give up

Older women tend to travel in groups and enjoy organized tours, or cruises where uncertainty and risk are at a minimum.  Even though they are vastly outnumbered by their female counterparts, older men tend to drift around the more affordable parts of the world alone. They often have no reason for being in any one place, other than drinks and women were cheap and available when the bus or taxi dropped them off.

One can spot these aging roués in guesthouses or cantinas in Central America or Southeast Asia, drinking or eating alone, staring at a cell phone or watching with total absorption as a gecko climbs a wall.

I’m in a small city in Northern Thailand, and it’s not uncommon for me to run into ten such men a day around here, eating alone in restaurants, watching traffic whiz by as they nurse a beer and talk to no one. They might have wives or girlfriends in this new place, but if they do they probably can’t talk to them, as neither really speaks the other’s language, and besides, the men probably don’t have much to say anyway.

Living abroad in the developing world is pretty easy if you have a pension from a first-world country.  The old guys from Scandinavia have such big pensions they can buy big estates and large vehicles, as well as take their wives and girlfriends on expensive vacations. In my experience, they’re a little bit happier than the guys who are just scraping by, but not much.  Most of them still lack a real connection to a community, and they still face each day without much to do.

Women rarely seem at a loss for something to do, but men without work often come across as lost. Maybe they are waiting for a woman to show up and tell them what needs to be done next, so they can give grudging consent and then forget what she said a moment later.