Conscious Aging: Becoming a Better Traveler

As I wrote about before, part of my personal routine during the six days we were in Nassau for Sara and Ben’s wedding was sitting over coffee through at least three rounds of breakfast eaters, many of whom were their flyer group friends. In addition to finding these people extremely interesting, I was trying to pick up a few tips. Travel gets harder as you get older, and I’m trying to figure out why so I can mitigate some of the impediments.

This article from the NY Times, about their travel writer who gets sent to 52 different places in a year, caught my eye for the same reason.

First up: use of the word “routine”. When you retire, you pretty much lose a big chunk of external structure — the need to respond to deliverables, to meet clients or teach classes, the need to present or analyze or persuade. In response, I created my own structure for the day: writing, exercise, seeing family and friends, planning to participate in Seattle art and cultural opportunities. The structure isn’t rigid. I have to account for the unexpected, like a leak in the sink which required me to be home to greet the plumber. But a structure, a routine, it is.

Travel is all about what is not routine: finding the unexpected, responding eagerly to vagaries in weather or available transportation or lodging, picking up on spontaneous paths that open up and are interesting.

I need to be more flexible about moving between my constructed days and those I designate as travel days and make more open-ended. Usually it takes me a few days to feel comfortable on the road as I let go of my accustomed routine. I could shorten that, I think, and get a faster start on seeking out new experiences.

Next up: disruption as an opportunity. When I have a travel itinerary, I expect it to  unfold according to plan. I don’t like delays, canceled flights, airport overnights that I didn’t choose. I don’t sleep well. I’m chomping at the bit to get home — even though I have no need to get back to work, or resume caring for family members. I never schedule appointments on my first day back from a trip, and most of my appointments can be rescheduled anyway without much penalty. But disruption of the anticipated plan, for me, is just that: disruption.

For Sara and Ben and the flyer group, disruption is an opportunity to enrich their experience.  If they are bumped from a flight, how much compensation can they get from the airline? What amount offered justifies volunteering to be bumped? What can they do during the extra time in place that will make the change more fun than annoying? This is a sea shift in attitude for me, but an important one if I want to be a more savvy traveler.

These are two examples, and I’ll be developing more. The article below prompts more thinking. Oddly enough, the bit of advice offered by the Times travel writer that I like best is “Don’t pack anything you’ll only use twice.” I think that’s a life lesson too.

Glad to hear your thoughts on being a more savvy traveler, older or not. 🙂

Post-Wedding: Not Letting Go of the Buzz

Ben, Sara and I got home to Seattle in the wee hours of Friday morning, but I’m finding myself reluctant to let go of the elation that characterized the six days of the destination wedding. The wedding ceremony was pure joy. So too were the days and events leading up to and away from the actual celebration.

I developed my own little morning routine, which led to my meeting and talking with lots of wedding guests I didn’t really know. Several of us had access to the Grand Lounge — which you get with travel status in the Hyatt hotel chain, or in my case, because you’re traveling with people who have elite status. The Grand Lounge provides a complementary full hot breakfast from 7am until 10:30am. Later in the day there are cookies and fruit over the lunch hour, soft drinks and coffee, then a full happy hour spread with wine and mixed drinks. Bite sized desserts and coffee round out the evening.

I’d come down to breakfast early, shortly after 7am, and be the only one from our group. I’d have breakfast and my first cups of coffee while writing blog posts for that day. Gradually, starting at about 9am, other family and friends would begin to come down. I’d stop writing — finished, usually — replenish my coffee, and talk with whoever was there. I basically sat through three rounds of breakfast seekers, ending up at around 11am. I loved it. I can’t stay out in the sun all day, even with sunscreen, so was fine going to the beach later. I loved spending the morning in conversation, and feel that I learned a lot about a lot of really interesting people.

I also love early morning in the tropics — the bird sounds, the warm, damp air, the heavy scent of flowers and foliage. The Grand Lounge had outside seating, and that’s where I set up shop — being joined gradually by others as they entered and saw familiar faces.

I could live in a tropical climate in a heartbeat, wouldn’t miss the change of seasons at all. Of course I usually go in the hot, dry months — not rainy season in Panama or hurricane season in the Caribbean. The latter are minor drawbacks. Despite them I do love tropical weather, that dense heat that bakes all the way into your bones.

The air has been crisp and cool in Seattle, and the city is filled with beautiful blooms. All good, but I am having trouble getting back to normal and letting go of the buzz.

