Start Over at 50: Our Life-Changing Story

CH Travel - Start Over At 50

Ours is a story of searching for happiness. Not the type one gets from buying a new car or getting the latest electronic gadget, or from that first cup of coffee. Ok, scratch that last one. That first coffee of the day does come damn close to true happiness. But even then, it does not last.  

The happiness we are searching for is the lasting type. It’s the one that underlies one’s life, in good times or bad. And this search got us into starting all over at the age of 50 plus.

Our story starts when most come to an end. We are two individuals that decided to start over at 50. First, we left the corporate life in Europe to emigrate to the South Pacific and run a Dive & Surf shop in the remote Cook Islands. A few years later, we find ourselves being full-time travel adventurers at the tip of Africa. 

We are two individuals, close to our mid 50’s now, that became increasingly dissatisfied with life in the years before 50. And so, we have changed it fundamentally.

Here is our extraordinary so far life journey.

Start Over at 50: Leaving the Corporate Life in Europe

For the first half-century, we were dedicated to developing our identity. We built successful careers in the business world. Besides, we were there for our families and took care of their every need. 

Only around the 50-year mark, we’ve found each other. It was love at first sight. So we moved in together, got divorced together – that is another story – and have not been separated since. Also, we share a passion for travel and exploration. 

While we were happy in our relationship, we felt bored with our jobs and lifestyles. We were both executives in a German multinational company. We had a penthouse apartment, German luxury cars, the best suites, everything we wanted. But it was not fulfilling. Life just seemed so rushed, with constant pressures and deadlines. There was a time that we thrived under such conditions. But now, all we felt was trapped.

We were seeking happiness that so eloquently alluded us in our “dream” lifestyle. It was time for a change. We could stay and build a “nice” pension, or we could give life a go and truly live.

So, could we actually start over at 50?

We made up our minds that we would pull the plug on this way of life. Interestingly, just after we made the decision, an opportunity presented itself that saw us cash in our corporate chips, get rid of the apartment, the fancy cars, and find something to do on an island in the South Pacific. Exactly what was not so clear. Perhaps own and run a cool lounge bar :-)

Little did we know that we bought our fast-track tickets to self-discovery. 

Start Over at 50: Running a Dive & Surf Shop in the Cook Islands

Long story short, we spent three months exploring a shortlist of countries – Cook Island, Fiji, and Vanuatu – for a business opportunity. This would be our step into the South Pacific, with the eventual plan to explore many more of these tropical islands. Finally, we settled on a Dive & Surf Shop in the Cook Islands. Not quite a lounge bar, but we thought it was close enough.

The funny side story is that even in search of a simpler life, we shipped our remaining belongings in a 40f container around the world to Rarotonga. Completely unnecessary, as we didn’t use most of it and finally sold everything.

While exploring the Cook Islands and getting to know its warm people were fantastic, the shop turned out to be a mini-corporate, not giving us enough freedom to do what we loved to do. We expected it to be more relaxed and less demanding. But often, with expectations comes frustration. If things don’t go our way, we kick and scream. So did we.

Were we happy? Was it the right “job” to start over with 50? Nope. We were happy when we were exploring islands, most of them little known. At the time, we brought in employees to run the store to give ourselves travel time, which ended in us managing the store and employees. All in all, it was time to make a decision. 

Firstly, we looked at what we had. We had loads of video footage and even more pictures, and a lot of information that nobody in the world has on these hardly visited islands. It means we had all the makings of a travel guide. And so the idea of was born – telling the story of the entire incredible Cook Islands and creating a unique travel guide.

Start Over at 50: Becoming Full-Time Travel Adventurers

So we put the shop of for sale. Interestingly, it sold a couple of weeks before all hell broke loose with COVID. As a next step, we planned to move onto French Polynesia, explore its plenty of islands, and compile a travel guide. And on through Polynesia and Melanesia.

But COVID had other plans. No flights were coming in or leaving the Cook Islands except a weekly cargo plane. Yep, we were trapped on a tropical island. And again, we kicked and screamed and tried a lot to travel on, which did not happen for months. However, during this time, we enjoyed a paradise island without any visitors.

We were able to leave the country only six months later but only repatriate to Europe, as all the South Pacific countries’ borders were still closed. We chose to do so because we have family in the UK and Germany that we wanted to see again and grandchildren we haven’t yet met. Flying from the Cook Islands to New Zealand and via Hong Kong to Zurich during COVID was an experience – a story for another time – see Episode 2 below.

But what should have been just a six-week visit in Europe then back to take up our plans to explore French Polynesia turned out to be four months stay. Compliments of COVID complications.

At the same time, we were working on the Cook Island Travel Guide, but progress was slow with all the disruption. Europe became a nightmare to travel in. Every time we thought we have a destination where we can settle for a while to get work done, borders were closed.

Then we learned that South Africa was allowing visitors in. Cape Town would be a great place to consolidate and get everything done. But which airline would be willing to take us there? After three canceled flights with three different airlines, Lufthansa finally got us to Cape Town.

This website takes up the story at the point of arriving in Cape Town. We will continue to follow our passion for exploration. For now, it seems life has brought us to the tip of Africa to do so. And it looks that we are in a much better position to start over at 50 now :-)

Start Over at 50: What’s Next?

Our new life as travel adventurers starts now, at the tip of Africa. In the same way, our search for happiness continues. 

Let us take you on our next real-life travel adventures. Join us in the following episodes :-)

Next up: How we made it from the South Pacific via Europe to South Africa: Traveling During COVID: In 4 Crazy Months Around the World

And if you’d like to get more details about our South Pacific experience, you’ll find it on our website IslandAwe.

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