Conversations on Mid-Life – ISSUE #1

Conversations on Mid-Life – ISSUE #1

Hotel Post Bezau

Q: How old are you?

MvT: I’m 55 years old.

Q: Where do you live?

MvT: Between the city family home in Paddington Sydney, the tropical family home in The Whitsundays, and the rest of the globe which I adore to wander.

Q: Let’s begin at the best spot for a story to start, the beginning. What was your ‘a ha’ moment, when you knew things in your life needed to shift?

MvT: I confess I was slow to ascribe the moniker ‘mid-life, it seemed to fit my darling parents, not me.  A 50th birthday came and went with little to no fanfare, a flurry of teenagers hormones, COVID, HSC, Uni beginnings, perimenopause (symptoms in hindsight – at the time I put them down to hot summer nights and an irritating husband).

I suppose we cope with life’s turmoil – until one day, one more thing. Mine the death of a past love, then a beloved pet, then a slow dawning I felt like crap – slumped, sluggish, pudgy, & perpetually pissed off. A rising panic that I had forgotten to check-in, to ask what I wanted from life.

53 years old and at the top of my family’s ‘people we need’ pyramid, yet the bottom of my own.

Thus began ‘the great awakening’, or as my family prefers to call it – the time Mum went mad and ‘ran away’.

Q: Now I’m intrigued, what happened next – how did you make ‘life changes’ happen for you?

MvT: I’ve waxed lyrical about the all-embracing nature of the travelling world.  As if anything dramatic and magnificent happens only in a far flung land. “To be transformed, you must be out of your place,” I said emphatically, “…geographically elsewhere.”

No surprise then, one morning I woke with a yearning for space. Figuratively and literally. I’d been harbouring a pique for a while –  how to fashion a cutting of the family umbilical cord.  During decades of marriage and family life the mantle ‘default available person’ had settled.  A gradual dawning that without a change, expectations of me (let’s be honest, a rod I played a large part in staking) might be all there is.  Displeasure stimulating and focusing – so too milestones and tragedy. The death of a childhood friend and love, end of school life for the youngest, professional renaissance of the husband, my career in the crapola, a sense of whooshing time. I dreamt of soaring.  Of my own expanse. With no idea how to carve room out of a packed life.

Shuddering cliches surface. I devour Shirley Valentine, Eat Pray Love, Under the Tuscan Sun, Jan Morris, Wild  – as if a talisman to what could be. I need to discover if I still have it, an edge.  Mine softened by certainty, twenty years of a clearly defined role. Until it wasn’t.  I book a trip, not so far from home.  The family follows.  Then I book a trip a long way away.

With only a few weeks to plan, departure day rolls around quickly. First stop visiting Euro based Papa and sister – second stop, alone. 

Irony not lost as my airport drop off driver is my twenty year old son – who, after a quick hug for his wild eyed Mum – gave a toot, a wave and slightly concerned look in the rear vision mirror,  before heading home to his Dad, younger brother and our dog.  At check-in I watch a young man drop his backpack on the scales – off for a gap year he tells the airline rep.  

Me too, I add silently.

Travelling alone suits a curious, independent personality, from A to B I make my way with ease. Revel in the bits in-between. Senses heightened without the comfort of companions. Rush of discovery, connection and reliance on the kindness of strangers, and yes the chance to reinvent.  All compelling reasons.  

In planning the family reunions I realise I have left little time to myself, the stretch between arriving and going back will arrive too quickly in favour of the latter. Then the guilt, dare I ask for more?  

The first of many ‘travel signs’ delivers the answer.  The minute I open my eyes on the first morning in Croatia, my phone trills.  One of my man-children sobbing, a poignant moment for them yes, an emergency no.  Their hurt always subliminally mine. Yet something shifts – I can find little in my tank to leap to their aid.  After a while listening I weakly suggest “call your father… I have to go darling”.

Stunned silence, then the man-child hangs up to find a more ready ear. 

With no chance of resuming slumber I fling on a bathing suit and set off along the sparkling coastline, looking for a place to launch myself into the Adriatic for a first swim. 

A portly gentleman with a strong Baltic accent watches my hesitation at the sea wall “Eighty years I swim here. Jump!” he calls.  Mid-leap I release the grip on my antipodean radar – deep water, sea creatures – swim languid strokes in the crystal Adriatic. I love swimming. By breakfast coffee a text to my gorgeous, long suffering travel agent

“I need to stay longer, please look for a later flight home”.  

With the whole world on the move again post-COVID, choice is light – hotels, restaurants, and yes flight changes.  

“You can return a week later, or, two months”, comes the reply.

I sleep on it. Seeking council from ‘still well in the parenting trenches’ younger sister.  

“Do it,” she says.  “For all of us that cannot…yet or ever”.

So I do.  Suddenly a coward I text rather than phone my husband – ‘…change of plans, see you in October’.

I also cancel other pre-booked arrangements. Trusting the universe will send my way just what I need.

Mum’s ‘Gap moment’ becomes months – two thousand and forty minutes,1000’s of kilometres from hearth.  Liberation swift, exhilarating. 

