I had lots of things I wanted to do when I retired 12 years ago. Principal among them was travel. My husband and I had camped, hiked, and even backpacked quite a bit when our kids were growing up. Most of our trips were in within a couple of days travel of our home in Southern California. Our most extensive vacation was a five-week trip driving our Westfalia camper van to Bellingham, WA where we caught the ferry that follows the inside passage to Alaska. We stopped at several of the islands, and then on to Anchorage, Denali National Park and Fairbanks before returning home on the Alcan Highway. Like all our other trips in those days, the budget was a major consideration. After all, we had college costs to consider in the not too distant future. But we also knew that travel could also provide valuable lessons for our children. So we sought out places that had historic or cultural interest near where we camped or hiked. These family vacations not only planted the seed for our kids to want to “see the world” as they struck out on their own, but for us as well.
When the kids went away to college, Don and I began to discuss where we might want to travel when we retired. We both agreed that we were not interested in large group travel, like cruise ships with thousands of other passengers or bus tours that make “whistle stops” at tourist attractions. We wanted to take the road less traveled and explore parts of the world not many people get to see. Our inaugural retirement trip was a freighter cruise to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific with just 100 other adventurous travelers. It was amazing! Our next was a small group tour to Machu Picchu that I found on Travel Zoo (old habits of thrifty travel die hard). It also was amazing and we were hooked. But the thing we learned on the Machu Picchu trip was that when you travel to some of these out-of-the-way places, you will have a much better experience if you are in good physical shape. Some of the others in our small group struggled just to hike from the park entrance to the ruins. With the historic capital of the Inca empire, Cuzco, located at an elevation of over 11,000 feet, breathing was so difficult for some of the more sedentary among the group that they remained at the hotel while the rest of us explored the city on foot. That made us realize that while we don’t have a “bucket list” per se, we need to prioritize our travel so that the more physically demanding trips occur while we are fit enough to fully enjoy them.
The natural aging process means that regardless of our best efforts, there will be some decline as we get older. But that is not to say that you can’t slow that decline through physical activity, exercise and good eating habits. When we moved to Maine 10 years ago, we joined the fitness center at the university and do both cardio and weight training there three times a week when we are in town. On days we don’t go to the gym, we take hikes or walk the dog, go cross-country skiing (if there is enough snow) or ride our bikes. We have annual physical check-ups and try to eat a healthy diet. I have lost over 20 pounds and have been able to maintain a healthy weight long-term. Since our eye-opening trip to Peru, we have completed the thirteen day, 140 mile England Coast2Coast walk, spent a week hiking the highlands and islands in Scotland, spent 14 days on a safari in Kenya and Tanzania, joined our daughter in Japan where we explored the prefecture of Tokyo and Yokohama by train and on foot, and made an epic trip to Antarctica stopping to check out the Falkland Islands and South Georgia along the way. I am so glad that we were able to complete these trips while our level of fitness allowed us to fully participate. It is our intention to continue our fitness routines and to expand our travel opportunities for as long as we are able. Maybe one day we will be reconciled to more sedate travel, but for now we’ll take the road less traveled.