Luxury travel: The new mid-life crisis sportscar?
I envisioned marking my husband's 40th birthday with a sports car. Cliché? Perhaps. Nothing obnoxious, only a little refurbished classic. I never took into account how unlikely it may be to have another parking space in our garage in midtown Toronto with this imaginary car. Or the capability in order for it to accommodate two young children (both still in massively heavy car seats). Furthermore, how embarrassing it may be to drive a car without a real suspension or heated seats, correct climate control, built-in USB plugs or Bluetooth capabilities.
So we will pass on the car. As it happens, we are not the only ones bucking this midlife crisis rite of passage. "Research shows that a First World generation which has grown up with comparative peace and affluence -- individuals in their 40s -- desire authentic experiences over material possessions," says Ann Layton, chief executive of tourism and travel public relations company Siren Communications. "Posting photos of your gas-guzzling vehicle does not have the exact same bragging rights as a river cruise in Vietnam."
Some are carrying the experiential milestone birthday party tendency to new heights. Martha Weeman, a women's wear designer, recently planned a weekend of adventures and celebrations for the husband's 40th birthday. Instead of employing a personal chef or renting a party room at a regional Toronto restaurant, she booked a completely staffed villa in Montego Bay, Jamaica -- with space for 10 of their closest friends from the United States, Britain and Canada.
"Because my husband grew up in New York and began his career in London, his best friends are dotted all over the world," Weeman says. "Jamaica felt just like a good compromise since there are plenty of direct flights and more importantly, his birthday is in December, so it was a escape from winter for most of our guests. Perhaps that's why it came together so easily."
When asked what the best part of this weekend was, Weeman responded simply, "locating the ability to press pause daily life, and be at the moment reconnecting with our most important people is a present money or items might never rival."
When the time recently came to celebrate the exact same milestone for my husband, rather than choosing the car, I set about planning to get a memorable adventure abroad. I wished to whisk him away to somewhere neither of us had ever researched, and after fantasizing and cross-checking lists, we all landed on Peru. The romance of Latin America constantly draws us back and forth, as enthusiastic foodies, we were both interested in Peruvian cuisine. We opted for a small, four-day river cruise across the Peruvian Amazon aboard the Delfin I, one of three ships in the Delfin Amazon Cruises family. We bookended this with time in Lima to explore the city's storied roads and sample its own famous cuisine.
This adventure was an chance to acknowledge a milestone birthday while assessing some significant items off of our collective travel bucket list. More than that, it had been about the infrequent experiences we had while visiting Peru, and the connections we made with its people as well as those we deepened with each other. Each memory in our eight days in this remarkable country -- the smells of the hawkers' carts rattling down the street, the electrical colours of the textiles we fell in love with, the sounds of the jungle through the night as we slowly glided down the Amazon River -- will soon be showcased on our minds for us to cherish for many years to come.
Tour operators are witnessing this change firsthand, reporting an increase in traveling amongst milestone travellers for ourselves. "For past generations, traveling was a break and a escape, a status symbol or an escape from reality," says Geoffrey Kent, founder, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent. "Travellers within our connected era want to remember meaningful occasions with important experiences rather than material goods. This can be the case of guests celebrating milestone birthdays as well as birthdays and weddings. They would like to share memories that will last a life with family and friends."
Stacia Slightham is still riding the top of her own 40th party in Aspen, Colo., with close girlfriends. "During university as housemates and best buddies, we hatched this plan -- we assured each other no matter what -- kids, husbands, home-bases, professional commitments -- we would carve out time and money to make this trip happen," says the stay-at-home mother and former pharmaceutical rep. "Twenty decades later, it took some militant preparation, juggling babysitters, carpools, and of course that the excursion itinerary itself -- when we all rode the gondola up to the notorious Cloud Nine, ordered a bottle of champagne and toasted each other on a sunny bluebird day high above Aspen, I couldn't help but feel emotional about maintaining our collective guarantee. All of us agreed that the amazing skiing, all of the temptations, shenanigans, indulgences and time from our busy lives back home gave us the ideal pause and outlook to consider the significance of this milestone -- collectively. Over twenty decades of friendship ."
And, as for your concept of selecting travel over matters, "a traveling experience is a superior way to ring at a milestone because it as an investment in yourself and in your relationships," Slightham says. "Going away helps you get in touch with your yourself, enriches your mind, and can be an escape from the regular routine of being at home/work. All of the aforementioned are way more important to me than any handbag or elaborate car could ever be."
Travel companies are feeding within that trend.
"[Our customers] realize that material possessions don't fulfill them in the exact same way a traveling experience does," says Aldo Macchiavello, founder and CEO of both Delfin Amazon Cruises. "Travellers are looking for comparison to their daily lives. They're hungry for authentic memories and purposeful experiences, particularly as it pertains to marking a big occasion or anniversary, they would like to create and experience people, places and things they can relive well past the trip itself. They also utilize significant landmarks like a big birthday, as an excuse or a reason to indulge their excellent desires.
"It becomes a thing sacred that they can save for, dream about and look forward to during the preparation process almost as much as the experience itself ."
So sure my husband may have appeared pretty jazzy pulling up to school drop-off in his 1960s sport coupe. However, the guy driving that car could have missed out on the extraordinary sunsets across the Amazon River, the very best restaurants in Latin America and the chance to dance through the streets of Lima sipping pisco sours.
I really like that guy and I love he would rather mark this milestone by savouring precious child-free time with me, luxuriating at the present time of the truly bucket-list-worthy adventure.
Next year will be my 40th, and I can not wait to find out what he has in store. I can pretty much guarantee that it won't have four wheels or any kind of a diamond group.