For a person who pre-kids spent over a decade on a plane every week, it seems astonishing I segued so easily into a grounded life.  It is an odd sensation to be back on the road, travelling, not simply holidaying in a spot – the world feels shiny and curious again. 

“I become the same, and yet not, as I was 20 years ago – before husband, before children.  Back when I was more spontaneous, more daring, more fun, more unwavering.  I get busy with enthusiasm. By day it’s cliff top parachuting, by night it’s dancing – twilight illuminating the swaying crowd.  I sleep naked with windows and curtains open, wanting to wake slowly to the sunshine, early so as to not miss a minute.”

It takes a Wellness Retreat in the Alps to shed a compulsion to fill the moments. Catering to a clientele too used to making too many decisions, the atmosphere is stripped back. Everything you need and nothing more.  I’m nurtured.  Learn to loosen my grip, sit still. Leave behind expectations and exacting standards of myself, my family. Reflection, and yes gratitude, the reward. 

The Yoga room looks on to verdant grazing pastures, which taper to the extraordinary mountains. Claudine, resident Meditation practitioner, asks us to focus on the light at their peak, “…mountains are solid, steadfast,” she hums. I resolve to embrace a grounded base – try weightless rather than anchorless. My already light suitcase now feels burdensome. I want to feel fleet of foot. I ship home half the contents and vow to accumulate experiences rather than stuff. 

Staying longer than a week in each spot, Imagining ‘this could be my life’. I make friends. I’m subdued by their incredulousness – different languages, same question – ‘What were the words I used to explain to my husband I needed a breather?’

“Relationships can mean many things”, I tell them.  “A need for space included”.  

I begin to cross my fingers when I say this as home-time draws near. That is until I visit clairvoyant Victoria in the hippie shop around the corner from my sister’s posh London house. Here is where I should state a theme, the fixation in seeking out fortune tellers whilst travelling. Not always with a desirable outcome. I will expand further, suffice to say I may have finally concluded all transcendence leads to the same spot. You are precisely where you should be, for that time. Mulling this over with my sibling on the eve of departure, 

“…but what should I really do?”, I implore her. “With the rest of my life”.

“Stop looking to other places for the answers, you already have those”, said oh wise sister.

My Chelsea sage, what of her prediction?  Unprompted, she finds in my cards  “Your husband is the one”, looking at me over her glasses with a fixated stare.  

Despite my sister’s protestation to the contrary, I do not declare to have the answers, nor speak for others. All I know is planning is well and good, yet experience shows it is never the mapped out that leads to life changing moments. Keep an eye out for the opportunity to detour.

And so eventually I return. Was I glad to? A loaded question that requires a delicate answer.  Yes, because I love my sons, husband, family, friends – they are home. No, because I love who I became – I was frightened she might be absorbed back into the fold and not seen from again. 

Q: In life we go through many metamorphosis; childhood, teens, finding our way as young adults, marriage or not, kids or not, losing people – of all these glorious and daunting stages of life. Why do you think mid-life seems to be the time when we may come unstuck?

MvT: A dawning that time will run out. Certainly we can suffer devastation, lose people in younger years – and this is not to disregard the emotion of younger selves – but we really cannot grasp a sense of our own mortality until less time lies ahead than has passed. That is the great slap of mid-life.  Probably a middle-class, middle- age malaise. But there you have it. 

Eventually I realised I left at the ending, the full stop of several decades of shoving my own dreams down. When I returned it was to a beginning – my resurrection. 

Did I need to travel round the world to discover that the treasure sits squarely in my own backyard. Probably not, yet that is the point. Humankind survives because we are ever curious, willing to step outside the status quo – not so much for the greener pastures, more to find a fresh perspective. Shine a light on how you might take up some space, for yourself.

Q: Top three mid-life tips I wish someone had told me?


  1. Take control of my health narrative; get a of list recommended mid-life tests and start ticking them off. Optimising my hormone status sooner might have saved years of feeling like I was ‘missing in action’. Keep searching for the right medico to work with you.
  2. The light at the end of the tunnel is sun – not an oncoming train. You will know when you are in a position to move forward. It might not be now. However, PROJECT YOU can begin now. Start to plan. Your mid-life, your design.
  3. Find your tribe. Someone has always been ‘before you’ – educate and empower yourself.


Whilst Monique’s professional life (a management career in luxury travel & fashion) played second fiddle when her boys were born, she continued to seek challenges. A sickly childhood, thyroid cancer in her 20’s, and health compromised sons led Monique to retrain in areas of lifelong passion; Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Clinical Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer, Cookbook Author, and Travel/Style Writer.

Monique mentors mid-life women to find courage to reinvigorate (Love PROJECT YOU); during a time careers take a back seat, kids leave the nest, ageing parents need support, relationships shift, body and mindsets change.  

Monique shows how to carve timeout in order to close the gap between the world you inhabit, and the one you never explored, but wish you did. 

Monique van Tulder
Mid-Life Mentor

LinkedIn: moniquevantulder
Instagram: @moniquevantulder

The Wellbeing Travel Guides

If you are a slow traveller, seek a sense of wellbeing, love Retreats, and tips from chic locals – you are in the right place.



Conversations on Mid Life (podcast coming soon) * receive your Conversations on Mid Life eBook