Since I turned 50, I've been consumed by wanderlust. And not the kind that can be appeased by a week at the beach. I want to live in a way that is outside my current experience -- to literally expand my horizons. I want to wake to the sound of roosters in the garden or fat jasmine-scented raindrops against my window instead of alarm clocks and leaf blowers. I want to sip coffee at a seaside café instead of swigging it from a travel mug.
A growing number of friends in their fifties and older are acting on similar dreams. Writer Cate Poe says, "At 59, I've moved to Mexico to live in a way that's more authentic to who I am now. It's taken 10 years to figure out how to pull this off."
Poe emphasizes that she is not retired. "I have a really hard time with the word 'retirement,'" she says. "It implies that we've been so completely defined by paid employment, that to move on to something else means retreating from real life. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Another Mexican expat, 62-year-old designer and boutique owner Patrice Wynne of San Miguel de Allende, agrees that it's about branching out, not pulling back. "Ever since I was a teenager, I've wanted to expand my identity to experience life, culture, language and relationships in a place other than my country of birth."
Former copy editor Sukey Rosenbaum, 70, lives her dream in another way: She traded in her Manhattan loft for a modest home in Colorado and travels several months each year. "I've been to the camel auction in Kashgar. I trekked in the Amazon rain forest. Recently I was thrilled to take my 9-year-old grandson on a two-week trip to China," Rosenbaum says. "Right now I'm planning a trip into the Namibian desert, snorkeling in Zanzibar, visiting a fishing village in the Gulf of Thailand, and a walkabout in Pago Pago."
Adventurers like Poe, Wynne and Rosenbaum are my new role models. Author John Scherber, 70, who writes about the expat experience, notes that exotic locales can be "a sympathetic backdrop against which to revise your life and probe more deeply into your untapped potential. This is far more about the future than the past. We don't sit around reminiscing about the good old days -- we're looking forward to what comes next."
While I don't yet have the freedom to spend several months a year writing in Belize or exploring the hill towns of Sicily, my goal is to make it happen within the next six to eight years. As Poe puts it: "Sometimes you just need to head to the bus station, see what's leaving next, and get on board."
Save me a seat, ladies.