Seen at the Wedding: Sunburn

My sisters and I grew up spending August at the Jersey shore, and we had more than one sunburn bad enough so that our skin peeled. Our mother used Coppertone on us, but the sunscreen formulation was not anywhere near as effective as it is now. And, we were outdoors, on the beach, in and out of the ocean all day long. I have cousins who were lifeguards, in the baking sun from May 30 through Labor Day, who’ve had so much cancerous skin removed from their faces that their entire appearance has changed.

People who live in tropical climates, like Nassau and Panama and Dubai — where the men offering camel rides to tourists on the beach are covered head to toe in flowing light colored robes — are careful to guard themselves from too much sun exposure. They are flabbergasted at the way we lie out in the sun, actively inviting the skin damage that comes with that bronzed look.

Around the various pools in Nassau and along the sand of Cable Beach, I saw several people with really bad sunburns out for a second or third or fourth day of exposure. I know what they’d say if I asked, because people have actually said this to me in Panama: “I’m only here for X days and I want to get my money’s worth.” 

Having warm sun on your back and shoulders really does feel good, and not only physically. Most of us are notably happier when spring arrives and we have more sunny days than cold and gray and gloomy ones. But the damage sun inflicts on our skin is real. Sunburn is painful: hot, angry, red, too tender to touch. We used to put a product called Noxema on ours; it was a goopy white cream that went on easy and cooled our angry skin and at least made us feel better, whether or not it sped up healing.

Getting sunburn upon sunburn upon sunburn is a really bad idea. A bad sunburn can make you feel ill, and increases chances of developing serious conditions like melanoma.

There are lots of things available now — better sunscreens, swim shirts to wear in the water, wide floppy hats, clothing with sun protection already in the fabric — that allow us to be out in the sun without incurring the negative effects. That people don’t use them, and continue to bask in the sun like  my lifeguard cousins did in the 1950’s, boggles my mind.


Back Home

Ben, Sara and I left Nassau on Thursday a little after 5pm Eastern time, flew through Dallas/Fort Worth, and arrived home at SeaTac around 12:30am Pacific time. Our bodies thought it was 3:30am. We all did pretty well considering. 🙂 We had my car — now loaded with only six checked bags plus the garment bag with Sara’s wedding dress and our three backpacks — and I asked them to drop me off at home and just drive the car to their house and worry about unloading after they’d gotten some rest. I also didn’t feel alert enough at that hour to drive home from their place, short distance though it is.

There’s something exceedingly pleasant about setting aside the niggling details of daily life to take a vacation, especially one that involves something as joyful as a wedding. Before I left the furnace maintenance guy chose to clean a small part instead of replace it, but said it was 50-50 the solution would work. It hasn’t, so that’s on my list of “to-do”. But for six days, all I thought about was the wedding, family and friends, the gorgeous resort, and being utterly and completely at leisure.

I have to go grocery shopping later, but I did make my own coffee and egg on toast this morning. 🙂

Over the next several days I’ll get the password protect thing straightened out so you can see more pics of the kids, post some of my favorites from the wedding, and get back to my political and other writing.

When I got home last night my front garden was abloom — we had a lot of rain while I was away. Pic of that to follow too. 🙂

Travel Day: The Wedding Event Begins

Sara, Ben and I depart Seattle on Thursday, and actually arrive in Nassau on Friday morning. I consider our departure the beginning of “the wedding event”. Lots of you have wished Sara and Ben much happiness, and I’m passing along those good wishes to the happy couple as well as holding them in my own heart.

Pics to begin soon. 🙂

What Would You Do for 19K?

Nineteen thousand dollars isn’t a ton of money, but it isn’t chump change either. Germany’s space research program is studying weightlessness, and they will pay the right woman $19,000 to stay in bed for two months to be a subject of their study.

I can’t imagine being in bed for two months, and I imagine your body is trashed after you do — not only cardiovascular fitness, but a lot of other things too. I’d be stiff as a board after being in bed for that long.  We’re meant to be moving, not lying around. But of course that’s the point of the study: what are the effects on the human body of going without the pull of gravity?

I wouldn’t do this, probably not for any amount of money. At my age, getting myself back in shape after two months would be too effortful. But somebody will. I’m sure of it.

Here are the specifics, if you want to apply. 🙂

“Staying in bed for the study won’t be like a leisurely day watching Netflix—everything from showering to going to the bathroom will have to be done without getting up. All participants will get a private room and a bed inclined at 6 ° with the head end downwards, no options for changing. Food will be chosen by nutritionists to monitor health, although they promise that a few sweets, like pancakes, will be made available from time to time.

For anyone interested, the study pays 16,500 euros, or about $18,522. While the study will look at 12 men and 12 women, right now the DLR is only looking for women to hire. Requirements include being between 24 and 55 years old, being a non-smoker, being in Cologne from September to December 2019, and speaking German. If you get the gig, sweet dreams.”

