Friday, June 22, 2018

Do It While You're Young!

Traveling is something you should do while you're still relatively young.

A reader asks whether we ever get sick of traveling.  I responded that we get sick while traveling but never get sick of traveling.  And there is a difference.

Traveling is difficult both on the mind and the body.  When you travel to different locations, even within the United States, you were exposed to the viruses and bacteria of thousands of different people, as well as different water supplies and foods and whatnot.  Yes, it is not an unexpected that you will get what they call it Mexico, "Montezuma's Revenge" when you travel.

Travel is also difficult on the mind.  You are in strange places, where you don't know the streets and the stores all have different names, and the foodstuffs and products seem slightly different than back home.  And what's worse is that they're not entirely different, but just slightly different, which makes it even more jarring.  And of course, everyone talks with a funny accent, eh?

We are creatures of routine, and traveling often upsets this routine.  Even though I am retired, I find myself going to be about the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.  Disruption to this routine can be fatiguing and unsettling.  Loss of sleep can make you cranky and even sick.   We find comfort in routine, whether it is the morning commute, or our regular television shows every night - or whatever.  People get used to a pattern in life, and travel can upset that pattern.  For that reason alone, some folks cannot stand to travel.  It is hard.

I used to travel to California once a month, on business.  At first, it was exciting and fun, in a way, even though there was a lot of work to do.  But over time, it just became exhausting - flying the "red eye" from coast to coast and spending a day or two to get over jet lag.   It went from fun to none in no time whatsoever.   That's why they give business travelers frequent flyer miles and other perks - to compensate for the hassle and fatigue of travel.

Travel is both physically and emotionally exhausting.  Thus, it is something you should do while you're relatively young rather than wait until you retire.  What we have seen, living on retirement island, is that people make elaborate plans for big trips for when they retire - and then never follow through with their plans, or if they do, their plans are aborted.

A good friend of ours likes to travel, and she is one of those hippie types who is very easy to get along with.  But even so, at her age it is very difficult to go to foreign countries and experience foreign cultures as well as foreign bacteria.  She told us of a recent trip to India which she said is something everyone should do in their lifetime.  But even though she was traveling with her adult children and had a car and driver (which is not that expensive in India) it was a trying experience.  It is a very crowded country and it as she put it, "sensory overload."  She advised us if we want to go to India, to do it while we're still young or at least relatively young - and not wait until we're 70 or 80. At that age, it could probably kill you.

We see all the time in the RV and boating magazines, advertisements for brand new RVs and boats that have been bought by retirees with great intentions to tour America or do the great circle route. "Must sell due to illness," the ad sadly reads.  They spent all their lives working in the figure-cutting factory looking forward to age 65 when they could retire and take the trip of their dreams.  Sadly, cancer had other ideas.

Even at the relatively tender age of 58, travel is still very hard on me.  My digestive tract, weak as it is, has trouble adapting two new water supplies and foodstuffs.  Last year, we explored the Saint Lawrence River and Thousand Islands area of New York and had a great time.  I also enjoyed visiting their Hospital in Alexandria Bay which has a beautiful view of the water.  It was a $2,500 experience I would rather have done without!

But that is the nature of travel. You have to roll with the punches and stick with it. A lot of people give up and retreat back to their to the comfort of their homes and daily routine.  Neighbors of ours saw our RV and decided that maybe they should try RVing.  They very wisely decided to rent one for a 2-week trip.  They took off and came back three days later, saying that they hated RVing and wanted nothing to do with it.  That's okay - in fact it was smarter than to rent an RV and figure this out.  Too many people buy RVs and then discover they hate RVing and then end up with a $50,000 albatross around their neck, parked in their backyard.

Of course, some people are hardier than others.  There are septuagenarians who are quite spry and think nothing of hitchhiking across the Himalayas even at an advanced age.  While other, younger than their 30s, can't live without regular access to American and fast food and culture.  The bottom line, is, that no matter what your level of hardness, it will decrease over time.

And of course, there are different modes of travel, some easier than others.  Going on cruises has become wildly popular in America, particularly since 9/11.  You put your luggage on the ship and you go on board and they basically ply you with booze and food until you pass out.  Oh, and yes, they actually travel to other destinations.  But many friends of ours who enjoy cruises tell us they never actually leave the ship at these different locations to experience the tropical climate.  Rather, they sit by the pool, which they enjoy even more because most of the passengers have left to see the sights.

This kind of makes me sad, but again, each person makes their own life choices.  Some friends of ours recently went on the cruise to Cuba and reported they were very disappointed in the experience.  They went ashore on a tour and found that the country was run down and depressed - what you expect from a third-world Caribbean country such as Cuba.

A friend of mine noted that everyone made a big deal about the old cars in Cuba, which were really basically bondo'ed and rusted-out old Chevys and Fords with Soviet tractor engines in them.  "I don't understand what the big deal is," he said, "I have a pristine 57 Chevy in my garage, what they drive over there it's basically junk!"

And in a way, he has a point.  Many of the places you travel to in this world are not as nice as the United States of America - or may not be as nice as your home town, even if they are in the US of A. But for us, sometimes that is the best part of traveling.  When we return home to our retirement island, we realize how fortunate we are to live in such a pristine place with so few people around us.

We do live on a pretty small planet.  And you have a finite amount of time in your life to explore it.  If you decide you do want to explore, I strongly suggest you do it while you're still young.  Age will creep up on you and you'll find that you're no longer able to travel at time in your life you want to.  At the very least, you will find travel harder and harder to do, the older you get.