Growing numbers of older people are enjoying travelling both near and far. Many of us are fortunate to be part of the most travelled generation ever, with rewarding and inspirational memories of places, landscapes, cultures and people that have played an important part in our lives. Exploration is about staying active and open to experience, enjoying and being rewarded by what the world has to offer us – and what we can offer in return.

Aspects of travel which tend to concern us more as we age include safety and appropriate risk-taking, attention to our age-specific needs, and balancing company and on-our-own time. We also appear to be more concerned than younger travellers about our impact on our surroundings as we travel, despite being wooed by cruise and package holidays which advertise themselves as perfect for older people but can be environmentally damaging and overwhelming to both participants and to locals in sensitive destinations.

This section is mostly about independent travelling, with all the reward that comes from planning and carrying out a new and exciting journey. Sometimes, however, an organised tour can make sense. We may be looking for like-minded people to travel with, a guide who knows the territory and culture and can teach us about them, or just someone to organise the logistics of our visit so we can concentrate on the experience of being somewhere different.

Whether we are concerned about social and cultural awareness, environmental conservation or gender equality, there are plenty of ways to travel responsibly. Thinking carefully about our travel choices, leaving a positive impact on the places we go, and taking steps to minimize our carbon footprint are all important. “It’s important that travelers spend time before they travel to educate themselves on the places they’re going to see,” says Martha Honey, executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel. “Traveling like a local by dining at locally-owned businesses and staying in locally-owned inns, apartments and hotels yields immersive experiences and the satisfaction that your money is much more likely to support the local family that runs that business.”

Relying on airplanes to reach our travel destination certainly isn’t planet-friendly, but the reality is that air travel is essential to access many destinations in desperate need of tourism, particularly in developing countries. While flying might be a necessity, we can still fly smart. Direct routes, taking the train where it’s an option, flying out of “green airports,” taking fewer but longer trips, and checking carbon offset programs to help reduce our overall footprint all help. At our destination we can lighten our impact by taking public transport, hiring a bike, or walking.

As Mark Twain so accurately observed, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” To remain fully alive as we age, regular doses of culture shock and world-wonder can be useful remedies.