Midlife Crisis? Bring It On!

How women of this generation are seizing that stressful, pivotal moment in their lives to reinvent themselves

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The notion that the way to launch a spiritual journey is to take an actual trip is fueling the adventure-travel market, especially since many adventure travelers are women in their 40s. Women who want company but don't have family or friends who feel like rafting in Costa Rica seek out a new breed of travel agency — like Gutsy Women Travel, founded by Gail Golden, 55, wife of former TWA boss Carl Icahn. Half the women who sign on for her trips are married, but their husbands aren't interested in taking cooking classes in Italy or visiting gardens in Savannah. "He likes the fact that she is safe, traveling with an escorted group and comes back happy because she has fulfilled her travel dream," says Golden. "I don't think women afford themselves the luxury of a midlife crisis because they have too much responsibility," she adds. "But there is internal pressure and the need to release themselves. It's self-serving for me to say that Gutsy Women Travel does that. But some of these women have never been on trips on their own, without children and husbands. By the end of the first night, women are hugging each other and telling their life stories. You remember when you were young and had a pajama party? Well, we're only taller."

Guides for the Inner Journey
To serve women in need of ongoing support and guidance, there is the growing army of life coaches who, once again, are often women looking to turn their midlife experience into a career. Cynthia Barnett, a longtime teacher and school administrator in Connecticut, left education two years ago to start educating women. She holds regular retreats at a beach house for a dozen or so women at a time. "They get to a point where they feel, well, my children are gone, I feel like I have an empty nest now, so what's me? They seem to feel the need to have somebody help them through the process." Kimberly Fulcher, who ran a software company in California's Silicon Valley, was lucky enough to have an early midlife crisis — at 28 — before the dotcom crash, and sold the business while it was still valuable. She trained as a life coach and built a clientele of women she coaches by phone for a monthly fee of $500 to $1,000. Hoping to find an efficient way to reach women with fewer disposable dollars, she launched in late January an online version of Compass Life Designs, an affordable coaching program that costs $37 a month. That buys women access to three teleconference workshops and an online library of workshops, plus digital workbooks.

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