deep within their being; they will never think of looking there’. And since then, the story goes, humans have been searching outside themselves for their deepest meaning, never realising that is buried within them in their deep heart’s core. – from 5 Tips for Planning a 50th Birthday Pilgrimage to India.
3. Pay attention to what keeps coming up in your life
It took me a long time to decide to celebrate my 50th birthday by traveling to India for a month. Actually, that’s not true! It only took me a millisecond to decide on India because I always wanted to travel there. But then I got scared. The Indian guy who works at the local veggie market just returned from a month-long trip home to India. He got sick from the water – and he was born and raised in north India. He had so many cautions about traveling to India: the air quality and pollution in Delhi is so hazardous it’s like smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. Typhoid is increasing in rural areas, so don’t drink even purified tap water.
I decided to go to Nepal for my 50th birthday instead of India. But I kept thinking about India, yearning to plan a pilgrimage to Varanasi and Udaipur, hoping that the air quality clears up…and finally I decided to follow my heart. I decided to spend a couple weeks in Nepal, getting warmed up to dip my toes in Indian waters. I decided to fly from Kathmandu to Varanasi, then travel the Golden Triangle. There was also a literary festival in Jaipur, India that I got a press pass for! One of the perks of being a travel blogger :-)
Where in the world where you spend your 50th birthday? If one of your dream destinations keeps bubbling to the surface of your life, start making travel plans. Even if you don’t go on the day you turn 50, you can plan to go sometime in your fifties. And it’ll be worth the wait.
4. Play the Warmer/Colder Game
If you have no idea how to celebrate your 50th birthday — or where in the world you’d go if you could go anywhere — play the “Warmer/Colder” game. Remember it? Maybe kids still play it today. It’s when you pick an object in the room (a picture of you as a little girl, perhaps) and others have to guess what object you’re thinking of. If they move closer, you tell them they’re getting warmer. “You’re getting warmer….you’re hot! You’re practically sitting on it! It’s right there!” If they move farther away from the object, you tell them they’re getting colder. “You’re so cold, you might as well be living in an igloo.”
Games are what women over 50 need when they’re planning the second half of life. For example, what does it feel like to consider traveling to India – or even a neighboring city – by yourself on your 50th birthday? Does the idea of a spiritual pilgrimage or solo trip make you feel warm, cold, or neutral? A warm/hot feeling means it’s an exciting choice, a possibility that inspires passion and meaning in your life. A cool/cold or neutral feeling means you need to consider something else.
You can use the Warmer/Colder game for any major or minor decision: when you’re deciding about whether you should move to a new home, get a dog, date that man, have a child, go back to school, or even eat a bowl of ice cream.
If you don’t like traveling alone but know it’s one of the best ways to transform your life, read 7 Easy Ways to Make Friends When You’re Traveling Solo.
5. Take Sofia on your 50th birthday trip
Sofia is the Greek word for “wisdom.” For women of faith like me, she is the Holy Spirit. Sofia is our self-awareness, intuition and wisdom. Sofia knows us better than we know ourselves; she is us. She is our spirit and guide, our comfort and courage. She knows how we need to spend our 50th birthdays (and the rest of our lives!). Sofia led me through my plans to travel to India for my 50th birthday, and she was with me when I had to make last minute alternative plans at the Kathmandu airport in Nepal. Sofia led me through Dubai and Hong Kong safely….and she led me home to Vancouver, too.
Sofia is like Jesus: unpredictable, yet trustworthy. Untamed, yet good. Mysterious, yet comforting. Sofia is the Holy Spirit, and she wants you to know what she knows. She wants you to be healthy, whole, and happy…and she definitely wants you to celebrate the second half of your life with faith and freedom!
How will you celebrate your 50th birthday? Are you planning a spiritual pilgrimage to India with other women over fifty? Marvelous! No matter what you want to do for your 50th, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts and dreams below.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields.
Until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
~ a traditional Gaelic Blessing
Where in the world will you go on your 50th birthday? Are you making travel plans, or still in the dreaming season? Your thoughts, big and little, are welcome below. If you have any tips or tools for travel that transforms you, please do share those. We love tips and tools :-)
Travel in faith, and be transformed.