Get Your Move On

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”-Robert Lewis Stevenson

Life is a love affair with moving, not only moving in the traveling sense, but moving our aging bodies daily. I like to think that combining travel for travel’s sake with daily physical exercise keeps us young and slows the aging process. But what have we found to be the best motivator to keep us moving?

Recently, I chatted with a nurse who works with patients who have COVID. She told me that the biggest factor in her patients getting better is the ability to keep moving because without movement the chances of pneumonia are much greater, leading to respiratory failure and death.

Most people understand the importance of exercise, but as the population of baby boomers over the age of 65 continues to increase, the percentage of people exercising in that age group continues to decrease. According to experts in aging, Estimates show that only 39% of individuals over the age of 65 meet the recommended amount of activity each week (30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week).

The effects on our bodies after living more than a half century on this planet, have begun to take their toll. Arthritis has invaded our joints…I believe it is one of the long lasting effects of Chikungunya, the mosquito borne virus that infected us both while living in Nicaragua. Annoying aches and pains pop up from doing everyday activities. It is more difficult to open jars, climb ladders, and maintain an active metabolism.

I just got used to the idea that wrinkles, age spots, and reading glasses are here to stay! So, what can we do to motivate us and promote a healthy attitude about our changing bodies?

I admit, I am not one to love exercising. I worked out in the university gym in my 40s and early 50s because it was free to university employees. I was motivated by all the young, hard bodies I saw everyday and the cost was free. For my 50th birthday, I planned a trip with six of my girlfriends to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. That was motivation in itself to get in shape. We kicked Dead Women’s Pass on the second day of the hike at an elevation of 13,828 ft.

But, how lucky am I to have a coach for a husband and partner in exercise? Ron motivates me to take hikes and explore the paths less traveled. It is like having a personal trainer at my side 24/7.

With Ron by my side, or generally leading the way up and down the trails, through the woods, and across the lakes and rivers, I am loving our travel/exercise routines. He leads me through the forgotten and overgrown paths and I lead him through the alleys and local neighborhoods in the towns and cities we visit.

We bought an inflatable tandem kayak, which is easy to deflate and haul in our roof top cargo box. We paddle through swamps, lakes, small tributaries, and smooth rivers. Paddling seems effortless and we can get a strong unbeatable rhythm going to keep us moving.

We are fortunate to live in an area where there are many hiking trails and the Appalachian Trail is close. In the spring, we hike searching for morel mushrooms and spring flowers. In the summer, we hike searching for berries and secret swimming spots. In the fall, we enjoy the glorious beauty of the changing leaves and in the winter, the crunch of snow and the tracks of deer and raccoons. Every season the trails change and dress in their finest attire. We can easily get lost in our thoughts and it makes exercise effortless.

When we spent the fall of 2020 housesitting for our son and his fiancé in Yosemite National Park, we took advantage of the trails Yosemite had to offer. Everyday, we would eat a light breakfast, pack a lunch, and head out to explore a new trail in Yosemite.

We averaged 4-6 miles daily on the trails. In two months, we were able to hike at least a mile or two on most of the trails in Yosemite. The trails we missed were the ones closed to fires or maintenance. Hiking in Yosemite when the park was closed due to the fires and Covid, was surreal. We were alone at Tunnel View, and rarely met people on the trails. Yosemite was large enough that we could avoid the smoke depending on the elevation and location of the fires. We checked the air quality daily.

On Halloween night, we hiked the trails at Glacier Point…me in my son’s dinosaur costume. Not only was it a great costume, but it kept me toasty warm at Glacier Point.

We’ve found the right motivation to get our move on! Combining walking, hiking, and travel will keep us motivated and young for (hopefully) many years to come. Realistically, we know that in our Third Age (60-90), it will be harder to stay motivated, but the benefits of moving entertain and excite us in countless ways both physically and mentally.

How do you get your move on? What is your motivation?

Existential Travelers

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” 
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Migration patterns of travelers

When we lived abroad, we often referred to ourselves as economic refugees. In other words, we called home any place where the cost of living was within our meager budget before we started to collect Social Security and pensions. But, now we realize that we are existential travelers, searching for meaning and purpose in our lives by exploring our humanness through cultural immersion in different parts of the world.

Existential migration is a new concept and a new way of thinking about what we call home. As far as my understanding, it means a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s home base and immersing oneself in another culture, whether it is in one’s country of birth or an international destination, which makes the term “existential travelers” perfect for us.

Great Salt Lake, Utah

Home is interaction; that is the ‘feeling of home’ that arises from specific interactions with our surroundings that could potentially occur anywhere, at any time. Our home is not a fixed geographical place. It was especially difficult for us to wrap our heads around the concept of existential migration during the pandemic, when we were unable to travel internationally. Yet, we are driven to move, to migrate, to travel to places unknown to us. We seek out existential travel to discover the meaning of our existence.

Alley Springs, Missouri

So, home became a feeling of belonging, challenging us to look at ‘home’ with eyes without borders and explore what constitutes belonging and the nature of homelessness. These were new perspectives for us as travelers beyond 60.

