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39 is fine: Travel goals at 40

Travel goals are often a biggie when one turns 40. A friend has just spent her 40th on safari, and another went on a dream weekend to Paris.

Some people plan a round-the-world trip, or name a destination they 'must' see to mark this special birthday.

After all, if you can't go to your top-of-the-travel-list place for your big birthday, when can you? Some decide it's now or never and pack a rucksack, quit the day job and go travelling or even emigrate.

But do travel goals matter at 40? Is the clock ticking on where you can go in the world, how long for and how fancy pants the trip can be?

And do travel goals change as you get older? For me they have and they haven't - I think at the heart of my travel is still the same thread: an urge to see, smell and hear the land I see in the photo. When I was younger it was in the travel brochure. Now it's on the travel website, in other people's instagram feeds. But the urge is the same - to be present in a country that isn't home. To find out how people live there, what the food's like, what the money looks like, to tick amazing monuments and vistas off a mental list. To explore and feel free, to add to the stamps in my passport and call myself a happy citizen of the world, while indulging in the childlike joy of checking into a bedroom that isn't mine and seeing what cute mini toiletries there are.

I'm in New Zealand with The Boyfriend, and we've had quite a mix of travel experiences so far, which made me think about travel goals in life and as I turn 40.

First up, we were in premium economy. Nothing says 'almost 40' like extra legroom and the Guardian along with fizz just after take off... I don't always travel in non-economy, but as a travel goal, I wish for everyone that it happens to them at least once in their lifetime. If you dream of it, and have the funds, go for it, even just once. It's such a treat and joy, in my experience. Even if you do it to Spain, and get priority boarding. There's a buzz to being the lah-de-dah traveller. But it's not all about that. And I do mix things up!

In Wellington, we've stayed in a hostel ( through to medium-fancy hotel ( and as I type this we're in a hotel called the QT Museum ( which is super-duper-expensive-art-on-the-walls-fine-dining-balcony-over-the-harbour-posh.

And yes I am lucky enough to be writing articles about them for Metro and others, which is a travel goal in itself!

Here at the QT we have a rain shower in a black marble-tiled bathroom, while in the hostel we used shared bathrooms.

And yes of course as I get older, an ensuite is something of a pre-requisite when picking a room. Two nights communal, one with a hangover, were enough for me!

But the hostel brought back a lot of memories, of a time when I was feeling very brave - memories of travelling in South America, and being alone in a hostel, finding the brave moment to say hi and see if I made a friend. Of arriving and knowing nobody, and that a share bathroom could actually be the best way to find someone to share breakfast with.

Travel is about the destination, right? But is that the only thing? Does a posh hotel matter more now I'm nearly 40? HELL YEAH!

But the hostel made me think too. Travelling alone to South America taught me so much about myself. I'd been lost, wondering who I was and what I wanted. I thought I found that in a brief relationship, but I realise now I was looking to someone else to help me work out who I was and what I liked.

I'd always wanted to go to Machu Picchu, and it was my Grandad's dream, too. He'd travelled just about everywhere he wanted to in the whole world, including living in Hong Kong, but he'd not made it to Machu. In his later years, he was too weak to make the trip, knowing the altitude if not the journey would bee too much for his lungs.

He was so amazed that the place he had missed out on was the one I wanted to see the most on the planet.

And so with money he left me, I decided to go for it. A trip around South America, including a visit to Machu Picchu.

I'd felt depressed and lost, but as my brilliant-as-ever sister put it (and I paraphrase) surely 'better to be depressed at the top of a mountain than back home'. Wise lady, that one.

When I took off for South America I really had no idea about backpacking. I wasn't one of those people who had done it before or after college or uni.

That's often a travel goal tick, I have many friends who, as they turn 40, have pictures of them backpacking in their early 20s, all baggy Indian trousers and talk of working cash in hand jobs to pay for their hostels.

Sometimes I feel sad that I didn't do it then. Didn't dare to travel when I was so young and footloose and fancy free.

But approaching 40, you can't loook back like that. You have to think about travel goals now, not what might have been.

So what of them? Are travel goals different when you get older? Sure, we probably have more money for our travel goals. Or we can at least dream of spending on a trip that ten years ago would have made us wince.

For many, travel goals are now a weekend away without the kids, or a day on the beach just doing nothing.

Is travel a 'turning 40' bucket list thing? Is it the right age to say that you'll make the trip you never made to the Caribbean, or safari, or to learn to ski? Should this be the year that you go on that dream trip because of turning a certain age? Should it be the time you choose to travel and pack in the nine-to-five?

I've written for Metro about 'matecations' - the idea being that I have something of a habit of going to places because friends are there, not because it was an active choice to go there. And it always works out so well for me.

Take this trip to New Zealand. I'm here for a holiday but all focusing around a wedding of two people I now call friends but who I hadn't met before. They're good friends of The Boyfriend, and I wouldn't be here if I hadn't said yes, to take the risk to come to the other side of the world for an adventure to a country I wasn't planning to visit. But it's been ace, more than ace. I've found new friends, new food, a new culture. So sometimes having travel goals is great, other times travel goal surprises are fab too.

And one thing's for sure, as I approach 40, travel goals are about people as well as countries. About fun, and laughter, as much as sights and hotels.

Although, at 40, sometimes a posh hotel on the credit card is allowed, of course.

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