Wondering how you eat pancakes lying flat in bed with your head down.

Jersey Girl, Jersey Wine

I haven’t lived in New Jersey since graduating from college, but I will always be a Jersey girl on some level. My sister surprised me with a gift that I never imagined would have come from my home state: Jersey wine.

Jersey is quite rightly famous for a lot of things: blueberries, tomatoes and sweet corn, the shore, Atlantic City, four of the most dismally dysfunctional urban centers in the country [Newark, Camden, Paterson, Passaic], and Tony Soprano. But wine? Never imagined it.

With our departure for the wedding fast upon us I haven’t opened the bottles yet. Will let you know when I do.

Conscious Aging: “Epiretinal Membrane”

Ah, the things our aging bodies spring upon us never cease to amaze. My regular eye doctor — whom we can call #1 — wanted me evaluated for cataracts, so sent me to a specialist. Said doctor #2 pronounced me fine re cataracts, but pointed out that I had an epiretinal membrane in my right eye that needed evaluation by a retinal specialist, doctor #3. I had that appointment yesterday.

Aging means a proliferation of doctors, not just a primary to see to your general health. Doctor #1 does glasses and glaucoma checks and such. Doctor #2 does the front of the eyeball. Doctor #3 does the back. Such is the specialization of medicine these days.

These membranes develop as a function of age, and can begin to interfere with vision — making surgery necessary. This surgery, unlike cataract surgery which gets you back to your best vision, doesn’t return you to normal. The expectation is “halfway”. Sometimes the membrane keeps growing, and sometimes it reaches a point and goes dormant. Right now I have no real symptoms, although my left eye is better than the affected right. Given that, the risk of surgery isn’t warranted. I’m in full agreement with watchful waiting.

I have to go every six months to have the membrane checked. In the meantime, I have to  use this sheet in the pic below to check each eye every couple of weeks. If the lines start to look too wavy with that right eye, I have to send up a flare and go back sooner than my scheduled next visit.

I’m not overly concerned. The medical system in which I’m a patient is a highly ranked teaching system, so I saw a young Asian male technician who did the images, a Latina resident who did an exam, and then a delightful young Asian doctor trailing a very young blonde woman who looked like a first year medical student. The doctor repeated the same exam done by the resident. She asked most of the same questions the resident had, and I gave mostly the same answers. I feel thoroughly checked out, even as the whole thing took more time than if I’d just seen the specialist. I love living in a diverse city where professional services are provided by the best people, no matter their country of origin.

Conscious Aging: Writing a Bad Review

I rarely write bad reviews on Yelp, especially if the business makes a good faith effort to rectify a problem. But I did land a ton of bricks on a local business, a small independent theater here in Seattle, after my enjoyment of a film was completely destroyed by a noisy group sitting right in front of me. They whooped and snickered and guffawed and talked loudly through the whole showing of Jordan Peele’s highly rated horror film, Us. You’d have thought we were watching Comedy Hour, so discordant was their behavior with what was unfolding on the screen. I have pretty good powers of concentration, but the noise level and distraction generated by this group overpowered everything. Someone on staff did come into the small theater once, in the dark, to ask them to be quiet — to no avail.

I suspect the venue is marketing to after-work groups as a way of filling seats on a weekday night; this was a 5:45pm Thursday evening showing. The problem is that “noisy bar happy hour after work” is deeply ingrained in Seattle’s young culture. And this theater venue does offer drinks before, after, and even during the show. You order, give your seat number and the time you want your drink to arrive, and someone brings it in. Noisy group bar happy hour behavior and quiet film watching behavior simply do not mix.

In addition to writing the bad Yelp review, I did contact the theater directly via email, and the owners apologized and offered two free tickets for a future performance. But they defended their “group destination after work” marketing policy. I think it’s going to be a problem.

Literally while I was writing this post, the theater owner called to discuss the problem. He didn’t ask me to take down the review, although after we talked I decided to do so on my own. Jerry and I were small business owners, and I understand how difficult it is and how small the margins are. A bad review is, in a sense, overkill. The owner is adamant that if they didn’t market to groups, they wouldn’t have a revenue stream during the week. I’m adamant that if this kind of disruptive behavior happens again, I’ll leave the theater and not return.

We ended the conversation with sort of a truce. The owner wanted me to know he and his wife care about me. I wanted him to know that I have family and friends who care about me and what I want from him is  a quiet venue when I go to see a film. We’ll see if those two lines in the sand can intersect.