Traveling is one of the bonuses that comes with retirement. You now have the time to go somewhere for as long as you like.
When it comes to traveling, you should take the advice passed on by Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s Places Unknown, who quoted Ernestine Ulmer: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”
Are you eating your dessert first? Many of my contemporaries say things like:
“I always wanted to go to Ireland.”
“I have never been to London.”
“It has always been a dream of mine to see Paris.”
“Why aren’t you going?” I ask them, and a list of reasons—I call them excuses—comes up.
“It’s not the right time now.”
“My grandchildren need me.”
“I don’t know. Maybe next year.”
If you don’t know now, when will you know? When it is too late? When your knees bother you too much to climb the stairs to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome?
Traveling is one of the bonuses that comes with retirement. You now have the time to go somewhere for as long as you like. You don’t have to be back because school starts, or because two weeks of vacation is all your company allots you.
I went on vacation with Marc and his family this year, and we had ten days to visit Munich, Germany. I felt happy to go, but I thought that ten days was not that much, and taking away two days for travel made it really only eight days. When we were booking the tickets, my son’s question surprised me: “That’s not too long for you?”
“Too long for me? No!”
I am so lucky now that nothing is too long. I have the luxury to do what I want, when and where I want. This is a wonderful bonus to what the French call Troisieme Age (Third Age).
Unfortunately, traveling is not as comfortable as it used to be. When I travel alone, the first hurdle is getting my ticket. No, I don’t book online; I prefer to call the airline to speak to a human. I know there is an extra charge, as much as twenty-five dollars or more. But that is still cheaper than pressing the wrong button on my computer and paying twice, or going to the wrong place on the wrong day. (No, surfing online is not my forte.)
But even after speaking to a friendly, helpful voice on the phone, I still don’t get an actual ticket. Remember those oblong, multiple-copy cards that showed all the details? Instead, the airline’s reservation agent says she is sending me an email with my ticket information. When my son sees me print it out, he laughs and says: “You don’t need that! They have you on file.”
“They do? And if they don’t, how can I prove that I have a reservation?”
“Stop worrying,” he reassures me.
I admire his confidence in the system because I am not a trusting soul when my fate depends on a computer.
A few days before my departure, an email arrives from the airline telling me that I can print out my boarding pass, which will make the check-in faster and easier. Upon arriving at the airport, I am told the way to go is to put my passport through a scanner (which did not work at JFK on my last two departures) and to leave my suitcase “over there.” They must be kidding—no way. I’d rather stand patiently in line and give my suitcase to a person who hands me my boarding pass and a receipt for my suitcase.
After my boarding card is in hand, I have to tackle the next hurdle: the security check. That’s where we get undressed. Coats, jackets, belts, shoes, jewelry, and if the scanner shows a suspicious-looking object in my handbag, I am taken aside by a special agent who empties my bag. In the meantime, my other belongings are still being scanned on a conveyor belt, and are pushed around by the carry-on bags of other passengers. Once the agent is satisfied that there is only eye cream in the tube, I am free to go to find my other belongings. And while holding my shoes in one hand, with my coat and jacket slung over one arm and the rest of my belongings in my other hand, I look around for a chair where I can put myself together again. I’m a little irritated by it all.
“Traveling today is a pain in the neck,” I hear my friend Debbie say. It certainly can be a pain, but going places is still better than staying home, don’t you think?
Brigitte Nioche is the author of The Sensual Dresser, Dress to Impress, and What Turns Men On. Born in Germany, she lived in Australia and Europe before moving to the United States. She is a long-time resident of New York City and a proud mother and doting grandmother who plans to never “grow old.”
This article is an excerpt from author Brigitte Nioche’s recent novel Getting Over Growing Older.
Her site: Getting Over Growing Older
Photo: Denis McLaughlin