Ouray, Colorado

The insights we have gained from existential travel enhance our existing understanding of traveling in exciting ways. We are thriving in the experiences of foreignness…even in our country of birth. We have been able to immerse ourselves in the history and culture of each national park we call home for a short duration.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Home is where the heart is. It can be for a day, a month, a year. Home is timeless. It becomes an inward journey through our search for charitable views of humanness, kindness, and nonjudgmental perspectives.

Give me a home where the Buffalo roam

Home has become a sensation of peace and comfort, a refuge from the cold, the arms of my husband wrapped around me, and the deep feeling that we are all connected. Home is where my passions, my dreams, and my hopes reside.

What is your meaning of home?

2020 Vision

“By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.”~Maggie Kuhn

We are the baby boomer generation. As I age, I want to learn to make my vision crystal clear so that my fears become irrelevant and not me. Easier said, than done. I know because I have been confined by my fears at different times of my life and have learned to push through my fears as well as make friends with them. My goals for 2020, the year of perfect vision, are told through some of my favorite photos of 2019.

“Sight is what you see with your eyes, vision is what you see with your mind.”

I have recently had two eye operations to improve my sight. My vision was cloudy…maybe a metaphor for my past life. Now, that I can see clearly, I want to envision my life filled with beauty. I am tired of seeing the ugly first. There is beauty in everything. 

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How to Make Friendly Connections When Traveling

The conversations, like many others I had with people on trains, derived an easy candor from the shared journey, the comfort of the dining car, and the certain knowledge that neither of us would see each other again.” – Paul Theroux

Living in Nicaragua on Ometepe Island for over a decade, we effortlessly made friends with locals, tourists, and other expats. I was thrilled that the world came to our doorstep where we could share our experiences with travelers new to Nicaragua, as well as move beyond what I call “surface conversations” with longterm expats.

Now that we are somewhat nomadic travelers for months at a time, I worried about making friends throughout our journeys. Was it possible to leave cherished connections behind and stoke new connections on the road? Would we be lonely? How do we meet locals and likeminded travelers and will those connections be fleeting or long lasting?

As we age, it is more difficult to establish connections with other adults for a number of reasons: work commitments, family obligations, and demands of everyday life. As a retired expat, it was easy to establish likeminded connections because we all left family behind, so we became family sharing our traditions, holidays, language, and lives abroad.

It was depressing returning to our home in the states. Most of our friends and family lived far away. We are retired, so the work connections we once had faded to Christmas cards and Facebook likes. Plus, we didn’t fit in anymore. We had seen too much, traveled too far, explored other cultures from different perspectives, and we live in a really RED southern state, so that gives you an idea of how we are or aren’t accepted.

Therefore, we travel. Travel experiences create opportunities that force you to interact with — and cooperate with — strangers. Although, most people don’t travel to meet people, we thrive on making connections with people from all walks of life and all countries. One of our favorite places to make connections, however fleeting, is on public transportation.

Our train was late. We had tickets from Bratislava, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary. The Asian people with the giant pink suitcases were getting on the same train, so we watched them to see what train they boarded. We had reserved seats, but we had no idea what car we were in and we couldn’t find any car number on our tickets.

Trains appeared and disappeared and our new Asian friends remained sitting on the bench beside us. When, finally the giant pink suitcases in my peripheral vision moved toward the train doors, we ran to the closest car and hopped in. Just in time too because the train pulled out of the station as I took my last big step up into a crowded car.

We were jostled and bucked into school backpacks littering the tiny aisles. Excuse me. Oh, I am so sorry. Did I run over your foot with my suitcase?
Three cars were packed with school children looking forward to a week’s adventure in an old Russian army camp.

Upon entering the third train car crammed with school children, I was almost in tears. I can’t do this anymore. I need a seat, here…now! Just then the train rounded a curve and we were thrown into a compartment with three teenage boys and two empty seats.

I plopped into the seat, wiped my sweaty brow, and settled in for our trip to Budapest. One of the boys tapped my shoulder and spoke in broken English, “ Our school director rented these three cars for our school trip. She wants you to leave, but I told her we want to practice our English, so she said you can stay. “

And that was the beginning of a fleeting friendship with three teenage boys from a private school in Prague, Czech Republic who wanted to know all about our lives in the USA. We laughed, we sang songs, we discussed politics, we compared families and schools, we shared stories and we hugged goodbye when they left for their march with their suitcases and backpacks to the old Russian army camp.

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Identity Recalibration

“I don’t know who I am right now. But I know who I’m not. And I like that.”
— Amber Smith (The Way I Used to Be)

When I had my lower teeth pulled, I spent a lot of time gazing into the mirror to see who was there. Sometimes the reflection resembled me. At other times, I stared at a face that seemed similar, but was hardened by creases and dotted with age spots. But, the laugh wrinkles fanning my eyes were always there. That was comforting and pulled me back to reality.

A metamorphosis of my face took place when we left Nicaragua. The mutation was slow, but noticeable. I became a younger old adult. no longer could I fool myself into thinking I was young and vibrant, although inwardly I felt that way. The stress lines were deeper, my skin was saggier, and I could no longer identify as an expat.

Who was I and how could I redefine myself?

It took a year of grieving for a life I no longer owned to shake myself into a different…and better…reality. I am almost there. And it dawned on me that my passions were responsible for my mindset. Once I reminded myself that I create my life, the world opened up! I was becoming and transforming into me again…along with all the warts, imperfections, and sagging body parts.
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