There used to be a section of the site that had profiles of the various folks that frequented this forum. For what it is worth, I started sailing some 43 years ago and have daysailed, raced, and cruised ever since. You and I are the same age. I have had training in and worked as a yacht designer. I have worked in boatyards doing repairs
and later designing repairs
and modifications to existing boats. (By profession, I am an architect) I have literally taught scores of people to sail over the years. I have owned boats in partnership with people who are in the process of learning to sail and owned boats in partnership with experienced sailors. I have helped many people through the process who are doing exactly what you are trying to do, namely learn to sail and go cruising. By and larger the ones who have been most successful and have actually gone cruising, started with a small boat, learned to sail and learned about their own preferences before graduating to a purpose built cruiser. Most who failed started way too ambitiously in the just buy a cruising boat and go cruising mold, which is not to say that all who started small succeeded and all who started large failed.
And all of that said, my advice was solely based on my personal opinion, and like most questions in sailing there is no one universally right, one size fits all answer to your inquiry.
Good luck in your pursuit,