Blue Skies: The Invisible Travelers (Who Do All the Traveling)

Quick, picture the last travel magazine you saw. Remember that senior citizen on the cover, strolling peacefully through those fields of wh–

Kidding! As we all know, the figure on the cover was a lithe and glistening young thing in a swimsuit, preparing to dive into something azure, or else toweling off afterwards. It is always thus. To judge from much of the travel industry, the only people who leave home are willowy, bronzed 26-year-olds, who incidentally spend about 18hours a day getting massages.

I might well have believed this vision of travel had I never, say, traveled. As it happens, I’ve noticed that airplanes are generally filled with people from all stations of life. And I’m not the only one to detect this. According to the Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, 30,300,000 Americans traveled overseas in 2009, and their mean age was 44.7 for men and 43.1 for women. What’s more, 80 percent of the country’s vacations are taken by people age 50 and over, according to the publication Travel 50 & Beyond. Seniors in particular have the money and time to hit the road, and that’s exactly what they do.

I get it. Travel is aspirational, and what the travel industry sells – what anyone sells – is a fantasy. But present that fantasy enough and it starts to distort reality. Our sense of who does what in this economy goes distorted. (Would you have guessed that far more of Pinterest‘s users are older than 45 than are under 35? Me neither.)

The existence of ageism isn’t a newsflash. But there’s something extra lame about this kind of misrepresentation within the realm of travel. At its heart, isn’t travel about glimpsing the world a little more clearly, about having existing beliefs challenged and revised? Or at least about seeing something different from what we usually see? Let this be a challenge to art directors around the globe: Show us what travel really looks like. We weren’t born yesterday.

Chris Colin is the award-winning author of “Blindsight,” published by the Atavist and named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011. See his work at

Chris Colin
Chris Colin is the author most recently of What to Talk About, as well as What Really Happened to the Class of '93 and Blindsight, named one of Amazon's Best Books of 2011. He’s written about chimp filmmakers, ethnic cleansing, George Bush’s pool boy, blind visual artists, solitary confinement, the Yelpification of the universe and more for the, the New York Times Magazine, Outside, Pop-Up Magazine, Wired, Smithsonian, Mother Jones and Afar, where he's a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]
Chris Colin
Chris Colin
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