Aleesah Williams fell in love with traveling after going on a seven-day cruise in 2012. Years later, at 41 years old, her desire for adventure tourism has grown even more than when she was younger. 

“At 40, for me, it came with a freedom that I wanted to do all the things I wanted to experience,” Williams said. “You can do what you want.” 

Williams isn’t alone in seeking out thrills and adventure tourism after 40. The global face of adventure tourism is changing. According to data from the Adventure Travel Association, 57 percent of travelers who book through tourism companies are women. Co-founder of Women High On Adventure, Allison Fleece, told the Washington Post that a large percentage of those women seeking out adventure are over the age of 40. 

“We definitely see a lot of travelers in their 40s and 50s prioritizing adventure travel for themselves,” Fleece said in her interview with the Washington Post. “It’s not a beach vacation our travelers are after when they choose to travel with us. There’s usually a greater purpose involved.”

Older Women Are Gravitating Towards Adventure

woman emerging from water while swimming
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

African-American women over age 40 are also flocking towards more adventurous excursions while traveling. An avid traveler, Williams has visited destinations like Athen, Cozumel, the Bahamas, and over a dozen other destinations around the world. Adventurous experiences like swimming with dolphins, riding ATVs, and snorkeling have been a few highlights that keep her seeking out thrills while vacationing. 

“I usually gravitate towards adventure for sure,” she said. “For myself, I love to do things out of the ordinary that I saw when I was younger and couldn’t afford it.”

For Williams, traveling over 40 allows her to explore the world more easily. She feels a greater sense of freedom and knows herself much better than in her younger years. 

Travel writer, Sheryl Nance-Nash, has developed a sweet tooth for adventure. Despite being over 60 years old, Nance-Nash hasn’t let age stop her from experiencing the joys of adventure traveling. Whether it’s spelunking through ancient caves in Belize or parasailing in foreign waters, the thrills of adventure tourism are unmatched for older women. 

“Whether it’s going into a cave or jumping off into a cenote or going parasailing, that’s like a thrill you’ve never experienced,” Nance-Nash said. “And we want that.”

“Do It Now, Or Never”

black woman smiling
Photo credit: LOGAN WEAVER

Nance-Nash believes the rise in older women seeking out adventure tourism is the result of their “do it now or never” mentality. She says many of them are accustomed to so much routine in their daily lives that vacations allow them the chance to have experiences they’ll remember forever. Although she was more courageous in her youth, conquering adventures after 60 fills her with satisfaction.

“You’re limber, and flexible, and about 30 pounds less so it’s a little easier to be adventurous,” she said. “But you know what, the satisfaction as you’re older and doing it makes you feel like ‘I still got game’. So that alone is confirmation that you sometimes need.”

Beyond the excitement of new experiences, Nance-Nash also enjoys the high of accomplishing a feat she seemed unsure that she could. She remembers diving in a cenote in Mexico where she kept sinking to the bottom. Fear set in as she reached the top and had to climb a rope before reaching the surface. Despite being afraid, the joy of finishing the excursion was enough to inspire her for the rest of her trip. 

“It just sort of makes you think, if I can do this I can also deal with tough stuff in my life,” she said. “If you push through, that applies everywhere.”

Seizing The Day No Matter Your Age

woman leaning out van window holding a dandelion
Photo credit: Vision Safaris Tanzania

One company encouraging travelers to seize the day and experience more adventure on vacations is Thunderstruck Adventures. Founded by professional snowboarder Clay Hockel, the company has seen a surge in older women looking for adventure. 

“There’s been a noticeable increase in bookings from older women, reflecting a broader trend in adventure tourism,” Hockel said. “Many are seeking empowering experiences that challenge them and provide a sense of accomplishment.”

Hockel agrees that older women are burnt out by the everyday routine of normal life. Adventure tourism lets them reconnect with the thrill of discovery while also encouraging personal growth. To accommodate these adventurous travelers, Thunderstruck offers a variety of women’s clinics to help build travelers’ confidence and skill levels before embarking on adventure excursions. 

“I’ve observed that older women bring a sense of adventure and a desire to embrace new experiences that significantly enrich their lives,” he said. 

In addition to finding new chances to grow and discover, Nance-Nash believes it’s important for more older Black women to be seen enjoying adventure tourism. This helps change the perception that Black women are one-dimensional and that they exist in spaces where the world may not expect to see them, like swimming with the sharks, wandering through the African safari, and skydiving while on vacation. 

“Anytime we can go and do what’s not expected of us, that changes perceptions, and that’s a good thing,” she said. 

Knowing that adventure travel is good for the soul, Nance-Nash encourages older women to give adventure tourism a try. She says the best approach is to take baby steps but that the satisfaction upon completion is worth it. 

“Every small victory will give you the courage to take on the next activity,” she said.